Land-grab or land-give?

Honig’s research shows that, although the vast majority of Zambian chiefs are against the formation of state-owned 100,000-hectare farm blocks, in most cases they consent to the transfer of land title and thus the consolidation of state authority.

Her research findings suggest that chiefs have insufficient economic autonomy to achieve their own development projects, and give in because they can’t ‘bite the hand that feeds them’.

Boamah, meanwhile, emphasized that large-scale land deals for biofuels in Ghana are often appealing to chiefs on juridical grounds (read his paper here). The regularization of land ownership in order to implement such projects has proved an effective strategy for consolidating their own authority, relative to both villagers and neighboring chieftaincies.

The authors provoked the audience to ask: What kind of accountability structures are in place at the local level that would compel chiefs to act in any other way? However, we might consider deepening this institutionalist analysis by asking how moral framings of land transfers are being reshaped in order for these difficult decisions to get made.