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Vassar College

Publication Date

Fall 2014

Program Name

Madagascar: Urbanization and Rural Development


In Madagascar, legal systems of land tenure have been inaccessible for the vast majority of the rural population. This has stranded millions of subsistence farmers in a sense of insecurity, as they lack legal rights for the property that they have farmed for generations. Madagascar’s land reform, launched in 2005, attempted to change these exclusionary tenure practices. This reform —known as the Plan National Foncier—created land certificates and local land offices in an attempt to make legal land tenure financially, geographically, and logistically accessible to the local population. This study discusses the successes, failures, and unforeseen consequences of Madagascar’s land reform within the agrarian community of Betafo. Through an examination of theoretical contexts and various findings, this study concludes that land certificates are increasingly approachable to a rural population and provide a valuable form of tenure security. However, large swaths of land remain unclaimed, marginalized members of society continue to be excluded, “official” systems of tenure are encumbered by confusion, bureaucratic frailty plagues land institutions, and many “development” goals not been achieved.


Growth and Development | Inequality and Stratification | Natural Resources and Conservation | Politics and Social Change | Rural Sociology | Urban Studies and Planning


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