Article of the Month - February 2017

Land consolidation, customary lands, and Ghana’s Northern Savannah Ecological Zone: An evaluation of the possibilities and pitfalls   

Zaid ABUBAKARI, Netherlands, Paul VAN DER MOLEN, Netherlands, Rohan M. BENNETT, Netherlands, Elias DANYI KUUSAANA, Ghana


Zaid ABUBAKARI          Elias DANYI KUUSAANA        Rohan M. BENNETT

1)  This paper was presented at the International Symposium on Land Consolidation and Land Readjustment – held in Apeldoorn, The Netherlands, 9 – 11 November 2016. The paper demonstrates that Land Consolidation - as an existing and proven approach - can be used very well for future challenges - as mitigation of and adaptation to climate change effects.


Land fragmentation has been identified to greatly undermine crop production in many countries. In the case of Ghana’s customary tenure system, household farmlands are relatively small and are highly fragmented. Recent agricultural drives, however, have focused on farm level interventions that are ad hoc with short-term benefits. A sustainable long-term application of land consolidation which reorganizes farmlands may improve yields, reduce the cost of production and improve the incomes of farmers. The successful implementation of land consolidation depends greatly on the suitability of local conditions with respect to land tenure and land use. However, in Ghana’s customary lands, the alignment between the requirements for land consolidation and existing conditions remains unexplored. This study investigated the feasibility of land consolidation within the customary tenure by juxtaposing the local conditions of the study areas with the baseline conditions for land consolidation outlined in literature. Using both qualitative and spatial data, the study revealed some traits of convergence and divergence with respect to the baseline conditions in the study areas. For example, conditions such as the existence of land fragmentation, suitable topography and soil distribution were fully met. Conditions such as the existence of a land bank, technical expertise, and infrastructure and supportive legal frameworks were partially met. The remaining conditions such as the willingness to participate, availability of a land information system and favorable land ownership structure were non-existent. The circumstances surrounding these unmet conditions are deeply embedded in customs and traditions that hardly yield to change. Since these conditions are fundamental for land consolidation, their absence negates the feasibility of land consolidation under the current tenure system of the study areas.


Agricultural productivity depends on a number of factors which vary in extent across the globe. These include climatic conditions, level of technological advancement, farming practices and government policies – including those related to land tenure systems. With respect to the latter, a land tenure system might promote land fragmentation, which is known to undermine agricultural productivity (Demetriou et al., 2013b). Land fragmentation creates disjointed and small farmlands, thus acting as a disincentive and a hindrance to the development of agriculture (Manjunatha, Anik, Speelman, & Nuppenau, 2013). This viewpoint is however debated: (Blarel, et al. 1992) argues in favour of land fragmentation describing it as a way of reducing risk and easing seasonal bottlenecks. In Ghana, it is estimated that about 90% of farming households operate on less than 2 hectares (MoFA-SRID, 2011): these farmers keep multiple farmlands for the production of a variety of crops. Land is predominantly owned and controlled by customary institutions including chiefdoms, families and Tendaamba (Arko-Adjei, 2011). The control and ownership exercised by these institutions is built on the concept of collective ownership of land which gives every member the right to use a portion of the communal land. It is generally believed that an increase in the number of owners creates land fragmentation (Farley et al., 2012). Asiama (2002) shares the view that customary tenure arrangements provide members with equal interests in land which leads to fragmentation of farmlands as they try to allocate land for the use of every member. Fragmentation is also linked to inheritance(Demetriou et al., 2013b; Niroula and Thapa, 2005) as the continual intergenerational devolution of land from parents to children increases ownership creates common property which lead to both ownership and use fragmentation.

For cases like Ghana, if farmland fragmentation is accepted as a problem, responses will likely depend on innovative approaches such as land consolidation. Land consolidation is the process of re-allocating rural land that are considered fragmented (Vitikainen, 2004). It is also seen as a tool for enhancing agriculture and assisting rural development (Sklenicka, 2006; Thomas, 2006). The concept of land consolidation has a history dating back to the Medieval Ages in Europe. The current form of land consolidation practices have evolved in Europe towards the end of the 19th Century to the beginning of the 20th Century (Vitikainen, 2004). The concept developed and became multidimensional incorporating emerging issues like environmental management, development of rural areas (Zhang et al., 2014) and improvement of appropriate infrastructure (Vitikainen, 2004). Lemmen et al. (2012) indicated that, the initial mono-functionality of land consolidation was to increase agricultural production through parcel enhancement; reduction of production cost and increase in farm efficiency.

Current interventions in the Ghana agricultural sector including the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP I & II) and strategies like the Growth and Poverty reduction Strategy (GPRS I & II) provide seemingly good objectives including the improvement of food security, enhancement of farmers’ income, application of science and technology, sustainable management of land, and improvement of institutional coordination (MoFA-SRID, 2011). However, the implementation of these objectives focus on subsidies and credit access programmes which are mostly supported by international donor agencies, and they subsist as long there is continues support. Over the years, the attention has therefore always been on short to medium term programmes, with little or no attention on the sustainable application of long-term strategies such as land consolidation. Land consolidation is self-supporting and appears more sustainable and does not require continuous support from either government or donor agencies.

Experiences with land consolidation in countries like the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark have demonstrated good results for agricultural output. In these countries private property rights and state ownership are dominant, however, scientific research is lacking on the use of land consolidation within the customary tenure environment where there is communal ownership of land. Ghana, a country dominated by customary tenure, has not tested land consolidation as an option for enhancing agricultural development. Having regard to the complexities of customary tenure such as oral allocation, indeterminate boundaries and emotional attachment to land, it is unclear if land consolidation will be feasible. This premise underlies the overarching objective of this paper: to investigate the feasibility of land consolidation in the customary areas of the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone (NSEZ) of Ghana. Specifically, the study enumerates the baseline conditions required for conventional land consolidation, examines the existing tenure and land use situation, and compares the baseline conditions to the context of the study areas. The paper first provides a background on customary tenure systems in northern Ghana, land fragmentation and the consolidation nexus. Subsequently, the study methodology, discussion of results, conclusion, and policy recommendations.


The concept of customary tenure is multi-dimensional and has been used synonymously in different contexts with the terms ‘indigenous tenure’, ‘traditional tenure’ and ‘communal tenure’ by various researchers (Arko-Adjei, 2011). USAID (2012) describes customary tenure as the embodiment of rules that govern the access, use and disposition of land and its resources within a community. Under customary tenure, land is sometimes seen as a spiritual entity recognised as a divine heritage in which the spirits of the ancestors are preserved (Asiama, 2002). Elias (1956) viewed land in the customary context as an age-long entity that connects the past, present and future members of a community.

In Ghana, customary ownership accounts for about 80% of the total land (Kasanga & Kotey, 2001). Families and communities (through stools/skins1), own these lands. Although differences exist amongst various ethnicities, there is enough commonality to enable a categorisation of the Ghanaian customary tenure systems into two broad groups. The first category is land owned by communities that exist as chiefdoms. In this category there is a centralised political structure composed of a hierarchy of chiefs headed by a king. The hierarchy devolves from the king to paramount chiefs, divisional chiefs and caretaker chiefs (Arko-Adjei, 2011). Under chiefdoms, each hierarchy of authority has an overriding power over all the smaller chiefs below it. The second category is land owned by families where the Tendaamba play an eminent role in the ownership of land and alienation. Family lands are controlled by family heads, usually the father in a nuclear family and the oldest elder in an extended family (Godwin & Kyeretwie, 2010).

1 The use of the terms stool and skin represents the symbols of authority of chiefs in Ghana. Whilst the stool is the symbol of authority for chiefs in the southern part of Ghana, the skin (of an animal) is the symbol of authority for chiefs in the northern part. There is often the tendency in Ghana to refer to the chieftaincy of a particular area as the stool or skin. There are even verbal forms created: to enskin, to enstool; and derived nouns: enskinment and enstoolment.


Land fragmentation is defined as the division of single farmlands into spatially distinct units (Binns, 1950; McPherson, 1982). King and Burten (1982a) described the manifestation of land fragmentation in two forms. First, the division of farmlands into units too small for profitable exploitation, and secondly, the spatial separation of farmlands belonging to a single farmer/household. Demetriou (2014) describes land fragmentation as a spatial problem concerned with farmlands, which are organised poorly in space with reference to their shape, size and distribution. Van Dijk (2004) categorised land fragmentation in terms of ownership and land use. Land fragmentation may be caused by a number of factors, such as population growth and inheritance (Binns, 1950; McPherson, 1982; Niroula and Thapa, 2005).

The relationship between land fragmentation and agricultural productivity is opened to debate. Some researchers including Blarel et al. (1992) argued in their study in Ghana and Rwanda that fragmentation of farmland is not as inefficient as generally perceived. They supported this view by arguing in favour of fragmentation as a tool for the management of risk, seasonal bottlenecks and food insecurity. This view is also shared by FAO (2012) who advocated for the maintenance of fragmented farmlands if they result in productive benefits. Monchuk et al., (2010) in a study in India concluded that the adverse economic impacts of land fragmentation are somewhat small but provide room for adaptation for a variety of circumstances. Contrary to this opinion, (Niroula and Thapa, 2005) viewed land fragmentation as a mark of farm inefficiency pointing to its ripple effects on distance, size and shape of farmlands. Manjunatha et al. (2013) explains that land fragmentation deprives farmers of the benefits of economies of scale. Demetriou et al., (2013a) also noted that fragmentation is a disincentive to mechanised large-scale agriculture. In line with this second debate, land consolidation has been promoted as a long-term strategy to manage land fragmentation and promote land use efficiency.
Land consolidation is the procedure of re-allocating a rural area consisting of fragmented agricultural or forest holdings or their parts (Vitikainen, 2004). It is a tool for improving land cultivation and assisting rural development (Sklenicka, 2006). The common principle that underlie most land consolidation projects is the reconstruction of fragmented and disorganised landholdings (Thapa and Niroula, 2008).

3.1 Baseline conditions required for land consolidation

Certain conditions are required as input for the implementation of land consolidation. There exist variations as to what these conditions are and their difference depends on the particular type of land consolidation, the objective of implementation and the geographical context within which it is implemented (Vitikainen, 2004). Conditional requirements that underpin land consolidation are generally similar but may be fine-tuned to enable tailor-made packages that meet the needs of society (Van Dijk, 2007). Contrary to earlier research works of Bullard (2007) and Vitikainen (2004) which focused more on formal legal framework, Lisec et al. (2014) argued that the conditions for the implementation of land consolidation should be reflective of both the formal and informal institutional framework. For land consolidation to be implemented, land fragmentation of some sort should have been established within the geographic area in question (FAO, 2012). Some researchers have pointed to land fragmentation in a number of ways as a fundamental factor that calls for land consolidation (Bullard, 2007; Demetriou, 2014; Long, 2014; Van Dijk, 2007). In the design of land consolidation for central and eastern European countries, FAO (2003) enumerated some of the conditions for land consolidation to include; enabling legislation, land information system, land bank, willingness of participants to consolidate and technical know-how. Other researchers such as Jansen et al. (2010) categorised the requirements for land consolidation broadly into legal and institutional requirements.

Land consolidation in many countries is regulated by legislation(s) (Vitikainen, 2004). The need for the development of land consolidation regulations was occasioned in the past when it became apparent that fragmented lands could not be consolidation based on the operations of the free land market (Van der Molen and Lemmen, 2004). Legislation is not only meant to address land fragmentation, but also to prevent the reoccurrence of fragmentation in the future (Bullard, 2007). Most importantly, the interference with private property rights during land consolidation requires a legitimate legal backing so as to protect the rights of landowners and land users. In view of this, land consolidation legislation amongst other things defines the limit and manner to which private property rights may be interfered, the category of right holders that are recognised and can participate in land consolidation (Hong and Needham, 2007).

Van Dijk (2007) observed that success in land consolidation depends on the willingness of landowners and land users to participate in the process. This is especially the case, where there is no element of compulsion in participation (Louwsma et al., 2014). FAO (2003) indicated that the willingness of land owners sometimes depend on the proposed benefits and the terms of cost sharing between central government agencies, local government, land owners and users.

When stakeholders are willing to participate in land consolidation it then becomes necessary have to a reliable land information system (Demetriou et al., 2013a) which provides an inventory of land ownership/use rights and also acts as a platform for verifying claims (Sonnenberg, 2002). The reallocation of lands which involves the exchange, distribution and portioning of land requires detailed land information that provides ownership rights, property boundary information, digital topographic data as well as proposed developments in the project area (Bullard, 2007). As discussed earlier, land consolidation in recent times, for most parts of the developed world, incorporates adjoining public works such as construction of roads, drainage systems and irrigation facilities which makes it even more relevant to have a sufficient land information system (Demetriou et al., 2013a).

Another condition for land consolidation is the existence of a land bank. Damen (2004) sees land banking as the bedrock for successful land consolidation. Damen described land banking as a means of acquiring and managing land in rural areas by state organisations for the purpose of redistribution/leasing with the aim of improving agriculture or in the general interest of the public. Land banks provide an opportunity for expansion, shaping of farmlands, and creation of adjoining infrastructure (Van Dijk, 2007). Land bank increases land mobility and creates room for a flexible land consolidation design and reallocation process (Hartvigsen, 2014).

Being a surface activity, land consolidation is affected by geographical conditions such as topography, soil and water distribution. Differences in topography and quality of soil affects land reallocation which is the core of land consolidation (Lemmen et al., 2012; Sonnenberg, 2002). In hilly and mountainous areas there exist sharp variations in surface characteristics and creation of regular shapes for farmlands may be interrupted by natural physical characteristics of the terrain like hill tops or cliff faces (Demetriou et al., 2012). This is further supported by Sklenicka (2006) who sees sharp topographic differences as one of the factors that hinders land consolidation. Likewise, substantial soil quality heterogeneity inhibits reallocation of lands compared to a fairly homogenous distribution of soil quality.

The nature of rights, use and ownership of land affects land reallocation. Modern land consolidation results in change of ownership rights and registration of new titles in the land register (Lemmen et al., 2012). The ability of a private landowner to choose to participate in land reallocation without any ownership constraints is therefore important. Thus, dual and multiple ownership either at the family or community level restricts unilateral decision making. This may hinder the decision of members in exchanging land during reallocation (Demetriou et al., 2012). Also, implementing land consolidation requires some technical capacity and infrastructure. It is difficult to wholly import and implement land consolidation based on the framework of other countries that have succeeded in its implementation (Thomas, 2006). It is necessary for countries, which have not yet implemented land consolidation to adopt and modify the existing examples to meet their local needs (Van Dijk, 2007). This can only be done based on expert technical knowledge. Thus, land use planners, land surveyors, estate valuation surveyors, land administrators, agricultural engineers and environmentalist are needed for the preparation and execution of the land consolidation. Based on the knowledge of the local legal framework, land market conditions and land tenure, experts are can develop a land consolidation that efficiently meets local needs. Table 1 summarises the main baseline conditions.

Table 1: Summary of baseline conditions for land consolidation

Baseline Factor Remark
Existence of land fragmentation Land consolidation is the cure for land fragmentation. Where there is no land fragmentation at all, land consolidation may not be useful.
Willingness to participate Willingness to participate in land consolidation implies stakeholder acceptability and consent. Even without unanimous willingness, some level of it is required for a successful land consolidation. In some countries compulsion is used to attain full participation.
Availability of land information system Land consolidation requires reliable inventory of ownership rights and boundary information for its implementation. This enhances re-allocation; which is the core of land consolidation and dispute curtailment.
Existence of land bank
Existence of land bank Land banks provide additional land for uneconomic holdings, infrastructure and as a substitute stock for unwilling participants
Existence of legal framework This enables the protection of private property rights by defining the limits and manner to which such rights can be interfered.
Suitable topography and soil distribution Uniformity in surface characteristics of land aids land consolidation as it affords a fair platform for the exchange of farmlands.
Technical Expertise and infrastructure To engender fit-for-purpose land consolidation technical expertise in local land tenure and land management dynamics and good infrastructure are essential for success in land consolidation.


This study was conducted in the Northern Savannah Ecological Zone of Ghana. Specifically, the Upper West and Northern regions were selected. This was necessary to represent the two forms of customary land classification according to Godwin & Kyeretwie (2010). In the Upper West Region of Ghana, the customary institution was originally built around the earth priests (Tendaamba) who were literally the owners of the land. In the case of the Northern region, the customary institution is organised in chiefdoms headed by kings who manage the land on behalf of the people. Authority over land devolves from the king through paramount chiefs to divisional chiefs and caretaker chiefs. Chiefs have the highest control over land and the level of control exercisable depends on a chief’s position along the hierarchy. Therefore, to make the study representative of the customary tenure systems in northern Ghana, two farming communities were considered; Yaruu, in the Wa Municipality of the Upper West region, and Tindan in the Savelugu-Nanton district of the Northern region. These communities were selected because they are typical farming communities with no formalisation of land rights, no land commodification, and land uses are dominated by agriculture.

The sample frame for this study comprised 30 farmers with multiple farmlands from the study areas and 2 customary institutional heads (Tendaamba and Chief). The institutional heads were purposively sampled and they assisted in accessing farmers. Primary data was collected through interviews, focus group discussions and direct observation. This was supported by multiple sourced secondary data to enrich the discussions in this paper. The studied farmers were interviewed regarding the number of farmlands, reasons for the choice of farm locations, the reasons for having multiple spatially separated farmlands, the environmental factors that affect the choice of land for farming and willingness to exchange farmlands. The Tendaana and chief were interviewed using open-ended questions to examine the land ownership structure and also their role in and processes of land allocation. Interviews were conducted with respondents at their homes and on their farms. Two separate focus group discussions were held in the two study areas. The focus discussions comprised farmers, chief and Tendaamba. The focus discussions provided a wider understanding of complex issues and circumstances that could not be collected from individual interview sessions. They also provided an opportunity for participants to express their views and discuss multiple views with other participants, which gave a clear understanding of the interwoven dynamics of land ownership and land allocation. For each respondent, we visited their farmlands and collected data on their locations and characteristics. The process was made more participatory and interactive through the use of geo-referenced satellite images downloaded from Google Earth and geo-referenced using Elshayal Smart GIS software. Soft copies of the maps were loaded onto a mobile device equipped with a global positioning system (GPS), which was used to record the geographic positions of farmlands.

Figure 1: Map of the Study Areas


5.1 The existence of land fragmentation

Literature highlights land fragmentation as the basis for undertaking land consolidation especially when it reduces agricultural productivity (FAO, 2003). The results obtained from this study confirmed the existence of land fragmentation in terms of land ownership and use in both study areas. This deduction has been drawn through the juxtaposition of the findings on household size, farmland size as well as the number of farmlands per household. On the average, a household owns three (3) separate farmlands in both study areas. Meanwhile, the total size of land operated per household ranges from 1- 20 acres resulting in a size of approximately 1-6acres per farmland, which is an indication of fragmentation in terms of size. Also, considering the spatial distribution of discrete farmlands, the average distance between farmlands of the same owner is approximately 1600m in the case of Yaruu and approximately 600m in the case of Tindan. Comparing this level of dispersion to the small size of farmlands gives an idea that farmlands are somewhat scattered. Similar to the findings of Thapa & Niroula (2008) in the mountains of Nepal, the study areas exhibited the tendencies of further fragmentation through the continual inheritance of farmlands. Considering the household sizes, which range from 3 to 36 persons, it can be reasoned that fragmentation of ownership is inherent since all male household members have the right of succession. This is further supported by the fact that most farmers rely on inherence as the main source of land acquisition. On the contrary, Blarel et al. (1992) identified farmland fragmentation as a tool for managing seasonal bottlenecks and food insecurity. In this study, it was revealed that 67% of the respondents keep multiple farms because of crop diversity and seasonal risk management. However, 93% of the respondents acknowledged the problems faced with the operation of fragmented farmlands to include; the inability to supervise all farms at the same time, increased travel time and cost and this goes in line with the argument of Bentley (1987) and Niroula & Thapa (2005). From the foregoing discussion, it is established that there exist farmland fragmentation, and this may increase significantly in future.

5.2 Willingness to participate

The success of land consolidation relies on land reallocation which involves the exchange, portioning and redistribution of farmlands (Van Dijk, 2007). This interferes with private property rights, and therefore requires the willingness of landowners and land users to enhance implementation. In some countries, legislation provides compulsion in terms of participation since it is difficult to gain full voluntary agreement. Sometimes voting is conducted in order to determine the level of willingness of a people when implementing land consolidation. In the case of Denmark two-thirds majority vote of landowners was solicited for the execution of land consolidation, while the rest were compelled to participate. In other countries like Norway, the decision to consolidate is made by a land consolidation court (Sky, 2002). However, in the study areas in northern Ghana, consensus is reached through majority community acceptance and lobbying of opposition groups.

Although Lerman & Cimpoies (2006) identified the success of land consolidation to be dependent on the willingness of landowners to exchange farmlands, this study revealed otherwise. Only 40% of the respondents are willing to exchange farmlands, while 60% of them are unwilling. Within those who are willing to participate in exchange, only 3 out of a total of 13 are interested in permanent exchange, the rest are only interested in a short term exchange. In respect of the study areas, the question arose whether short-term exchanges fit the purpose of land consolidation? Short-term exchanges undermine the purpose of land consolidation in northern Ghana in line with the work of Jie-yong, Yu-fu, & Yan-sui (2012), who emphasize active willingness as key for the success of land consolidation. From the study, only 10% of the respondents effectively supported land consolidation through their willingness to engage in long-term/permanent exchanges. Contrary to this pattern of response, 93% of the respondents studied are willing to have their farmlands consolidated if it promises economic benefits. Reconciling these contrasting responses creates a dilemma. On one hand farmers are unwilling to exchange their land because of social reasons, and on the other hand they desire economic gains. Can there ever be a compromise between these extremes? From the economic point of view, this situation can be changed if some agricultural infrastructure is provided and farmers are afforded the opportunity to use single contiguous farmlands for multiple crops. However, from the social point of view, strong emotional attachments to land are hard to break. As noted by Arko-Adjei (2011), the bond between people and land under customary tenure is only broken under land commercialisation and urbanisation. Therefore, under the current social climate and remoteness of these communities, emotional attachment cannot easily be discounted. However, in the long term the bond may weaken as the communities develop, and open up opportunities for land commodification. Short-term exchange of farmlands is inconsistent with modern land consolidation as it will contradict with permanent change of ownership rights in the land register (Lemmen et al., 2012).

5.3 Availability of land information system

To successfully undertake land consolidation, there is the need to have a detail inventory of land ownership, use rights and boundary information. This provides the basis for verifying ownership claims, reallocation and settling boundary disagreements. From both study areas, such land information was non-existent. Land allocation is done with no written record on ownership, use and boundaries. Boundaries are mostly demarcated using natural objects. In view of this systemic lapse of land administration in the area, it may only support private land consolidation in which participants may exchange lands within their own agreed terms and criteria. However, comprehensive, simplified and voluntary land consolidation cannot be done without sufficient land information. The absence of recorded land information may also call for the creation of project based land information, however, this is difficult and time consuming, yet its correctness may not be guaranteed (Sonnenberg, 2002).

5.4 Existence of a land bank

A land bank creates the opportunity for the expansion of farmlands and improves adjoining agricultural infrastructure (Damen, 2004). Assessing land banking from the study areas reveals unique traits. Kotey (1995) indicated that, allodial title of ownership in chiefdoms resides in the chief while the subjects have usufructuary interest. This description fits the Tindan community, which is under the Dagbon chiefdom. The land belongs to the entire community, while the chief acts as a trustee. In such a case, all unallocated land within the community belongs to everybody and is indirectly a land bank that can be used for farmland expansion and infrastructure creation. Conversely, in the case of the Yaruu community, all unallocated land is the property of the Tendaamba. Hence, unallocated land in this situation cannot be classified as a land bank since it is a private property and entry into it will constitute trespass. Essentially, the Tendaamba are regarded as one of the many owners of land though their ownership is the biggest. Neither the Tendaamba nor individual families have overriding powers over one another.

5.5 Existence of Legal framework

Legislation as a condition for land consolidation in the context of the study areas is viewed from the national level since there are no written laws at the community level, except the norms and customs of the community. There are no laws on land consolidation in Ghana, and this form of land reform has never been implemented. However, there exist pieces of legislations that can be interpreted together to provide the basis for its implementation. These legislations include the State Lands Act 1962 (Act 125), which provides regulations for the expropriation of private property by government; the Administration of Lands Act 1962 (Act 123), which deals with the management and disposition of customary land and its revenues; the Ghana Highway Act 1997 (Act 540) which provides regulations for private property interferences in respect of road construction and the Lands (Statutory Wayleaves) Act 1963 (Act 186), which provides regulations for private property interferences in respect of public installations and utility works. These pieces of legislation may serve as the legal basis for the implementation of land consolidation in the interim, but the extent to which they can adequately support land consolidation is uncertain. Bearing in mind that they are not tailor-made for land consolidation, there is a likelihood of redundancy and inefficiency. These inefficiencies can impede the realisation of land consolidation. Contrary to having a multiplicity of legislation, a tailor-made legislation synchronises all the roles of institutions and stakeholders in an efficient manner. From this point of view, it can be reasoned that these different legislations may not provide a solid base for the implementation of land consolidation.

5.6 Suitable topography and soil distribution

Land consolidation is affected by topography and soil quality. Sharp changes in topography and high level soil heterogeneity limits the land reallocation process during land consolidation (Lemmen et al., 2012; Sonnenberg, 2002). The findings indicate that there exist favourable geographic characteristics. Topographies of both study areas are fairly flat with a height distribution of 100 - 150 and 300 – 350 meters above sea level in the Yaruu and Tindan communities respectively. Height difference in both areas is relatively gentle and is about 50 meters. Soil on the hand is fairly homogenous and mainly composes of vertisols and planosols in the Yaruu and Tindan areas respectively. Where there exist differences in the natural attributes of lands, valuation is used as a platform for comparison and possible exchange (Sonnenberg, 2002). It might be based on market valuation (FAO, 2003) or natural yield potential (Van Dijk, 2003). With respect to the study areas, it stands to reason that the use of yield potential of soil is most suitable bearing in mind that, there is no land market in these areas and agriculture remains the dominant land use.

5.7 Technical expertise and infrastructure

A combination of technical expertise and infrastructure is required to successfully commence and implement land consolidation. Right from the conception of the decision to consolidate fragmented farmlands, expert knowledge in the fields of planning, land surveying, land administration, financing, engineering and project management is required for preparatory works and actual execution (Van Dijk, 2007). Findings from both study areas revealed that local technical expertise at the community level was lacking. However, human resource is available and could be harnessed from state institutions which are in charge of land management, planning and agricultural development. These institutions include the Land Commission, Town and Country Planning and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoFA). Experts from these institutions could be used in the execution of land consolidation in these customary areas.

6. Conclusion and policy recommendations

In all, the study found out that some of the conditions for land consolidation were met in a supportive manner. Those conditions, which were not met, are considered fundamental for land consolidation. The low level of willingness, absence of a land information system and unfavourable ownership structure make bleak any opportunity of implementing land consolidation. Against this background, land consolidation in its theoretical sense is not feasible in northern Ghana. However, privately motivated and voluntary land consolidation may somewhat be supported in a very limited sense. Comparing the suitability of the two categories of customary tenure systems for land consolidation, the study found that chiefdoms are more suitable than communities with Tendaamba. The reasons being that; (1) there is an overriding authority of the chief over trusted land which can be exercised to address disagreements (2) there is the opportunity of using unallocated community land as a land bank. Looking at the trends of development and transformation of customary tenure under the influence of urbanisation in Ghana, it is reasonably foreseeable that these communities will lose their customary characteristics with time. As it is in many urban areas, there is increased individualisation of customary land, thus stimulating commercialisation and formalisation. When this happens, new dynamics of the land market will set in and land will be held for its economic benefits with no or little emotional attachment to it and this may open new opportunities for land consolidation in a much broader context. To this end, the implementation of land consolidation may not be a very successful intervention to enhance food security in the customary areas of Northern and Upper West region of Ghana at this moment.


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This paper is an excerpt of an earlier publication in Land Use Policy journal, Volume 54, 2016, pages, 386–398


University of Twente,
Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC)
Hengelosestraat 99
7514 AE Enschede,

Professor Emeritus
University of Twente,
Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC)
Hengelosestraat 99
7514 AE Enschede,

Associate Professor
University of Twente,
Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation (ITC)
Hengelosestraat 99
7514 AE Enschede,

Department of Real Estate and Land Management
University for Development Studies (UDS-Wa Campus)
P.O. Box UPW 3, Wa, Ghana