The Impact of Land Property Rights Interventions on Investment and Agricultural Productivity in Developing Countries: a Systematic Review



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This review sought to examine the specific impacts of two types of land rights interventions:

  • Conversion of communal or non-demarcated rural land to freehold title and registration of such rights in an official registry; and
  • Statutory recognition and codification of customary or communal rural land rights, and registration of these rights in an official registry.

The objectives of the review were: 

  1. To understand the quantitative and qualitative impacts of interventions to strengthen land property rights on agricultural and livelihood outcomes in rural areas of low and middle income countries 
  2. To assess whether these effects are different for men and women, and under what circumstances 
  3. To assess specific mechanisms that enable or limit productivity improvement (barriers and facilitators) 

The quantitative results presented are based on 20 studies focusing on the impact of land rights recognition or formalization at the level of the farming household. In the Latin American and Asian cases, recognition typically took the form of freehold titling. The African studies assessed programs where rights were recognized through provision of freehold title, through formal registration of customary rights, or through conversion of customary rights to long-term leasehold rights.

The qualitative side of the review analysed 9 studies that catalogued a broad spectrum of both positive and negative experiences with land tenure interventions, the diversity of which made it difficult to draw out conclusive trends. They did however confirm that social impacts resulting from tenure interventions can be significant, unpredictable and in some instances have negative consequences such as displacement or diminished property rights for women.

The review identified a number of key messages for policy-makers to consider:

  • Tenure security is important
  • Any tenure reform may have negative social effects
  • Where title is the dominant means for securing land rights, productivity gains may take time to become apparent, the effects vary substantially across cases, and they likely depend on other supportive conditions, such as the performance of credit, input supply, and product markets
  • Policy makers should consider and assess a variety of models, appropriate to regional and national contexts, when framing tenure interventions


Lawry, S.
Samii, C.
Hall, R.
Leopold, A.
Hornby, D.
Mtero, F.


Waddington, H.
Vojtkova, M.