This study aims at explaining property right changes in selected areas of Afar region in Ethiopia. Based on primary and secondary data, explanations are given on the existing types of land use arrangements and how the traditional communal rights of pastoralists have been changing. Both communal rights and individualized rights exist the latter being introduced with the establishment of commercial farms. The state is identified as one driving force behind property right changes especially in one study site (Ambash), which is suitable for irrigated agriculture whereas its direct intervention is minimal in other sites. The coercive interventions started in 1960s have had detrimental impacts on the livelihoods of pastoral households. In addition to the state as a change agent, natural as well as socioeconomic challenges are important in explaining the current changes in land use arrangements.