Working Paper
Trees, Tenure and Conflict

Rubber in Colonial Benin

Tree crops have changed land tenure in Africa. Farmers have acquired more permanent, alienable rights, but have also faced disputes with competing claimants and the state. I show that the introduction of Para rubber had similar effects in the Benin region of colonial Nigeria. Farmers initially obtained land by traditional methods. Mature farms were assets that could be sold, let out, and used to raise credit. Disputes over rubber involved smallholders, communities of rival users, would-be migrant farmers, commercial plantations, and the colonial state, which feared rubber would make land unavailable for food crops.