Land tenure security : revisiting and refining the concept for Sub-Saharan Africa's rural poor

D.M.C. Simbizi, R.M. Bennett, J.A. Zevenbergen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

63 Citations (Scopus)


In more developed societies the concept of land tenure security is implicit and backed by long standing institutions. In contrast, the concept is less recognised and carries divergent meanings in developing countries. In these contexts past conceptualisation efforts have favoured reductionist approaches: the concept is narrowed to one aspect or another, but, no shared agreement on a definition prevails. The absence of this basic theoretical knowledge impedes discourse on land policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation. This paper contributes to this issue by revisiting and refining the concept of tenure security in the context of Sub-Saharan Africa's rural poor. Using a systematic review, scientific evidence on the conceptualization issue is provided. A typology of different schools of thought is developed: land tenure security is shown to be understood through (1) economic, (2) legal or (3) adaptation lenses. Generic constructs from these viewpoints tend to dominate the notion of tenure security and subsequent land policy formulation; however, it is argued that none adequately describe the totality of the concept. Using the review results and a systems approach a new inclusive concept of tenure security for rural poor in Sub-Saharan Africa is developed. The refined concept of security is defined as an emergent property of a land tenure system. The content of such security is explained by interactions between all elements of a land tenure system as a whole. It is concluded that rural poor in Sub-Saharan Africa can enjoy the total security when interactions between all elements occur in a dynamic equilibrium
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-238
JournalLand use policy
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • METIS-298342


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