New study fills a knowledge gap on drivers of perceived land tenure security: Evidence from Ghana


by Evgeniya Anisimova

Tenure security is believed to be critical in spurring agricultural investment and productivity. Yet what improves or impedes tenure security is still poorly understood. The new paper by Hosaena Ghebru and Isabel Lambrecht from the International Food Policy Research Institute published in the July volume of Land Use Policy analyses the main factors associated with farmers’ perceived tenure security in Ghana.

Ghana. Photo: Breezy Baldwin, Flickr

Authors use a measure of perceived tenure security that indicates whether a farmer can leave his or her land empty without the risk of losing the land as their main outcome variable. As fallowing is the most common method of soil fertility improvement in Ghana, the indicator is practical, pertinent, and relevant as a key aspect of farmers’ perceived tenure security, say the authors. The results show that farmers’ perception of tenure security is lower in communities with more active processes of rural transformation, that is, in more urbanized areas with more active land markets and with a higher share of migrants in the population. At the same time, farmers are more secure over land obtained through inheritance as compared to land allocated by traditional authorities. Perceived tenure security is lower on plots held by migrant farmers and female farmers in female-headed households and polygamous households.

Overall, the study shows that deviations from traditional community structures in the form of land market transactions and migration adversely affect perceived tenure security of Ghanaian farmers. Authors suggest that land rights protection programs in Ghana should be targeted to areas with vibrant land markets to mitigate the potential negative effects. Authors stress that these findings are also important in light of past, current, and future large-scale land acquisitions in Ghana and other countries on the continent. Such acquisitions often take place in areas where customary allocation of land is the predominant mode of access to land, and may have a high negative impact on tenure security of farmers who are unaccustomed to commercial land transactions.


Ghebru, Hosaena; and Lambrecht, Isabel. 2017. Drivers of perceived land tenure (in)security: Empirical evidence from Ghana. Land Use Policy. 66(July 2017): 293-303.

This work was undertaken as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets (PIM) led by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). Authors thank the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) for funding the study under the Ghana Strategy Support Program.