This briefing note summarises the presentations and discussions at the regional seminar on local land management in West Africa and Madagascar, held in Saint-Louis, Senegal, in March 2023 at the initiative of the Land Tenure and Development Technical Committee (CTFD). It brought together seventy participants, members of civil society organisations, farmers’ organisations and land administrations, and expert researchers from eight African countries (Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, Madagascar, Mali and Niger).
This paper looks at the rise in tensions and the amplification of socio-political and security crises, with their more or less direct effects on land tenure and its management (massive forced displacement of local populations and authorities, questioning of land tenure agreements, weakening of community relations, weakening of customary authorities, etc.), which are now making local land management much more complex, and generating a number of transformations and dynamics of exclusion and concentration of rights (withdrawal of land, occupation of land belonging to displaced persons, accelerated commercialisation of access to land around sites hosting displaced persons, identity-based tensions and communitisation of violence and tensions, etc.).
Based on the papers presented at the Saint Louis conference and a cross-reading of documents capitalising on a number of major land tenure processes in the countries concerned, this paper analyses the power relationships at play in the development and implementation of reforms (first part), before explaining the role played by various stakeholders, in particular governments, technical and financial partners and civil society (second part). It then raises the limits of formalistic approaches to land tenure security in the light of the politicisation of local land management structures (third part). Finally, it examines the issue of land tenure management in the context of the socio-political and security crisis affecting the Sahel and now threatening coastal countries, looking both at its roots in land tenure and its impact on the implementation of reforms.