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Experiments in landholding mediation in northern Cameroon

The “Observatoire du Foncier” maintained by the Développement paysannal et gestion des terroirs (DPGT) project and the Institut de recherches pour le développement (IRD) in northern Cameroon since 1997 has revealed an increase in competition for access to land, both in older areas and in immigration zones, and a certain deregulation that is being caused by the superimposition of legal systems. The result is more precarious landholding arrangements in general, with effects on renewable resource management that in turn affect the sustainability of farming systems. Landholding regulations in Cameroon are systematically applied only in urban zones, and registering land deeds is a privilege reserved for the elite, whereas the consultative and agropastoral commissions whose function is to observe land use and settle disputes have lost most of their intervention capacity. Migration pressure, the superimposition of land uses and the abandoning of land management to tribal chiefs are now causing conflicts of interest between communities with opposing practices and strategies. These disputes must be managed before they degenerate into more violent confrontation. Although the political context is not favourable, these small-scale rural experiments show that public intervention in landholding is possible without systematic recourse to the Land Code, and that they can remain close to the usual “arrangements” of traditional practices.

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