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
  • Gloria and Richard Kushel Director of the Center on Food Security and the Environment
  • William Wrigley Professor of Earth System Science
  • Senior Fellow, Stanford Woods Institute and Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
  • Professor, by courtesy, Economics

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.