Secure and predictable access to land as a productive resource is key to the livelihoods of millions of farmers around the world. Secure land tenure enables farmers to invest in long-term improvements to their farms and soils in the expectation that they will reap the benefits of those investments without fear that their land be confiscated arbitrarily. Formal and informal land rights are therefore seen as key to improving the conditions of the poor in developing countries in terms of economic growth, agricultural production, food security, natural resource management, gender-related inequalities, conflict management and local governance processes more generally.
Existing evidence on the effects of land property rights interventions is mixed and to a considerable degree dependent upon the initial land rights conditions. Much of the literature underscores the complexity of attribution and the importance of context to understanding relationships between security, registration and productivity, and to understanding gender dimensions. They also suggest tenure security alone is not a ‘silver bullet’ leading directly to higher farmer incomes, or that it is solely attributed to tenure reforms– that is, context matters.
No known systematic review or meta-analysis on the relationships between land property rights and productivity or welfare has been undertaken to date, and concerns have been highlighted by others over inconsistent effects and design limitations in some studies of tenure reform. This has therefore provided strong motivation for a systematic review that serves as an independent review of the quality and reliability of findings offered in the available literature. In particular, this review sought to examine the specific impacts of two types of land rights interventions:
• Conversion of communal or non-demarcated rural land to freehold title and registration of such rights in an official registry; and
• Statutory recognition and codification of customary or communal rural land rights, and registration of these rights in an official registry.