Land use conflict among vegetable farmers in Denu: Determinants, Causes and Consequences
Joyce De-Graft Acquah and Henry De-Graft Acquah
Research Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Cape Coast Cape Coast, Ghana
Please cite the paper as:
Joyce De-Graft Acquah and Henry De-Graft Acquah, (2016), Land use conflict among vegetable farmers in Denu: Determinants, Causes and Consequences, World Economics Association (WEA) Conferences, No. 2 2016, Food and Justice, 5th November to 15th December 2016
Land is an important asset that improves the livelihoods of poorer groups in every society, the world over but because of changes in some underlying factors, land is increasingly becoming a source of conflicts in Africa. This study examines the determinants of land use conflicts; assesses the causes and consequences of land use conflicts among vegetable farmers in Denu using survey data of 102 respondents. Descriptive statistics was used in assessing the causes and consequences of land use conflict and the determinants of land use conflicts was estimated using logistic regression model. Findings from the study indicate that multiple claims to ownership, land seen as the only source of survival, low level of education, strong population growth, legislative loopholes, lack of access to land administration, erosion and inaccurate surveying were identified as the major causes of land use conflict among vegetable farmers in Denu. It was revealed that land use conflicts increase cost, lead to loss of property, social and political instability, impact negatively on livelihoods and culminate in poor yield of crops and animals. The regression result suggests that length of years respondents have farmed on their plot, household size, years of education and income of respondents from other sources determine whether respondents experienced conflict or not. The study recommends that farmers engage in other businesses to reduce conflict. In addition, existing conflict resolution systems must be strengthened.
The rights of access to a site of land should be shared as being a national heritage and not as an item of private property. In order for this situation to be introduced and followed up, the government should collect the rents from each site as a revenue for its occupation and use. These rents need not be very great and in places where current rents are burdensome, this control will make life easier for the tenants. Monopoly of sites and their non-use should be stopped because when rent is paid to the government in any case the land will be properly used rather than its value being speculated in by the landlords, banks and monopolists. The government should prepare maps showing all of the useful sites in each region and the amount of rent per square meter being paid for access rights to each. The following essay shows some of the reasoning behind this proposal called Land Value Taxation (LVT) although strictly it is not a tax. All other kinds of taxation should be reduced or cut, since the national income from this revenue from the land will suffice and a greater equality of opportunity to work will be created.
Socially Just Taxation and Its Effects (17 listed)
Our present complicated system for taxation is unfair and has many faults. The biggest problem is to arrange it on a socially just basis. Many companies employ their workers in various ways and pay them diversely. Since these companies are registered in different countries for a number of categories, the determination the criterion for a just tax system becomes impossible, particularly if based on a fair measure of human work-activity. So why try when there is a better means available, which is really a true and socially just method?
Adam Smith (“Wealth of Nations”, 1776 REF. 1) says that land is one of the 3 factors of production (the other 2 being labor and durable capital goods). The usefulness of land is in the price that tenants pay as rent, for access rights to the particular site in question. Land is often considered as being a form of capital, since it is traded similarly to other durable capital goods items. However it is not actually man-made, so rightly it does not fall within this category. The land was originally a gift of nature (if not of God) for which all people should be free to share in its use. But its site-value greatly depends on location and is related to the community density in that region, as well as the natural resources such as rivers, minerals, animals or plants of specific use or beauty, when or after it is possible to reach them. Consequently, most of the land value is created by man within his society and therefore its advantage should logically and ethically be returned to the community for its general use, as explained by Martin Adams (in “LAND”, 2015, REF 2.).
However, due to our existing laws, land is owned and formally registered and its value is traded, even though it can’t be moved to another place, like other kinds of capital goods. This right of ownership gives the landlord a big advantage over the rest of the community because he determines how it may be used, or if it is to be held out of use, until the city grows and the site becomes more valuable. Thus speculation in land values is encouraged by the law, in treating a site of land as personal or private property—as if it were an item of capital goods, although it is not (Prof. Mason Gaffney and Fred Harrison: “The Corruption of Economics”, 2005 REF. 3).
Regarding taxation and local community spending, the municipal taxes we pay are partly used for improving the infrastructure. This means that the land becomes more useful and valuable without the landlord doing anything—he/she will always benefit from our present tax regime. This also applies when the status of unused land is upgraded and it becomes fit for community development. Then when this news is leaked, after landlords and banks corruptly pay for this information, speculation in land values is rife. There are many advantages if the land values were taxed instead of the many different kinds of production-based activities such as earnings, purchases, capital gains, home and foreign company investments, etc., (with all their regulations, complications and loop-holes). The only people due to lose from this are those who exploit the growing values of the land over the past years, when “mere” land ownership confers a financial benefit, without the owner doing a scrap of work. Consequently, for a truly socially just kind of taxation to apply there can only be one method–Land-Value Taxation.
Consider how land becomes valuable. New settlers in a region begin to specialize and this improves their efficiency in producing specific goods. The central land is the most valuable due to easy availability and least transport needed. This distribution in land values is created by the community and (after an initial start), not by the natural resources. As the city expands, speculators in land values will deliberately hold potentially useful sites out of use, until planning and development have permitted their values to grow. Meanwhile there is fierce competition for access to the most suitable sites for housing, agriculture and manufacturing industries. The limited availability of useful land means that the high rents paid by tenants make their residence more costly and the provision of goods and services more expensive. It also creates unemployment, causing wages to be lowered by the monopolists, who control the big producing organizations, and whose land was already obtained when it was cheap. Consequently this basic structure of our current macroeconomics system, works to limit opportunity and to create poverty, see above reference.
The most basic cause of our continuing poverty is the lack of properly paid work and the reason for this is the lack of opportunity of access to the land on which the work must be done. The useful land is monopolized by a landlord who either holds it out of use (for speculation in its rising value), or charges the tenant heavily for its right of access. In the case when the landlord is also the producer, he/she has a monopolistic control of the land and of the produce too, and can charge more for this access right than what an entrepreneur, who seeks greater opportunity, normally would be able to afford.
A wise and sensible government would recognize that this problem derives from lack of opportunity to work and earn. It can be solved by the use of a tax system which encourages the proper use of land and which stops penalizing everything and everybody else. Such a tax system was proposed 136 years ago by Henry George, a (North) American economist, but somehow most macro-economists seem never to have heard of him, in common with a whole lot of other experts. (I would guess that they don’t want to know, which is worse!) In “Progress and Poverty” 1879, REF. 4, Henry George proposed a single tax on land values without other kinds of tax on produce, services, capital gains etc. This regime of land value tax (LVT) has 17 features which benefit almost everyone in the economy, except for landlords and banks, who/which do nothing productive and find that land dominance has its own reward.
17 Aspects of LVT Affecting Government, Land Owners, Communities and Ethics
Four Aspects for Government:
1. LVT, adds to the national income as do other taxation systems, but it should replace them.
2. The cost of collecting the LVT is less than for all of the production-related taxes–tax avoidance becomes impossible because the sites are visible to all and who owns each is public knowledge.
3. Consumers pay less for their purchases due to lower production costs (see below). This creates greater satisfaction with the management of national affairs.
4. The national economy stabilizes—it no longer experiences the 18 year business boom/bust cycle, due to periodic speculation in land values (see below). The speculation in and withholding of unused land is eliminated, see item 7.
Six Aspects Affecting Land Owners:
5. LVT is progressive–owners of the most potentially productive sites pay the most tax. Urban sites provide the most usefulness and resulting tax. Big rural sites have less value and can be farmed appropriately to their ability to provide useful produce.
6. The land owner pays his LVT regardless of how his site is used. A large proportion of the present ground-rent from tenants becomes the LVT, with the result that land has less sales-value but a significant “rental”-value (even when it is not used).
7. LVT stops speculation in land prices because the withholding of land from proper use is not worthwhile.
8. The introduction of LVT initially reduces the sales price of sites, even though their rental value can still grow over a longer term. As more sites become available, the competition for them is less fierce.
9. With LVT, land owners are unable to pass the tax on to their tenants as rent hikes, due to the reduced competition for access to the additional sites that come into use.
10. With LVT, land prices will initially drop. Speculators in land values will want to foreclose on their mortgages and withdraw their money for reinvestment. Therefore LVT should be introduced gradually, to allow these speculators sufficient time to transfer their money to company-shares etc., and simultaneously to meet the increased demand for produce (see below, items 12 and 13).
Three Aspects Regarding Communities:
11. With LVT, there is an incentive to use land for production or residence, rather than it being unused.
12. With LVT, greater working opportunities exist due to cheaper land and a greater number of available sites. Consumer goods become cheaper too, because entrepreneurs have less difficulty in starting-up their businesses and because they pay less ground-rent–demand grows, unemployment decreases.
13. Investment money is withdrawn from land and placed in durable capital goods. This means more advances in technology and cheaper goods too.
Four Aspects About Ethics:
14. The collection of taxes from productive effort and commerce is socially unjust. LVT replaces this national extortion by gathering the surplus rental income, which comes without any exertion from the land owner or by the banks– LVT is a natural system of national income-gathering.
15. previous bribery and corruption for gaining privileged information about land cease. Before, this was due to the leaking of news of municipal plans for housing and industrial development, causing shock-waves in local land prices (and municipal workers’ and lawyers’ bank balances).
16. The improved use of the more central land of cities reduces the environmental damage due to a) unused sites being dumping-grounds, and b) the smaller amount of fossil-fuel use, when traveling between home and workplace.
17. Because the LVT eliminates the advantage that landlords currently hold over our society, LVT provides a greater equality of opportunity to earn a living. Entrepreneurs can operate in a natural way– to provide more jobs because their production costs are reduced. Then untaxed earnings will correspond to the value that the labor puts into the product or service. Consequently, after LVT has been properly and fully introduced as a single tax, it will eliminate poverty and improve business ethics.
1. Adam Smith: “The Wealth of Nations”, 1776.
2. Martin Adams: “LAND– A New Paradigm for a Thriving World”, North Atlantic Books, California, 2015.
3. Mason Gaffney and Fred Harrison: “The Corruption of Economics”, Shepheard-Walyn, London, 2005.
4. Henry George: “Progress and Poverty” 1897, reprinted by Schalkenbach Foundation, NY, 1978.
Dear Chester, you make a very good point. LVT has many desirable outcomes and could even be an important key to making the property market efficient. But as you may know, it is difficult to implement especially as most governments lack the political will. land litigation or conflicts are rife at areas where land is in the hands of the private owners. And should land rest in the hands of the state, there is the possibility for litigation to reduce or get to extinction because of the enormous benefits it comes with as outlined in the Land Value Tax features. In Ghana most of the land is owned by private individuals due to the structure of land laws and early occupancy. These reasons in one way or the other accounts for most land conflict within the country. If and only if lands in Ghana and in most cases the urban areas can be transferred into public hands, then land value will serve a better purpose to benefit all and sundry. This again will have the tendency to reduce land conflict in general.
In response to Henry, the problem of getting agreement from land owning monopolists is much more acute in the more developed places and the government of the poorer countries should at least attempt to create a marginal-land sharing of unused sites and greater equality of opportunity for their use.
The way to cause the land to be owned by the state (as in Singapore and Hong Kong and other prosperous places which adhere to George’s principles) is by the government passing laws for its purchasing of land as soon as it is offered for sale. Its price should be the normal one, but the land does not include ownership of any buildings etc. The land is then immediately leased to the building owner (if any) and otherwise to anyone who wants to have access to it, for purposes of making better use of it. By this means speculation in land values would cease whilst the leasing fees would replace what was called a Land Value Tax, which strictly it is not (since ethically the land belongs to all of the people). Land which is bequeathed to next generations should be similarly treated due the changed ownership.
The government will need an initial loan to begin this process, after which the in coming lease fees can be used for further land purchases and loan repayments, which may require 40 years or more to completely place the responsibility and benefits of leasing of sites, completely a as national benefit.
Land conflicts have been growing in many parts of the world by the advance of mining. These conflicts often expels traditional people, etc. In the analyzed region, is there any mining advance?
Dear Armando Fornazier,
Thanks for raising an important point. There is salt mining in the Kete Lagon which stretches to Denu.
The splilage of Keta lagoon has claimed almost 20% of farmland in Denu where salt is now being mined. Consequently, this has lead to some disagreements between community members and the Kensington Industries Limited of India who are mining the salt . It was reported that the company encroached on lands belonging to the neighboring communities in flagrant violation of the Mineral and Mining Act.
Dear Armando Fornazier,
Thanks. In the study area they are involved in conventional with agrochemicals production model.
There are no organic markets in the area, so the conventional is the more feasible production model.