Working Paper
Changing Land-tenure Arrangements and Access to Primary Assets under Globalization

A Case Study of Two Villages in Anglophone Cameroon

This paper illustrates how, in relation to globalization, formal and informal land institutions are prone to generate conflict over land rights and examines the implications of such conflicts on security levels of access to primary assets for the poor in two villages in Cameroon – Vekovi and Ekona. The land laws in Cameroon are an outcome of its colonial heritage and exist alongside the communal tenure system. As the issue of land awareness comes to the fore, engendered partly by population pressure, relative price changes and the commoditization of land, conflicts develop: farmer–grazer conflicts in Vekovi, and farmer–farmer and indigenous people–state conflicts in Ekona. The rent-seeking attitude of administrative and judicial authorities, who use inconsistencies in the dual tenure system, reduces the possibility of negotiating lasting solutions to land related conflicts in these villages. The social cost of this behaviour is not limited only to mutual distrust but also includes the opportunity costs of both time and financial resources mobilized by the parties in conflict to follow-up legal procedures. The informal land-tenure system generally operates in opposition to the national land laws in our case study villages, an atmosphere that generates or exacerbates conflict situations that create insecurity and restrict productivity-enhancing investments. Land markets are more buoyant in Ekona, which is relatively more cosmopolitan and with farm-to-market roads that are fairly developed, than in Vekovi, which experiences net out-migration and is poorly accessible. As a more homogenous society with strong traditional conventions, land transfer in Vekovi remains biased in favour of males, while Ekona enjoys gender neutrality in access to land. Conflict adjudication in the case study villages would be more legitimate if both formal and informal interpretations inform the land dispute settlement mechanisms.