Accepted Paper:

The endangered practice of agriculture: Living with insecurity in peri-urban Ghana  


Raluca Pernes (Babes-Bolyai University)

Paper short abstract:

In Ghana, land rights are allocated by competing and overlapping normative orders, making areas with high competition for land subject to ever-changing legitimate laws and regulations. Land cultivation becomes a marginal practice for those capable of handling huge levels of insecurity.

Paper long abstract:

Contexts of legal pluralism rarely, if ever, offer clear cuts between the various domains regulated by the different normative orders. In peri-urban Ghana, access to land requires not only knowledge and ingeniousness, but also the ability to draw on the competing and overlapping laws and regulations to mobilize strategies of securing land rights. The state lacks the institutional capacity to deal with all aspects of land relations, but its courts of law are overwhelmed by land cases. The World Bank and the main bilateral donors have decided, after the years of structural adjustment and ambitions for land titling and registration, to by-pass the state and shift their support in favour of the traditional leaders. Finally, at local level, customary law, histories and traditions are reinvented and instrumentalized in the struggle for land rights. Not only is property, in its broad sense, a process, but in this instance the process is widened to encompass issues of identity, belonging, power.

Against this background of fluidity and contestation, this paper proposes to investigate the case of a particular group of individuals in an area with high competition for land, with a view to assessing the structures of opportunity available to actors and how they make use of them. For those with very narrow windows of possibility, the solution is to embrace the high levels of uncertainty and compensate for the lack of belonging, knowledge, and/or financial power by living with the insecurity others invest in avoiding.

Panel G45
Land and property through a legal pluralism lens (IUAES Commission on Legal Pluralism)