The prevailing view that conflict over land and forests in developing countries can be explained in simplistic terms of demographic pressures coupled with resource scarcity, denies the complex relationships of ethnicity, identity, migration, local and national political forces that are inextricably linked to social and political conflicts over land. Land is not just contested over economic, environmental, and demographic pressures; rather it is also seen as a political space, territory to be controlled for both its economic value and as a source of leverage and control over other people. With the advent of neoliberal policy interventions designed to clarify property rights, increase political participation, and increase accountability conflict have been exacerbated rather than alleviated.
To understand current conflicts, the antecedents of land tenure and social contexts that affect the human population must be examined. In this paper, I will argue that conflicts over land and forests are primarily the cause of changing authorities of land tenure and the historical social contexts that give rise to contestation in changing views with regard to land conflicts. Land in developing countries is often characterized as relatively egalitarian, where current neoliberal policies relating to property rights has been shown to cater for the inequalities associated with land.Land struggles intersect global, national as well as local economic and political dynamics.
According to African ethics, land represents an essential basic requirement that defines an individual’s identity. As such, Land is viewed in a holistic angle as a central value. With regard to this, land conflicts in the African continent are integrated in their cultural set up and social organization. Land disputes originate from meticulous policy interferences. This has resulted to the scarcity of land which has impacted negatively on the value of land. Founded on the principles of land rights and transactions, Liberalized Governments have resolved to handle the contestation of land.
Many African countries have developed land management institutions that are overlaid on conventional platforms without a comprehensible delineation of competence and duties. This highlights the deficit in social authenticity and outreach. The need to change this plays an important role in subverting the causes of land conflicts. These alterations are presented as components of a vibrant customary sector that adjusts to evolutionary state of affairs.
The history of customary tenure depicts that apart from being employed in the pre-colonial period; this oral system was produced and practiced out of colonial misappropriations and politically maneuvered appropriations, and in the allotment of land. The colonial monarchs confused territoriality with autonomy, and conflated customary responsibilities of Africans, whose influence rested in fertility of land and rain-making. There was also political expedience which exerted influence over people in clan, lineage or chiefdom. In places where colonial rulers could not discover the suitable ‘chief’, they took the initiative themselves to craft one. The multiple kinds of authority and sets of allegations over land and its produces were varnished by the label ‘communal tenure’. This was integrated into the developing portion of the ‘traditional law’.
The creation of customary act and public tenure served to enhance the interests of both the private and state Europeans in the developing economies. These colonial ideologies presented the view that resource dependent individuals were backward and accountable for the degradation of the environment. Furthermore, these ideologies did not add to the economies of the developing countries as they were pervasive in the development of local organizations. It is widely agreed that conflicts concerning land and forests leads to the excitement of emotions. Land constitutes the major source of conflict of all the resources found in the African continent. The diversity in the land tenure systems has mitigated the occurrence of this conflict. Africa had an egalitarian tenure organization that excluded an individual’s right to property. Thus, investments required for enhancing efficiency and productivity, on which social and agricultural evolution would be based, was hindered. With this in mind, the system exacerbated the conflicts since they ignored the massive amount and overlapping rights and utilization of land. In the long run, reinforced models of irregular accessibility to land based on class, age, gender and ethnicity emerged.
Discrepancies in land tenure plans between Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire gave way to the shaping of the various associations between migrants and hosts in the cocoa-cultivating areas. In the case of Cote d’Ivoire, individual residents consented on the utilization of farms by the farmers. They were then given ‘gratitude gifts’ through the association of guardianship. This later changed as the migrant farmers increased in number and the cocoa-growing area experienced a decline in conditions. Their population surpassed that of the hosts and this resulted to bad relations between the two. The farmers felt that the immigrants were in charge of their land and that they were exploited. This formed the basis of conflict between these two populations.
Contrary to this, Ghana’s situation involved the mistreatment of the migrant farmers by the local powers. Furthermore, the locals were in charge of the farms. The local authorities acted as the sole administrators of farming consent to the immigrants. This factor exposed the immigrants to exploitation including the payment of overcharged rental fees. As the virgin forest land reduced and state of affairs got worse, the local leaders increased their needs. As a result of being in charge of all the land, the local hosts exploited the immigrants since they categorized the immigrants as ‘strangers’. This constituted the major difference in the manner in which migrants were handled in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire cocoa-growing areas. Migration also plays a key role in determining problems associated with encroachment of forest land. Migration of people from the lowlands to the uplands through sponsorship by the federal government or their individual accord leads to the addition of pressure to the upland dwellers, hence encroachment into the forest.
Existing conflicts in developing countries are usually exacerbated by development agencies. This is exemplified by the competition over land tied with rifts between ethnic and regional factions. There is also the expropriation of land by foreign and local agents. Competition for land has been enhanced by several factors. These include: State segregation of forest land, the need to increase production, creation of settlement for the expanding population, movement of population and increased reliance on basic necessities from farms. The progression of asset rights, championed by the development players and international-based institutions, usually downplay supremacy and political associations within a given community. The repercussions of the procedural dissertation on changing land affairs presents the required interventions that the principal policy intends to initiate as accepted and fundamental part of the potential development in future.
Ethnicity difference is a tool utilized by leaders to consolidate power. Colonial leaders and their heirs have managed to fuel ethnic tension by favoring particular religious or ethnic groups without considering others. The ethnically-connected political and economical inequalities create land-related conflicts. The geographical position of a given ethnic group determines the kind of resources the ethnic group is endowed with. Superpower forces and economic relive during the post-colonial period defined the reinforced divisions and strategies in the country. Leaders have accentuated divergence rather than correspondence among the ethnic communities. Reprimands for ethnic self-reliance and liberation are not popular and do not stand for the entire nation. As a result, conflicts regarding land and forest normally occur between individuals of different ethnic background.
Ethnicity is an essential aspect that is entrenched in the political arena and order to manage political expedience, prior to the challenge of another ethnic group. Additionally, ethnicity constitutes the ruling standard of social and economic differentiation. This highlights the fact that the principle of ethnicity segregates along racial boundaries. This leads to ethnic groups facing each other in the course of competition for land, forest and other resources hence, the enhancement of land conflict. As a result, differences have risen over the definition of the word ‘citizenship’ in local as well as governance context.
Conflicts and social disparities which are based on land are highlighted by autochthony. Definitions to justifiable claims to land are presented by social conflict that exists concerning land. Violence and conflict are enhanced by the utilization of words such as ‘squatter’ and ‘stranger’ since they have different meanings. This is not the same when it comes to ‘local’ or ‘original’ inhabitants. The occurrence of conflict is increased by the preoccupation of ‘superior’ autochthony allegations. Competition over land is closely related to a country’s political and social rivalry. The need to have authority and social legitimacy are some of the causes of land conflicts. In the presence of insufficient resources, social-related conflicts are exposed. This is substantiated by the case seen in Sahel zone of Africa. Here, conflict between farmer and herder surfaces in the period of scarcity. However, the source of such conflict is accredited to ‘eco-violence’ and not social connections.
Exogenous shock impacted differently on the aspect of migration in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire during the post-colonial period. In the case of Cote d’Ivoire, the relationship between the local hosts and the migrants was not good. However, this did not result to violent conflict. This was attributed to the management by the central government. This took a new twist when the cocoa sector was faced an instant decline which impacted negatively on the economy. The resources required to sustain the host-migrant connections in the cocoa farms dwindled. Furthermore, political crisis emerged as international pressure was mounted to establish a multiparty democracy. The implementation of multiparty worsened the situation as the population was divided along ethnic lines. This further strained the relationship between the host and the migrant. The combination of these factors boosted the series of outbursts that ended in violence in the cocoa areas as the state could not satisfy everyone. With regard to this, the migrants served as the excuse for the locals predicaments.
Contrary to the situation in Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana was in a position to curb such incidences brought about by exogenous shock. As much as Ghana experienced political and economic changes during the post-colonial era, they were able to control the repercussions since these developments did not happen concurrently. In Ghana, the expulsion of migrants from the cocoa area was prior to the political and economical changes. Therefore, the migrants were not present to experience the wrath of the local hosts. In addition, the prevailing political circumstances during the collapse of the cocoa sector in Ghana were different from that of Cote d’Ivoire. Another aspect that was different between these two countries was that while Cote d’Ivoire depended on cocoa revenues, Ghana diversified its economy. This shift led to the affected the progression of the cocoa sector which defined the resultant impulsive economy. The capabilities of both governments to handle exogenous shocks show disparities. These disparities are highlighted in institutional, socioeconomic and structural aspects of both economies.
The competing conceptions of territoriality that result to land contestation and conflicts in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire are of great diversity. In both countries, migration was accepted and promoted. The main idea behind this was the establishment of novel cocoa farms out of the rich soils of the virgin forest through the utilization of labor from the immigrants. The local residents in both countries acted as the hosts for the migrants. Furthermore, they were the owners of the farms on which the immigrants cultivated. However, with the commencement of heightened land scarcity and hard economic times, the relationship between the hosts and the immigrants become sour.
In Cote d’Ivoire, the state expressed favoritism to the immigrants. This did not go down well with the locals as they prejudiced the immigrants. The locals revolted against these ‘strangers’ who they perceived as the source of the worsened conditions in the cocoa farms. This action concurred with the political unrest of the time and the two situations were the main causes of civil war. The accessibility of land in Cote d’Ivoire was primarily determined by the State. Rivalry over land and ambiguity in the tenure system formed the basis by which the State maximized in crop production through the enlisting of the immigrants labor force. This technique used by the State to achieve its goals turned to be the cause of conflict between the locals and the immigrants.
On the other hand, Ghana’s case was quite different from the one in Cote d’ Ivoire. Here, the local inhabitants were pitted against the cultural leaders. This was the source of heightened stress over land. In this case, the State assumed the role of conciliator though both parties viewed it with suspicion. The government-society associations linking the colonial and conventional systems found in the cocoa farms formed the main disparity in the migration conflict that existed in both countries. While the colonial legacy in Cote d’Ivoire consisted of domineering and limiting aspects, land policies that proposed a ‘free for all’ notion resulted to prolonged land conflicts in the cocoa-growing regions. On the contrary, Ghana’s land matters were handled by chiefs. This was necessitated by the colonial masters who accepted and supported the traditional rights of the local population. Generally, Ghana experienced a cordial relationship between the State and the local community. This guaranteed the existence good relations in the cocoa-growing regions. Compared to Ghana, Cote d’Ivoire’s experience with the immigrants was detrimenting. This led to violent conflicts in the cocoa plantation areas.
The appreciation of migration as a descriptive variable has led to the consideration of safety implications related to the different forms of migration. The impact of migration as shown in the cases of Cote d’Ivoire and Ghana should be put in mind. However, the role of migration should not be exaggerated to make it the major cause of land conflict in Africa. Somewhat, the combination of migration with other aspects such as political and economical instability increases the probability of heightened conflicts. The relative investigation of conflict-migration relation in Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire acts as an eye opener to the main principle variables that relate migration with fierce conflict. As much as these variables: Land tenure era, nature of state-society connections, exogenous shocks, state capacity and autochthony, serve as essential elements in the migration-conflict aspect, there exists other dynamics that connect conflict and migration.
In the cases discussed above, it is disclosed that as much as migration can act as a source of violent outbursts of conflict as seen in the cocoa regions, migration may be predisposed and defined by other aspects. Accordingly, whereas migration may be a potential threat to the security of a country, it further needs to be explored I n order to familiarize with other factors that influence it. Better comprehension of the reasons for migration would avail us with the necessary information on the repercussions of migration. This would further provide a better understanding of the violent conflict associated with migration.