Exhaustive analysis of tenure institutions is not the job of rapid appraisal. It is rather to notice problems and/or opportunities. Whether certain facets of the tenure system are seen as posing problems or opportunities tends to depend upon how far the process of project planning has proceeded and how committed the planners are to a particular technology and a mode of introducing it. (One never introduces a technology alone; technologies carry with them a great deal of baggage in terms of institutional needs for their introduction and maintenance.) If the project idea is still relatively flexible, it can be reworked to mesh with the local tenure situation. But a mismatch between the project idea and the local situation is often not noted until the project is underway. Then there is said to be a "tenure problem," though it might better be characterized as bad project design.
How do mistakes about tenure create problems for projects? First, project design may neglect social and institutional constraints which prevent farmers from responding to the tree-planting opportunities provided by the project. The International Livestock Center for Africa's Small Ruminants Program in Nigeria found that in on-farm trials in the south-east of the country, existing use and tenure patterns created community oppposition to tree-planting. An excerpt from the report by Francis follows. The planting would have interfered community control of land use. Households had been assumed to have more exclusive control of their holdings than was in fact the case.
Where customary tenure rules permit tree planting, the tenure system may still have an impact on incentives for tree planting. When farmers cannot have the use of the trees they plant, they are not likely to do a good job, even if short-term incentives are provided. Thomas (1964) found that peasants employed with "food-for-work" to plant trees in land where they had no rights responded by planting the trees upside down, roots in the air. A miscalculation of incentives may also occur when there is too narrow a focus on the particular land area on which the project encourages the farmer to plant trees. For instance, a project design will overestimate farmer incentives to introduce trees into the pattern of cultivation on the holding if it overlooks household rights of access to free wood from commons and reserve areas.
In addition, project design sometimes misidentifies beneficiaries of tree planting or may even lead to their displacement due to misunderstanding of tenure situations. A community forestry project in Pakistan which had aimed to plant on the commons as a means of spreading benefits throughout the community discovered that in fact influential families in the community had established effective control over large areas of the commons and were the ones who benefited from the project (Cernea 1981). Planting trees may increase dangers of displacement because a powerful neighbor or a traditional land administrator may seek to take the trees and the land with them. In Swaziland, for instance, even a few fruit trees may attract the wrong kind of attention, as related in the excerpt from Flory which follows. An insecurity of tenure which did not matter much before became critical when trees were planted. Where such risks are obvious, incentives to plant will be affected.
There are also situations in which tree planting will work to the disadvantage of some residents. There are often losers as well as winners in these projects. While such side-effects may not affect the cost-benefit analysis of a project which focuses only on the participant-beneficiaries, from a broader societal point of view that analysis is affected. Tree planting is generally an intensification of use which, in a situation of serial or simultaneous uses by different users, may exclude the other users of the land. For example, alley-cropping may require fencing to prevent uncontrolled browsing on young trees and may thereby exclude a traditional practice of grazing of fallow holdings as commons. At the household level, for example, if men in a particular culture are regarded as owning and managing a particular species of trees, introduction of these trees onto plots managed by wives may shift management rights over the parcel and income from the parcel to men. Women, the "invisible farmers," are often particularly vulnerable, as are very poor or peripetatic users. After the main uses of particular land and trees have been established, the question must be asked: "Is there anyone else who uses this land or these trees, even occasionally?"
These are recurring tenure "problems" in community forestry projects, problems which originate in the failure to adequately take tenure patterns into account in project design. How can we increase the chances they will be perceived during a rapid appraisal? This paper goes on to suggest promising methods and angles of approach for appraisal of tenure systems, then examines particular tenure issues associated with the three basic types of tenure niches discussed earlier, the holding, the commons and the reserve.
Mgbakwu consists of a group of six villages each of which in turn is comprised of a number of lineage segments (umunna, commonly translated as "families") who trace their descent from a common ancestor in the male line. These units control land, which is allocated by them annually to member households and which reverts to them at the end of a cropping cycle. Any land in excess of the families' requirements is rented out on a short term basis to tenants, who are usually members of other local umunna whose own land is insufficient.
At Okwe, the unit of ownership of land is the individual, rather than the lineage, but common control over its exploitation is in part vested in a residential group, the village (there are six constituent villages in the Okwe project area). The boundaries of village lands are well defined and it is said to be jointly decided by senior members of the village which sector of land is to be worked in any year. Villagers who do not hold land in this sector, even if they hold land elsewhere are expected to hire from those who do. Oil palms in Okwe are also jointly managed by the village, days being set on which those subscribing to a village-based fund may cut palm fruit from the communal trees.
For the present purposes, these two rather different systems for the control and allocation of land both tend to reinforce the seeming reluctance to engage in alley farming noted above. Under the Okwe system, although individuals own land, they are regularly compelled to rent other land by the system of joint management just described. While involved in temporary (and somewhat expensive) lease arrangements they will have little incentive to devote their labor to improving the future fertility of the land. Under the Mgbakwu system both tenants and members of land allocating families hold only temporary usufruct rights over land, and there would be a similar lack of incentive to invest in soil fertility.
Furthermore, under both the Okwe and the Mgbakwu systems of tenure, the extension of the cropping cycle by individuals would throw them out of phase with the pattern of rotation set by the village or the umunna, respectively, and thus lay them open both to the censure of other members of these groups and to the greater risk of animal pests attacking their crops when farming in isolation.
Paul Francis, "Land Tenure Systems and the Adoption of Alley Farming in Southern Nigeria," in Land, Trees and Tenure, ed. John B. Raintree (Madison and Nairobi: Land Tenure Center and International Council for Research in Agroforestry, 1987), at pp. 177-179.
One feature attributed to the traditional land tenure system in Swaziland is the lack of secure tenure. The chief has the power to allocate land but he also has the power to take it away. It has commonly been reported that a farmer who works hard and becomes successful through farming is a target for community jealousy and a potential candidate for banishment. According to this way of thinking, initiative, competetiveness and striving to get ahead are not socially acceptable qualities. When a person rises above the rest he is thought to be making himself too important or trying to be like a chief and his success may be attributed not to hard work, but witchcraft. The outcome of all this is that an advanced farmer may feel pressure not to rise above the crowd or work too hard for fear of community ill will and increasing the danger of banishment.
. . [It has been noted that] banishment does not have to occur frequently. The threat of banishment is an effective tool to enforce conformity to locally approved social norms.
. . . [O]ne case of [12 reported banishments in this study] turned out to be a classic case of a successful farmer being accused of witchcraft and banished. One of the advanced farmers recounted the following story:
"A man was very successful at farming and grew many
mangoes. He was also a priest in a revivalist church. Some other priests were jealous of his success as a preacher and went to the chief and accused the man of bewitching them. The chief, who coveted the mango trees, went to Prince Mfanasibili and got authority to banish the man. Now the chief is eating the mangoes."
Bruce E. Flory, "Constraints to Commercial Agriculture on Swazi Nation Land: A Summary of Swaziland's Advanced Farmers," Report to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (Madison: Land Tenure Center, 1987), at pp. 15-18.