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Land tenure in Ethiopia: Continuity and change, shifting rulers, and the quest for state control


  • Crewett, Wibke
  • Bogale, Ayalneh
  • Korf, Benedikt


"Ethiopia experiences a fierce political debate about the appropriate land tenure policy. After the fall of the socialist derg regime in 1991, land property rights have remained vested in the state and only usufruct rights have been alienated to farmers – to the disappointment of international donor agencies. This has nurtured an antagonistic debate between advocates of the privatization of land property rights to individual plot holders and those supporting the government's position. This debate, however, fails to account for the diversity and continuities in Ethiopian land tenure systems. This paper reviews the changing bundles of rights farmers have held during various political regimes in Ethiopia, the imperial, the derg and the current one, at different times and places. Our analysis indicates the marked differences in tenure arrangements after the fall of the empire, but identifies some commonalities in land tenure regimes as well, in particular between the traditional rist system and the current tenure system." authors' abstract

Suggested Citation

  • Crewett, Wibke & Bogale, Ayalneh & Korf, Benedikt, 2008. "Land tenure in Ethiopia: Continuity and change, shifting rulers, and the quest for state control," CAPRi working papers 91, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
  • Handle: RePEc:fpr:worpps:91

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    Cited by:

    1. Bezabih, Mintewab & Holden, Stein, 2010. "The Role of Land Certification in Reducing Gender Gaps in Productivity in Rural Ethiopia," RFF Working Paper Series dp-10-23-efd, Resources for the Future.
    2. Hasanbasri, Ardina & Koolwal, Gayatri & Kilic, Talip & Moylan, Heather, 2021. "Multidimensionality of Land Ownership Among Men and Women in Sub-Saharan Africa," 2021 Conference, August 17-31, 2021, Virtual 315317, International Association of Agricultural Economists.
    3. Hanane Sharif Ahmed, 2017. "Gender and rural land reform in Ethiopia: reform process, tenure security, and investment," Economics PhD Theses 0417, Department of Economics, University of Sussex Business School.
    4. Ratner, B. D., 2013. "Addressing conflict through collective action in natural resource management: a synthesis of experience," IWMI Working Papers H046235, International Water Management Institute.
    5. Takada, Jun & Shuto, Hisato, 2023. "Causal linkages between land reform and factor demand under tenure insecurity: Evidence from Amhara Region, Ethiopia," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 128(C).
    6. Reichhuber, Anke & Requate, Till, 2012. "Alternative use systems for the remaining Ethiopian cloud forest and the role of Arabica coffee — A cost-benefit analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 75(C), pages 102-113.
    7. Kenneth Houngbedji, 2018. "Property Rights and Labour Supply in Ethiopia," Annals of Economics and Statistics, GENES, issue 131, pages 137-179.
    8. Chamberlin, Jordan & Schmidt, Emily, 2012. "Ethiopian Agriculture: A dynamic geographic perspective," IFPRI book chapters, in: Dorosh, Paul A. & Rashid, Shahidur (ed.), Food and agriculture in Ethiopia: Progress and policy challenges, chapter 2, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    9. Matz, Julia Anna, 2013. "Ethnicity, Marriage and Family Income," Discussion Papers 154935, University of Bonn, Center for Development Research (ZEF).
    10. Kenneth Houngbedji, 2015. "Property Rights and Labour Supply in Ethiopia," PSE Working Papers halshs-01145827, HAL.
    11. Jon Unruh & Matthew Pritchard & Emily Savage & Chris Wade & Priya Nair & Ammar Adenwala & Lowan Lee & Max Malloy & Irmak Taner & Mads Frilander, 2019. "Linkages Between Large-scale Infrastructure Development and Conflict Dynamics in East Africa," Journal of Infrastructure Development, India Development Foundation, vol. 11(1-2), pages 1-13, June.
    12. Abeygunawardane, Dilini & Kronenburg García, Angela & Sun, Zhanli & Müller, Daniel & Sitoe, Almeida & Meyfroidt, Patrick, 2022. "Resource frontiers and agglomeration economies: The varied logics of transnational land-based investing in Southern and Eastern Africa," EconStor Open Access Articles and Book Chapters, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics, vol. 51(6), pages 1535-1551.
    13. Akpalu, Wisdom & Bezabih, Mintewab, 2014. "Tenure insecurity, climate variability, and renting-out decisions among female small-holder farmers in Ethiopia," WIDER Working Paper Series 140, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    14. Holden, Stein T. & Tilahun, Mesfin, 2020. "Farm size and gender distribution of land: Evidence from Ethiopian land registry data," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 130(C).
    15. Mintewab Bezabih & Stein Holden & Andrea Mannberg, 2016. "The Role of Land Certification in Reducing Gaps in Productivity between Male- and Female-Owned Farms in Rural Ethiopia," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 52(3), pages 360-376, March.
    16. Cohen, Marc J. & Lemma, Mamusha, 2011. "Agricultural extension services and gender equality: An institutional analysis of four districts in Ethiopia," ESSP working papers 28, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    17. Wisdom Akpalu & Mintewab Bezabih, 2015. "Tenure Insecurity, Climate Variability and Renting out Decisions among Female Small-Holder Farmers in Ethiopia," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 7(6), pages 1-16, June.
    18. Adam, Achamyeleh Gashu, 2019. "Thinking outside the box and introducing land readjustment against the conventional urban land acquisition and delivery method in Ethiopia," Land Use Policy, Elsevier, vol. 81(C), pages 624-631.
    19. Cohen, Marc J. & Lemma, Mamusha, 2011. "Agricultural extension services and gender equality: An institutional analysis of four districts in Ethiopia," IFPRI discussion papers 1094, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    20. Wisdom Akpalu & Mintewab Bezabih, 2014. "Tenure Insecurity, Climate Variability, and Renting-Out Decisions Among Female Smallholder Farmers in Ethiopia," WIDER Working Paper Series wp-2014-140, World Institute for Development Economic Research (UNU-WIDER).
    21. Addiswork Tilahun Teklemariam & Logan Cochrane, 2021. "The Rush to the Peripheries: Land Rights and Tenure Security in Peri-Urban Ethiopia," Land, MDPI, vol. 10(2), pages 1-20, February.
    22. Bezabih, Mintewab & Kohlin, Gunnar & Mannberg, Andrea, 2011. "Trust, tenure insecurity, and land certification in rural Ethiopia," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 833-843.
    23. Mintewab Bezabih & Andrea Mannberg & Eyerusalem Siba, 2014. "The land certification program and off-farm employment in Ethiopia," GRI Working Papers 168, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

    More about this item


    Land tenure; Property rights regime; Bundles of rights; Legal pluralism; Devolution;
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