Carbon sequestration in Africa: The land tenure problem

Carbon sequestration in Africa: The land tenure problem


Inconsistent land tenure practices across Africa are an obstacle to expanding tropical afforestation project with the goal of carbon sequestration. Few discussions of tropical afforestation in Africa address this obstacle.

Research Goals & Methods

The study foregrounds five challenges regarding land tenure for further research: disconnect between statutory land rights and customary practice; pluralism of legal jurisdiction; the practice of tree planting as land claim; whether the expansion of forested areas within smallholder lands is beneficial; and addressing abandoned land. Abandoned and marginal landscapes, often those considered more suitable for afforestation given few competing uses, fall under unclear legal status. Semi-migratory pastoral communities may also compete for land use with long-term afforestation projects.

Conclusions & Takeaways

Large-scale afforestation projects in Africa are likely unrealistic given the diversity of land tenure practices. Greater understanding of diverse local practices of customary land tenure should inform efforts towards smaller-scale plantations.


Unruh JD. Carbon sequestration in Africa: The land tenure problem. Global Environmental Change. 2008;18:700–707. doi:10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2008.07.008.


  • Department of Geography, McGill University, 805 Sherbrooke Street West, Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3A 2K6