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Shinichi TAKEUCHI【Communication at the Academic Conference】 Enclosure in population scarcity: the case of western DR Congo

◆Name: Shinichi TAKEUCHI, Raymond LUMBUENAMO & Guy-Verlain Tshimanga wa TCHIMANGA

◆Date: 21 May 2017

◆Paper presented at the annual meeting of Japan Association for African Studies (JAAS) held at Shinshu University (Nagano City)

◆Enclosure in population scarcity: the case of western DR Congo

Africa has recently witnessed drastic changes with regard to its lands in rural areas. While large-scale land deals by external actors have attracted worldwide attention, privatization and commercialization of lands being underway by local initiatives have been relatively neglected, but deserve for serious analyses (Woodhouse 2003). This paper deals with a move to enclosing lands taking place in Western part of the DR Congo (Province de Maï Ndombe, Territoire de Bolobo, Chefferie de Bateke), lying in the southern edge of the Congo rain forests, intermingling with savannahs. Although reliable data does not exist, the population density is obviously low (less than 30 persons / km2 by World Bank).
In this area, the land belongs to the Bateke community represented by their land chiefs (chefs de terre). In principle, the land is open to the community members. However, despite the low population density, an important part of the territory has been reserved for private users. In addition to domains of a private cattle-raising company, which had been established in the colonial period, local villagers have recently begun to enclose considerable size of land for their own commercial farming. During August and September 2016, the authors have conducted a series of interviews with the large-scale land holders in two villages for studying their socio-economic profiles. The following points are main findings.
Firstly, special gifts were paid to land chiefs for the acquisition of these lands. Considering that such gifts are not required when villagers get fields for their subsistence, the additional land acquisitions are clearly regarded as something different. Having recognized such land acquisition, the land chiefs wrote a letter for the applicants, who brought it to the local administration proceeding measures for issuing official certificates for a concession in accordance with the 1973 Land Law. Authorization of land chiefs has been, therefore, combined with official administrative procedures for the establishment of land rights. Secondly, the large-scale land holders tend to be close relatives with land chiefs. Non-relatives are also able to acquire such lands, but they tend to offer a bigger amount of gifts than relatives. It suggests that relatives could have an easier access to the admission of land chiefs than non-relatives. Thirdly, all of the interviewed large-scale land holders acquired their concession after the year of 2000, indicating that the enclosure with local initiative has started recently, thus changing rural landscape rapidly. Such a change may cause land shortage and huge economic gap in this area in the near future.
(This survey research was conducted in the framework of Projet Mbali./ http://icd.j-monkey.jp/congo/)