Rosine Tchatchoua-Djomo is a social scientist with a focus on development sociology. She carried out extensive fieldwork in Burundi and Cameroon and (co-) published peer-reviewed articles with a focus on forced migration, post-conflict dynamics, policy reforms, land and forest governance, claim making, property relations and agrarian change.
Shifting Land Tenure, Accumulation from below, Rural Migration and Legal Pluralism in Cameroon
Commercial farming is rapidly expanding, yet at the detriment of forested land in Cameroon. This expansion is transformative and conditioned to a certain extent by historical population movements. In the quest of available fertile land and sustainable livelihoods, migrant smallholders have embraced commercial crops – cocoa, coffee, tomatoes, maize, cocoyam – for the domestic and regional markets. However, these processes have triggered drastic changes in ethnic and property relations, and land governance. This article presents field research data on social and economic shifts in a smallholder commercial farming locality, and their effects on land accumulation, property relations and land governance. Fieldwork consisted of household interviews, key informant interviews and non-participant observations. This study feeds into the global land grab debate by underscoring the role of demographic, social and economic changes in smaller-scale land grabs and the concentration of land through processes of social differentiation that have shown to be important drivers of agrarian transformation and social conflicts, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. In Cameroon, these processes occur in the background of the colonial land tenure legacy and a long history of migration. They play into contested notions of belonging, institutional multiplicity, competing claims of authority and legitimacy in land governance and dispute resolution. This study argues the analytical frame on forms of dispossession in resource accumulation should be stretched and widened to unravel the intricacies of land tenure relations, negotiability, legitimacy and authority that are historically constructed, embedded in social and political contingencies, and context specific.
Key words: Migration, Land Tenure, Accumulation from below, Commercial farming, Dispossession, Cameroon, Central Africa
Affiliation: African Studies Centre Leiden & Wageningen University, Netherlands