7: Land and property in pastoral areas

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In this lecture, Ian Scoones explores the relationship between land and property, central to debates about pastoral areas. Ever since Garrett Hardin’s intervention on the so-called ‘Tragedy of the Commons’, arguments about appropriate land tenure regimes have raged. Resisting Hardin’s narrative, arguments that pastoral rangeland are not ‘open access’ but ‘common property’ regimes have been articulated. Elinor Ostrom presented a number of principles describing a common property regime. Indeed, there are many examples of pastoral ‘common property’ institutions.


However, communities are not always neatly bounded, resources are not homogenous and there is great variation in the ways land control is practised.

In most pastoral areas a variety of different tenure types can be seen – private, state, communal, open – and hybrids between. Land control thus emerges from social and political relations – within and between families, inside communities, with the state and with other institutions. Questions of social differentiation (class, gender, age and ethnicity, for example), rights and citizenship are central, with major implications for land policy and governance.

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  • What mixes of tenure types are seen in pastoral areas you know? How has this changed over time, and why? Where are the areas of conflict?
  • What are the mechanisms of ‘land control’ that influence how different aspects of pastoralism is practised?
  • What does the politics of property reveal about authority and citizenship in pastoral areas?


Photo credit: Greta Semplici

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