Panel 10: Formalization and Access

Julie Wetterslev, European University Institute, (chair)

Abstract: Limits Where Before There Were None – The Materialization of Indigenous Title

This paper explores the titling of lands as collective indigenous property following the 2001 landmark judgement by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case Mayagna (Sumo) Awas Tingni vs. Nicaragua. The international legal case is known to have promoted recognition of collective indigenous land rights, and to have sparked a wide-ranging process of demarcation and titling of indigenous territories on Nicaragua’s Caribbean Coast.However, although the Mayagna community in Awas Tingni received a collective property title on 73,349 hectares of land in 2008, this land title has not prevented a continuous and even progressive dispossession of the Mayagna collective. Having conducted extensive fieldwork in Awas Tingni and the North Caribbean Autonomous region, I argue here that the ongoing mestizo colonization of the lands inhabited by Mayagna and Miskito peoples has not been halted by the titling schemes. On the contrary, after the titling process, the number of non-indigenous settlers has increased considerably in the lands titled in favour of indigenous communities, and violent conflicts over land ownership have escalated throughout the Caribbean Coast. Conflicts have also worsened between the Mayagna in Awas Tingni and incoming settlers from other regions in Nicaragua in the lands titled in favour of the community. Through an analytical approach based in critical legal pluralism, I explore how the titling process and the formalization of territorial borders and property rights has re-constituted and transformed geographical space and social relations in the Awas Tingni community, and I suggest that the titling process might have contributed to accelerate colonization. Moreover, I demonstrate how the titling process created tensions between different property systems. The pre-existing system of the Mayagna community has collided both with the collective property title sanctioned by international and national law, and with new illegal property title schemes. Finally, the transformation of terrain, property relations and land use systems has contributed to formalizing and bureaucratizing notions of Mayagna culture and systems of community governance.

Teddy Nakanwaga, University of Copenhagen,

Abstract: Changing Perceptions of Formalization: Effects of large-scale agricultural investments on customary authority

Individuals who hold powerful positions in local political hierarchy have more perceived secure tenure rights in Africa (Ghebru & Lambrecht, 2017; Goldstein & Udry, 2008). It is likely that such individuals and their connections may not perceive that land formalization is necessary to secure their rights. And in many cases, those in less privileged positions in society will be less likely to voice opinions that contradict those of the privileged class even if it is to their disadvantage. In fact, Honig (2017) recently investigated how individual’s status (position) within the customary institution conditions his or her demand for land titles in Senegal and Zambia; and established that households with greater customary privileged status are less likely to adopt state land titles, independent of ethnicity, wealth, and land values. That is in SSA, perceptions of the importance of land formalization and subsequent demand for land formalization are largely influenced by perceptions of lack, loss or importance of customary privileges. For long, customary land institutions have been established to be secure and attempts to promote individual and formalized tenure through land registrations have been viewed with suspicion. However, in the recent past, many customary tenure systems have witnessed unprecedented levels of large-scale land acquisitions which by law or caution on the part of investors have to acquire leaseholds; effectively changing existing land tenure systems and possibly to a large extend decrease land under control of customary leaders and create awareness of formal land documentation. This study seeks to examine how large-scale agricultural investments influence formal land documentation perceptions through its effects on the power of customary-induced tenure security and protections in Northern Uganda where the land tenure system is over 90 percent customary (Ravnborg et al., 2013).    

Amanda Møller Rasmussen, Aarhus University,

Abstract: Keeping Head Above Water in a Sea of IDs, Licenses, and Local Arrangements. Exploring Djiboutian “Fishing Rights” and how they are being exercised and negotiated in practice.

In recent years, the sea and its territorial boundaries and fish resources in the Horn of Africa have received substantial attention from both global actors and the regions national governments. As a result, international navies, national coast guards, and local fishers have begun to take a larger part in governing the sea and its resources. In comparison to its neighbours (Somaliland, Somalia, and Yemen), Djibouti has a strict fishing policy, allowing only Djiboutian nationals to fish in its Exclusive Economic Zone. In practice, however, the localised enforcement of these regulations shows evidence of competing interpretations and negotiations of who has the right to access the sea resources. This process is closely linked with the newfound commercial export interests from international companies as well as the historical, economic, and social interconnectedness of Yemen, Somalia, Somaliland, and Djibouti. This paper investigates the social production of “fishing rights” and how such rights relate to the notions of citizenship, property and statehood in Djibouti. It investigates the processes of claiming access to and utilising one’s right as a citizen – a process that involves the social production of “foreign fishers.” It discusses how a wide net of actors – the national coast guard, the local fish administrations, national and foreign fishers, and officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, Fisheries, Animal and Maritime Resources – partake in negotiations of the fluid demarcations of the category “Djiboutian fisher” that allows both international companies as well as Somali, Yemen, and Somaliland fishers to fish in Djibouti. A process that attests to the ongoing political competition of accessing and governing fish resources in the Horn of Africa.

Christoph Kaufmann, University of Zurich,

Abstract: The politics of legibility and erasure in the Colombian gold mining sector

The department of Antioquia is the main gold producer in Colombia. The mines in Segovia and Remedios are particularly productive, contributing approximately 30 percent to the yearly gold extraction in the department (OECD 2016, 6). Despite the strategic importance of the mining activities in Segovia and Remedios, the power over gold extraction remains a highly contested. Formalization of mining activities is one of the key strategies of government institutions to clarify and stabilize access patterns to mineralized land, severe the ties between gold and the protracted armed conflict, and territorialize environmental and safety regulations. In late 2012, 5.6 million hectares were under a mining concession, and an additional 22.3 hectares were awaiting the granting thereof (Negrete Montes 2013, 24). Paradoxically, however, a mining concession does not create the homogeneous space it promises. The 2011 governmental census indicates that 86.7 percent of the counted gold mining activities, for example, happened in mines that did not hold the necessary licenses from the state, independently from the legal status of the subsoil (MINMINAS 2012, 14). Mining titles where different forms of gold extraction overlap are key sites where the frames of recognizability (Feola 2014) for mineral extraction are being negotiated (Côte and Korf 2018). In Segovia and Remedios, governmental offices and title holders advocate for subcontracting schemes (contratos de operación) where the title holder allows previously informal miners to extract ore from a part of the mining title. In these schemes, the subcontracted miners manage the everyday mining operations, while the title holder takes care of licenses, processing, and commercialization (Congreso de Colombia 2001, Art. 221). This paper argues that formalization of artisanal and small-scale gold mining through subcontracting is as much about a politics of legibility, as Scott (1998) argues, as it is about a politics of erasure (cf. Bocarejo and Ojeda 2016; Peluso 2018; Tschakert 2016). The subcontracting scheme codifies which type of mineral extraction is to be included into the state-sanctioned extractive sector, thus institutionalizing state-sanctioned entanglements between different practices of gold extraction and commodification.

Sarah Kirst, Free University of Berlin,

Abstract: Contested tradition – Negotiating access in conflicts over land in Ghana

In this paper I analyze how customary tenure systems are reinterpreted in conflicts over large- scale land commodification leading to a reinforcement of hierarchical structures and deeper social division. I conceive conflicts over land as conflicts over access referring to a broad understanding of access as the ability to derive benefits from land. My aim is to show how traditional authorities as key players in recent land transactions consolidate and expand their control over access to land to their own benefit and that of international investors by reinterpreting existing social orders and institutional arrangements and thus excluding local land users. Drawing on a multi- dimensional concept of visible, hidden and invisible power I identify different means which enable traditional authorities to successfully expand their control over access to land and advance their own interests. These include direct decision-making, discursive power, agenda setting, control of information, and structures of socialization. I argue that the interplay of different dimensions of power not only allows traditional authorities to reinterpret existing social orders and institutional arrangements but also prevents broad opposition of local land users against traditional authorities. Lacking opposition in turn contributes to indirectly legitimizing traditional authorities’ actions and thus underpinning their authority. My analysis draws upon empirical findings on two cases of conflicts over large-scale land commodification in the Ashanti and Northern Region of Ghana where I carried out five months of fieldwork in 2015, 2016 and 2017.