Customary Tenure Trusteeships and Land Governance Reforms: A Necessary Convergence

Rexford Anno-Nyako Ahene


Issues surrounding customary land governance reforms remain at the forefront of policy reforms in many African countries because of concern over discriminatory rules of access, exchange, and inheritance, corruption, elite capture, and illegal land occupations, (Arko Adjei, 2009). The shortcomings in customary land governance extend to the unfettered authority of customary land trustees, usually, traditional leaders (chiefs and family heads) who retain autonomous control over land as defined by customary norms and practices. Although trustees play a central role in how the rules of land tenure are applied and made operational, not many analytical studies to date have focused directly on the culture of trusteeship to explain the fiduciary responsibilities associated with the management of community land. Breach of fiduciary duty occurs when a trustee acts in their self-interest, rather than the best interest of the beneficiary community. Unfortunately, as evidence of self-dealing by customary land trustees become more pervasive, legislative action to ensure trustees are fiducially accountable to their communities is urgently needed. This paper draws attention to some of the unique differences between the fiducial duties of trustees under customary tenure and common law. The research hypothesizes that good land governance reforms require customary land trustees to manage land and natural resource assets to achieve the highest livelihood sustaining benefit for their communities.


Land governance; Customary trusteeship; Fiduciary duties; Self-dealing.

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