Land Tenure and Property Rights in Sub-Saharan African Countries: Understanding the Legal Implications of Large-Scale Land Investments


Principal Investigator
Research Fellow
Senior Fellow, Emeritus
  • Professor, Economics, Emeritus
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute
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Senior Fellow
  • William Wrigley Professor of Earth System Science
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
  • Senior Fellow and Founding Director, Center on Food Security and the Environment

This research area explores the national and international land and water laws that govern land tenure and property rights in sub-Saharan African countries, with the aim of understanding how large-scale land investments influence the tenure security, and therefore food security, of local farmers. The World Bank and others have identified a large agro-ecological region of African known as the Guinea Savannah as well-positioned for major agricultural development. In fact, interest and investments in large tracts of land in sub-Saharan Africa have seen a dramatic increase in the past few years, driven by global needs for food production, biofuel production, and stable financial investments. Acquisitions of sub-Saharan African farmland directly implicate the land rights of local smallholder farmers, which are usually governed by a mix of statutory and customary law. FSE’s project investigates the legal schemes for land tenure and property rights in several sub-Saharan African countries in order to better understand the role of legal institutions in the global land investment phenomenon.