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The Impact of Conflicting Land Tenure Systems on Urban Development in the Kumba Municipality

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This study was based on land tenure conflict and its impact on urban development in the Kumba Municipality. Questions. This study was guided by four research objectives. The research objectives are to examine if land ownership affects urban development in Kumba. To ascertain if land tenure conflict exist in Kumba. To examine the various ways in which land tenure conflicts affects urban development in Kumba. To determine measures that will prevent land conflict from thwarting urban development in Kumba. The researcher made use of the descriptive survey research design. The area of the study was Kumba and the researcher worked with sixty inhabitants in Kumba. The researcher worked questionnaires as instrument for data collection. The results of the findings proved that customary land affects urban development especially when the government caries out developmental projects without negotiating with the owners of customary land. The findings also revealed that land tenure conflict actually exist in Kumba. There are some consequences of land tenure conflict which affects urban development such as delay in project execution due to land conflict, some projects are even cancelled because of this. The findings also revealed that advocacy towards the establishment of land certificates will be a good measure to reduce land conflict in the Kumba Municipality. The study recommends that customary land owners should secure the land that they have by establishing land certificates. this will ensure that they get adequate compensations whenever the administration wants to use the land for developmental projects.



1.1 Background of the study

Land tenure system is defined as the set of rules and regulations that govern the holding, use and transfer of interests or rights in land manage and control of natural resources, such as soils, water and the environment (Bassey,2010). Land tenure in most Sub-Saharan African countries is mainly dominated by the customary land tenure system. This is due to the fact that most of the people lived in communities where they owned the land collectively and boundaries only existed among tribal areas. Though they had a traditional ruler or chief who is the custodian of the land, each member of the community had access to the land to use for his livelihood.

There are two land tenure systems in Cameroon and which are the customary land tenure system and statutory land tenure system

Customary land tenure refers as the unwritten land laws that are stipulated by Traditional rulers, which guide and regulate land acquisition, ownership, use and land transaction.  Customary land tenure is a system of land ownership, that is based on traditional customs and practices, these land tenure system has played a significant role in the management of land, which is been owned by the community as a whole, with decisions regarding its use and made by traditional leaders and members of the community, Nkemnyi, F. (2018).

Statutory land tenure refers as written legal land rules and regulations governing the acquisition, ownership, use and transfer of land. Statutory land tenure is identified with colonialism. This is because this form of land tenure was initiated by the colonial masters, so was the case in Cameroon. The Statutory land tenure in Cameroon has little or no difference from what the colonial masters initiated especially the French. Prior to the independence of French Cameroon in 1960, and British Cameroon in 1961, and their later reunification in 1971 , the then president of Cameroon Ahmadou Ahidjo, came out with Ordinance N 0 ,74-1 of 6 July 1 974 to establish rules governing land tenure. These rules which still exist today and are highly applicable in Kumba Municipality.

Land is a very important resource for sustainable livelihood. According to Gerstter et al., (2011), land is a precious and a finite resource, thus, there are frequent struggles over access to land and how land should be used. It is a critical factor underlying relations of production between people. With this importance of land as a critical resource, there are bound to be rules and regulations governing its ownership (Bassey,2010). Thus, land tenure brings about urban development.

 Land tenure issues are becoming increasingly important worldwide. As there is a highly population pressure, increases in resource degradation, food shortages, transformation of political systems and regional resource conflicts has brought the land issue to the public arena. Land tenure and land tenure systems are of fundamental importance for efficient agricultural production, stemming poverty and conflicts and attaining equity. Land is easily accessible to all agencies of development and requires the least combination of other factors of production and technology for exploitation. This easy access does not diminish the status of land as a critical determinant of well-being, livelihood, economic and political power (Hall, 1996). This means that land governance determines the distribution of wealth, influence and well-being. In other words, those who control land also control power (Lotsmart et al., 2013).

Land tenure systems vary from one region to another. In the world today, especially in the more economically developed countries such as USA and Europe, statutory land laws have taken over customary land laws. While in Africa customary land law have taken over statutory land law.

In Africa, land ownership and its resources has always been the basis of wealth. Records from Economic Commission for Africa (2004) says that Africa is the second largest region in the world, accounting for 20% of the world’s land mass (2,963,313 000 hectares). Blocher, (2006) brings to light the fact that land makes 3/4 of the wealth of developing countries, thus, Africa’s greatest wealth is her land. The management of this land and its resources has been of varied approaches and systems. The customary land tenure plays a very important role in the management of land and its resources, especially in the traditional societies in Africa. This customary land tenure maintained a balance in the environment that sustained the food supply over generations. But with the rapidly growing population pressure, this balance is faltering and the land resources in most African societies cannot sustain the growing population (Chukwudozie et al, 1995).

The land tenure system in Cameroon today is largely conditioned by systems which were established in the territory by successive European countries which administered what is now Cameroon. It began with Germany in the 1800s and ended with France in the 1900s (Ngwasiri, 2001). For balance argument, Britain also administered a smaller fraction of Cameroon between 1922 and 1961, but very little of the land laws which the British had introduced in British Cameroon had been retained in the present legislation. Thus, the word European is used to represent France. Cameroon authorities in borrowing the European concept on land ownership after Reunification in 1972 believed that it would promote the country’s economic development. Before the European land concept and the 1974 Land Ordinances to regulate land ownership and registration, there has been traditional or customary land tenure which still exists today. In Cameroon, the statutory land laws exist alongside the customary land laws. Statutory law categorizes land in Cameroon into, national, state and private lands, while traditional or customary communities reclassify land differently into ancestral or communal, family land and individual land. All these different categories of land support development at different levels while some rather impedes development.

Land is a major factor of production and a source of livelihood in Cameroon. This is mainly because Cameroon is a strong agrarian society, where more than 80% of the population is engaged in agriculture, and the sector acts as a strong economic back bone of the country, hence, an impetus for development. The mid 2011 status of land reforms shows that Cameroon has no intention or is uncertain about coming up with a land reform (Liz Alden, 2012). Cameroon is a bi-jural country, which means that two different legal systems operate in different parts of the country. The French-oriented civil law applies in the eight eastern regions, and the English common law applies in the remaining two western regions (United State Agency for International Development, USAID, 2010). But the 1996 Constitution and 1974 Land Law apply nationally. The legal systems also recognize customary law which given the country’s ethnic diversity, encompasses multiple and evolving traditional rules and norms. In Muslim regions, especially in the north, principles of Islamic law have been incorporated into customary law, although separate Sharia law is also recognized (Government of Cameroon (GOC) Constitution 1996; Fombad, 2009). 

Cameroon’s formal law classifies land as private, public or national. Private land can be owned by individuals and corporate entities, groups or the state. In order to be deemed private, the land must be titled and registered. Public land (for example highways, parks, waterways) is land held by the state for the benefit of the people of Cameroon. All other land is classified as national land, which includes most unoccupied land, land held by communities under customary law, informal settlements and grazing land. The state can allocate use rights to national land to individuals or groups or convert such land into the state’s private or public property (GOC Land Law 74-1 1974; GOC Land Law 74-2 1974; Njiti and Sharpe 1994). The formal law recognizes the following tenure types: ownership, usufruct rights and leaseholds:

Kumba like any other area in Cameroon and the world in general, strongly depends on land for urban development. They are highly engaged in the cultivation of food crops such as cocoa, palms, rubber, tea, bananas, plantains, pineapple, oranges, coconut, cassava, among others; animal farming such as piggery, poultry, and goat rearing. The Customary land tenure in Kumba from time immemorial has always provided land for these purposes. This land tenure ensures that land for farming is given for free especially to the indigenes in their respective sub – ancestral lands. The produce from crop farming are used for the sustenance of the family, while the rest of the food crops together with the produce from animal farms is sold and the cash is used for education and for medical purposes. They also provide land for other developmental activities like schools and hospitals. This has been the major source of urban development in Kumba Municipality.

Despite the fact that land is available for everybody, land conflict arises since land ownership becomes complicated when individual do not have land titles. Since land conflict is inevitable in most communities or cities, this study seeks to ascertain how and tenure conflict affects urban development in the Kumba Municipality.

1.2 Statement of the Research Problem

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