The Impact of Traditional Landholding Certificates on Social Differentiation: A Case Study in Petauke District, Zambia

University essay from Lunds universitet/Ekonomisk-historiska institutionen

Abstract: This study examines the implementation of Traditional Landholding Certificates in the Petauke District, and how providing access for small-scale farmers to secure land is affected by the power structures on customary land. Nine weeks were spent collecting data in the Petauke District through quantitative and qualitative interviews with stakeholders and farmers. The empirical material showed a higher perception of security and relatively equal distribution in the model villages, where the creators had aimed to implement the certificates in every household. However, it also showed indicators that the existing power relations on customary land allow chiefs to benefit by the Traditional Landholding Certificates on behalf of farmers that not yet have obtained them, which highlight the potential worsening of social differentiation. The implementation of the certificates has occurred from the Zambian National Decentralisation Plan’s aim to increase the participation of chiefs in governance, and the World Bank’s encouragement to build equitable land rights on already existing systems. This paper calls for a closer look at the existing power structures, which have to be emphasised when it comes to the idealistic image of decentralisation bringing power closer to the grassroots. I would like to emphasise the risk of an unequal opportunity for negotiation among the farmers, and the risk of the chiefs being political and becoming economic actors putting their own interests first, rather than the benefit of the farmers. The Traditional Landholding Certificates are built upon an administrative system that contains power structures where the elite control access to resources, and hence – the vulnerable social groups that often lack access to secure land may, in fact, still lose out in the implementation of the certificates.

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