Property Rights and Development: Property Rights and Rural Household Welfare


This Briefing Paper presents the debate on the impact of formalised land rights on rural household welfare through the vectors of increased investment, credit and efficiency, highlighting the impact on women’s economic empowerment. At the request of DfID, the paper also considers the impact of land grabs/large-scale land acquisition on the security of land rights and the specific impact of active land markets on allocative efficiency. Drawing on this debate, it identifies key research questions and weighs up the evidence to answer these questions, discussing the nature of the evidence available and highlighting gaps in current evidence that need to be tackled through further research.

The paper focuses on Sub-Saharan Africa, mainly due to the large volume of the literature and the focus of the study’s terms of reference. This also potentially provides opportunities for extrapolating experiences across different countries, as there are arguably more analogous conditions across some (although not all) African countries that share characteristics of a history of low pressure on land, and customary tenure systems, which cover a large proportion of land and privilege access on a basis of household need. These conditions differentiate discussions on property rights in Africa from experiences in Asia and Latin America where pressure on land has been higher and access to land more dependent upon hierarchical social relationships.

The review engages with several aspects of the conventional economic view of the causal links between strengthened property rights and household economic and welfare outcomes in the rural context.


Henley, G. Property Rights and Development: Property Rights and Rural Household Welfare. Overseas Development Institute (ODI), London, UK (2013) ii + 37 pp.

Property Rights and Development: Property Rights and Rural Household Welfare

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