chapter  5
Traditional Land Tenure Systems
Pages 18

Few aspects of Africa’s cultural experience are as complex as its land tenure systems. Although for convenience sake, I will be talking of ‘the African land tenure system’ in the passages that follow, there has, in fact, never been a single system of landholding with application throughout the entire continent. Rather, there have always been a number of landholding systems – some quasi-individualistic and others communalistic, with the latter tending to dominate (for some examples, see Besteman, 1994; Cohen, 1974; Delafosse, 1911; Gildea, 1964; Hamilton, 1920; Hughes, 1962; Shipton, 1994; Shipton and Goheen, 1992; Sorrenson, 1967). People’s rights to land in Africa are often overlapping and interlocking, and usually reflect any given society’s social fabric. This fabric may be woven around kinship, age-grading or other traditional African principles.