Competing Conceptions of Customary Land Rights Registration (Rural Land Maps PFRs in Benin): Methodological, Policy and Polity Issues
A growing number of researchers and policy-makers now see the recognition and formalisation of local or customary land rights as a means of tackling insecurity of land tenure and encouraging investment. Several tools, such as the Rural Land Plans (PFRs) used in Benin, seem to resolve the tension between the logic of registering rights in order to increase productivity and the logic of securing complex local rights and reducing conflict. However, taking account of complex customary land rights raises strategic and methodological questions, and calls for closer examination of the purpose of operations to register rights. While PFRs are potentially a good tool for dealing with complexity, current policy debate in Benin tends to focus on them as a tool for privatisation. But given the diversity of local situations and complexity of land rights, a single model of private property will inevitably engender exclusion and conflict, for questionable economic benefits. We can think that what is needed is a pluralist vision, and rights registration procedures that build sustainable links between diverse and evolving local modes of land regulation and a pluralist public framework.