Coastal Cameroon is currently the arena of land acquisition operations for large-scale agricultural investments, mainly the monoculture of palm oil. Huge agro-industrial concessions are increasingly granted, very often in obscure conditions. The phenomenon shows a great replicability across the country – and its geometry is actually difficult to master. But while examining the issue of land rush and transfer, it should be noted that Coastal Cameroon’s agrarian history is a history of land dispossession since German colonization (1884-1914), passing through British and French colonization (1918-1960). This paper is an assessment, put as narratives, of the trajectories of land dispossession in this region (an ancient phenomenon), on the one hand, and land accumulation by transnational companies (a new phenomenon), on the other. The paper informs that: (i) these different land control and appropriation processes went – and are going – hand in hand with the misrecognition of institutions mandated for local representation, including customary institutions/mechanisms and local governments; (ii) the agrarian capitalism in effect is a tentacular phenomenon, which aims at incorporating all the rural landscape in its niche through the so-called village plantations option and the formation of a local agrarian sub-capitalism by local elites, leading to the reversal of customary tenure logics and the amplification of land individualization practices; (iii) institution recognition or misrecognition are among the driving forces of land conflict across the region yesterday and today; (iv) three future land scenarios are likely to occur in Coastal Cameroon in the next decades, the most dramatic being the radicalization of the land tenure issue, as a result of land marginalization – through land grab operations – and the rise of a violent social grammar rejecting the alliance between the state and the transnational capitalism. This is an eminently problematic policy and political challenge in today’s Cameroon and Africa.
Oyono, P.R. LDPI Working Paper 29. The Narratives of Capitalist Land Accumulationand Recognition in Coastal Cameroon. The Land Deal Politics Initiative, (2013) 23 pp.