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Land Contestation at the Micro Scale: Struggles for Space in the African Marshes

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Original languageEnglish
Article number18
Pages (from-to)243-252
JournalWorld Development
Issue numberFebruary
Early online date1 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2014


Africa is increasingly confronted with the commercialization of its space. Whereas attention mainly goes to macro-scale land grabs, land contestation and grabbing at the micro scale are largely ignored. This paper analyses how local actors instrumentalize the renegotiation over African wetland rights to call into question the prevailing social order. We illustrate how deficiencies in formal instruments allow certain powerful actors to capture the momentum of an open moment. We plead in favor of a better understanding of political power struggles through which land rights are shaped; and point to the shortcomings of a technocratic approach to land governance.

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