Recent scholarship has shown that land rental and sales markets are increasingly important within customary tenure systems in Africa (e.g. Holden et al. 2009). The theoretical role of such markets in enhancing equitable access and production efficiency is of particular relevance for Africa’s agrarian economies, which are characterized by highly skewed distributions of land access (even within smallholder sector), low levels of productivity and high levels of poverty. Empirical assessments of land market performance have generally not found conclusive evidence of their impacts on the smallholder farm sector. This session will review several important recent empirical assessments of rural land rental markets in Eastern and Southern Africa, focusing on case studies in Kenya, Malawi and Zambia, and West Africa, in Côte d’Ivoire. We will attempt to synthesize what we know about the current status of rental market development in the region, focusing on addressing several key questions: What are the temporal and spatial trends of rental market development? Who is participating in these markets? What are the impacts on smallholder efficiency, equity and household welfare? In addition to summarizing the available evidence, we will attempt to clarify the most appropriate ways for agricultural policy to engage with land market development and will highlight areas requiring further research.


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