Securing Tenure, Sustainable Peace?

The challenges of localizing land-registration in conflict-affected Burundi and eastern DR Congo
2018 until 2022
Project member(s)
Prof. M. van Leeuwen (Mathijs) , Dr. G. van der Haar, Wageningen University , Dr. A. Ansoms, Catholic University of Leuven , Prof. S. Mugangu, Institut Supérieur de Développement Rural de Bukavu
Project type

In conflict-affected settings, land tenure security of smallholders is seen as essential to prevent local land disputes and sustain peace, enable recovery of rural livelihoods, and advance ecologically and socially sustainable agricultural production. To enhance tenure security -which is often severely compromised during conflict- interveners tend to turn to land registration and other forms of formally acknowledging claims to land.

However, conventional state-led approaches relying on centrally-organised, individual titling often fail to deal with very complex local land struggles. Yet, the alternative of recognizing customary land governance is also problematic. Contrary to expectations, customary arrangements may also fail to find locally embedded, acceptable solutions. Hoping to overcome the shortcomings of both approaches, policy makers and development practitioners are currently experimenting with ‘third way’ approaches that combine statutory and local arrangements. But while land registration faces important challenges in stable settings, these become even more critical in conflict-affected settings. Not only is there less agreement on what norms prevail; approaches also tend to feed into local institutional competition, result in new exclusions, and impinge on struggles around identity and belonging. Through local fieldwork in pilots on new approaches to registration in Burundi and eastern DR Congo, the project aims to contribute to a better understanding of the challenges of local land registration and the recognition of claims in conflict-affected settings. Through knowledge-sharing with practitioners, it generates instruments that help interveners better map potential outcomes.


van Leeuwen, Ansoms, Mudinga, Nyenyezi Bisoka, Niyonkuru, Shaw & van der Haar (2021) ‘Promoting land tenure security for sustainable peace — lessons on the politics of transformation’, COSUST, 49(April):57-65.

van Leeuwen, Mathys, de Vries & van der Haar (2020) ‘From resolving land disputes to agrarian justice – dealing with the structural crisis of plantation agriculture in eastern DR Congo’, The Journal of Peasant Studies, online version

van der Haar, van Leeuwen & de Vries (2020), ‘Claim-making as social practice; Land, politics and conflict in Africa’, Introduction to a special issue, Geoforum, 109:111-114.

van der Haar, G., & van Leeuwen, M. (2019). War-induced displacement: Hard choices in land governance. Land, 8(6), 88. needs-a-reset/



Radboud University, Wageningen University and Research, Catholic University of Leuven, Institut Supérieur de Développement Rural de Bukavu

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