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Reasserting the Commons: Pastoral Contestations of Private and State Lands in East Africa

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Galaty, John G.
Journal: International Journal of the Commons
Volume: 10
Page(s): 709-727
Date: 2016
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/10168
Sector: Grazing
Region: Africa
Subject(s): conflict
Abstract: "The theory that land holding is inexorably evolving from common to private or state tenure is challenged by facts on the ground that this paper will examine. ‘Tenure’ is interpreted both in terms of formal law and informal practices. While the association between privatization and land fragmentation is clear, property theory has influenced privatization so the process cannot be used to validate the evolutionary model of transitions from open access to common property to private property. Although in many settings common and state property has given way to privatization, in other cases private or state property has reverted to common holdings. A dynamic tenure model would demonstrate the conditions under which tenure transitions occur between common, private and state property, as the balance between transaction and exclusion costs shifts, or when the boundaries of tenure forms weaken to allow open access to occur. Examining three scenes of tenure transitions involving Kenyan pastoralists (Laikipia County, the Rift Valley, Narok County and Kajiado County), this paper examines cases in which transaction and exclusion dynamics – which are metaphors for the institutional effects of social and territorial relations- lead to changing land-use practices and tenure transitions. In semi-arid pastoral regions, we find more fluid systems of tenure than the inexorable spread of privatization through formalized land rights and increasing land fragmentation would have suggested should occur in the 21st century."

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