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Pro-poor Land Transfers and the Importance of Land Abundance and Ethnicity in The Gambia

Ulrik Beck and Benedikte Bjerge

World Development, 2017, vol. 99, issue C, 122-140

Abstract: We ask whether there is empirical evidence that supports the existence of norm-based access rules that give poor households access to important production resources. A substantial literature has investigated informal insurance schemes, which trigger supporting exchanges after negative shocks have occurred. This paper is instead concerned with material exchanges that take place before shocks occur, which has received far less attention in the economic literature. We employ a dataset of 51 rural villages in The Gambia, and we focus on access to the most important production resource in our context—land. We find that poor households are more likely to receive seasonal land usage rights. We also show that these exchanges are more likely to occur in villages where land is abundant and where ethnic fractionalization is low. We argue that this is consistent with the existing qualitative evidence, which argues that informal exchange is thought to be disappearing due to population increases and ethnic fractionalization. Our findings highlight the importance of attention to the local (i.e., village-level) context for assessing welfare and conducting effective policy.

Keywords: Africa; Gambia; land; transfers; networks; norms (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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