Customary land tenure system in Ghana and its problems

Customary land tenure system in Ghana and its problems

The land tenure system in Ghana depicts the law of the jungle – only the fittest of the fit can survive. The issue of land tenure, allocation, distribution and management since the colonial times has been a bone of contention often leading to conflict as people scramble for the fertile, mineral deposited lands in the Republic of Ghana. The upheavals have destabilized and affected human life, their economic activities, and development, as millions of Cedis have been destroyed by bringing down an empire due to land-related conflicts.

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Customary land tenure system in Ghana and its problems

Is it any different today? Well, Ghana has a needed reform in the customary land tenure system. If you have had to deal with the land tenure policy, it is agreeable that some rules and regulations are somewhat stringent and outdated in a developing nation like Ghana. They have made Ghana lag behind regarding agriculture, commercial production, development, investments, land ownership, and social development. If the land is restrained then life must be affected. Land has a central position in the presence of a human being because from it one obtains water, food, fuel, and medicinal plants. and that is why over 80% of Ghanaian population depend on the land. It is therefore essential to exercise control over land and resource to ensure it is put into optimal use. What's more, it should not be tied in the hands of a few, and there should be fair distribution to ensure people enjoy their heritage. However, for a decade now, the land ownership tenure has been faced by so many challenges affecting the social, economic and political life.

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What is land tenure system in Ghana?

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Land tenure refers to the societal rules and regulations that regulate how land is used, controlled, owned, transferred and managed. This also factors in the responsibilities and restraints in regard to land and may define the property right in a community. The land tenure system ideally refers to how access is given in relation to land to either hold, own, rent or lease out to another party.

Land tenure system in Ghana has been marred by some uncouth traditional institutions such as:

  • Chiefs
  • Kings
  • Queen mothers
  • Stools
  • Skins

They mainly exercise the overall authority over land ownership and related issues. They act as land guards who provide security and land protection to the people against the perceived encroachment which ordinarily is out of the statutory laws of the land. This, therefore, means that some dubious rules and regulations are enforced, which has grievously affected the land ownership tenure in Ghana.

It has made land ownership, transfer, sale, and lease be hard. If you have had to go through the systems through any matter that regards the land, you must have observed some rules that are so primitive for this modern progressive Ghana that urgently need a reform. They have halted development making it impossible to engage in economic building activities as even the acquisition of large parcels of land is a hard nut to crack. Naturally, the chiefs and the dubious traditional leaders want the sale of land to be done in small pieces of land. This directly means that land used for commercial or industrial purposes becomes hard to obtain and even when this happens, it involves a lengthy process and a lot of negotiations. What's more, there is a lot of litigation in matters of land, which makes it uncertain in matters of sale, rent, lease and transfer of land.

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Land tenure system in Northern Ghana

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Land acquisition, ownership, and tenure have always been a mark of confusion, disagreement and violent conflict between individual, societies, communities and in the broader scope nations. Ghana majorly suffers from having not established legal and enforceable rules in regards to land ownership tenure, and even those that exist have no firm legal enforcement which means the traditional systems often overpower them. The conventional method is often selfish interest vested, primitive and an obvious fail.

The colonial rule may significantly have shaped the land tenure policy in Ghana. The colonialist made rules in regards to land to avoid Ghanaians from amassing themselves with vast pieces of land. It was a tactic to have themselves take the large pieces of land that were arable or were rich in minerals. Their preference would then lie on the ground that is fertile and with deposits of minerals to explore.

The land on the vast Sahara Desert is majorly arid or semi-arid and somewhat desolate. Ideally, resources would get distributed to the affluent white settlers and blacks share out the remaining land that was left. Even after the colonial period was over, the lands became managed by the traditional rulers who adopted most of the practices. This customary land tenure system in Ghana has dictated possession and sale of land and move on negatively. However, it seems the conventional land tenure system of Ghana is not about to cease in as much as reforms are needed.

Conventionally, even before the British colonial rule took root in Ghana, the country for ages placed so much authority over the traditional rulers. So even after the attainment of independence, Ghana which was then Gold Coast continued to be administrated by the customary leaders. The supremacy attached to them has made it very impossible for the government to review or reform the land tenure policy.

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Types of land tenure system in Ghana

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Chiefly, there are two types of land tenure system in Ghana; the customary lands and the public lands. They dictate how property is used, sold and the process of acquisition among many other things linked to the area. The conventional tenure system is more prevalent than the latter and is the familiar land administrator.

Customary land tenure system provides that land should be owned by the skins, stools, families, and clan where authority is exercised by the clan elders, land priest or head of the family and in some instanced the administrative chief may be held in trust. Ideally, land ownership acquired by way of gift, inheritance, marriage, grant or sale. Under this system, the women rights over land are largely not upheld which is one of the primary weakness of this system. Men are culturally esteem have more right over land and ordinarily are the principal landowners. About 80% of the area in Ghana is governed by the traditional rulers, which by extension means the customary land tenure system in Ghana provides the guideline for land use and acquisition.

Nonetheless, the customary land tenure system can be broken down into four rights to land as guided by the land title registration law of 1986, and these are the Allodial, freehold, leasehold and lesser interest in land. In the Allodial title, the property held by clans, families as well as individuals who have right over land under the customary law and are not bound or restricted by any other obligations except those imposed by the statutory mandate. Herein in there is absolute freedom over land, but ownership is always a hustle and less straightforward procedure in land acquisition.

In freehold title, interest in land is by individuals or subgroups, but the community owns the land. The investments are inheritable or can be passed on to someone else usually a beneficiary after the death of the owner. The owner has the right to ownership, mortgage, lease and sells the title. However, this type of land tenure system in Ghana has led to conflict which is why the stools exist to control the rights to land and ensure fair distribution to all members of the family, clan or community.

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Leasehold title allows someone to have right over land for a specific period. The community or clan may lease out land to an individual or a group where they are to pay a certain amount of money for the rights. Upon the expiry of the agreed period of the lease, the land is then subjected to the consent of the lessor. Nevertheless, there is still the lesser interest of property not so common by is administered by the traditional rulers in clans, communities or subgroups as per the customary law.

On the other hand, there is the public land tenure system in Ghana. Under this system, the land is for public use as imposed by the administrative body such as the president. Ordinarily, the property is for public projects or development purposes such as building schools and hospitals. This is imposed by the land tenure policy under article 24 of the public lands' use.

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Effects of land tenure on agricultural production

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Ghana's land tenure system has adversely affected the socio-economic development which directly impedes modern day development. Agriculture is the critical area where the land tenure policy has indeed halted things. sub-division of land in Ghana into small pieces of land with a tiresome deed and title registration procedure that makes people hesitant about getting down with it.

It has made potential investor decline their offer to invest in Ghana due to the strain in land acquisition and even where possible the negotiations are lengthy expensive and litigation may sideline investors. The investors ordinarily would want to do large-scale economic activities but are hit by the sad reality of the land tenure policy in Ghana which has protracted.

Land used for agricultural practices is left to be done by subsistence farmers since property has been extremely subdivided and the traditional rulers find it fit. It has thwarted the plans for the economy to sustain itself concerning the issue of food consumption. It has pushed the economy to import food and agricultural produce as subsistence farming does not provide enough to cater to the ever-growing Ghanaian population.

The problems of land tenure system in Ghana

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  1. First, the land tenure system in Ghana is linked to many problems experienced in Ghana today. The frustration of agricultural practice is one which hinders large-scale agrarian production factoring into account that Northern Ghana majorly lies on the Sahara Desert. It makes it very difficult for the economy to depend solely on its agricultural produce to feed the nation sufficiently with the populace that is voluminous. It has often pushed the country into look for other avenues of feeding the country all thanks to the old land tenure system in Ghana that have drained to food basket leaving citizen at the point of starvation and hunger.
  2. Investment has also been affected adversely. There customary land tenure system, which is as I earlier mentioned the common land policy in Ghana managing well over 80% of land has frustrated investment opportunities. An investor has to go through the cumbersome procedure in Land acquisition and even so remains subject to land acquisition. It has made investors go other ways to look for favorable policies that give them a welcome treatment and peace of mind that no litigation may be imposed on them.
  3. Socially, the impact of land tenure has made the country lag behind as it hinders communal progression as it is a battle for the fittest. Since land administration and management has been designated to traditional rulers, there is not the legal or fair distribution of resources. Possession, use, and transfer of land are held squarely on the traditional authorities. It has similarly affected the growth of industries, and this is why the land tenure reforms are a needed thing to salvage the situation.
  4. Politics has equally had a fair contribution to the selfish and dubious land tenure system in Ghana. The rich and the affluent in positions of leadership have always made policies that are somewhat favorable to them. It has often lead to the unfair distribution of resources even land which is an asset that is highly in demand. Worse still, is the political systems that we inherited from the colonialist and nothing much has been done to change the situation or even make it more applicable to his modern Ghana of civilization.

However, the land tenure system in Ghana has had it a dominant share of loopholes in as much as is tied along the communal grounds which ensures that families have their land so long as they have cultural identification. All the same the land tenure system in Ghana is by far outdated and hinder progress, economic activities, life and has adversely affected the agriculture.

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