Private Land Ownership versus Cooperative Tenure: Tiepoh Successfully Defends Ph.D. Thesis


By Leonie Morris

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 4, 2006


Geepu Nah Tiepoh, an earlier contributor to The Perspective, has successfully defended his doctoral dissertation in the interdisciplinary Humanities Program of Concordia University (major concentration in economic and rural development studies). Tiepoh’s doctoral thesis, entitled “The Farm Investment and Food Security Implications of Privatized Land Tenure and Cash Crop Production: Evidence for a Cooperative Tenure Alternative for West African States”, was successfully defended on July 27th on the main St. George Williams campus of the University.

The examination committee unanimously agreed that the thesis was of the highest quality. This is especially remarkable since it was an interdisciplinary thesis, combining materials from economics, political science, and sociology. Tiepoh’s committee consisted of scholars from each of these disciplines.

In his thesis, Tiepoh examined the arguments and relative merits of private and communal forms of land-holding in West Africa. Using the analysis of existing literature, he developed an econometric model to test the relative effects of these two forms of landholding on environmental stewardship. Working with data from West Africa, he developed and confirmed a credible case that private ownership is not an inevitable outcome of population pressure and international markets in the West African case and that co-operative arrangements of land-holding are more sustainable of the land.

Adding to this substantial work, Tiepoh then went on to develop the case and test the argument that cash crop objectives compete with food crop objectives in West Africa. Based on this analysis, he developed another model to test whether these two types of crop production substitute for one another and confirmed the conditions under which it happens.

Finally, he demonstrated the importance of country-specific characteristics on the results above.

The key contribution of Tiepoh’s dissertation is to have critically assessed the land rights privatization argument and identified the political and social conditions under which West African customary tenure systems can evolve in alternative ways, and to have shown that cash crop production, which requires private land rights, may be imposing some adverse effects on the production of food in these countries. By demonstrating that rural farmers producing under a privatized or non-cooperative tenure system will overexploit communal forest lands, and thus make less investments in agricultural modernization, and by also showing that the production of cash crops under such privatized system may adversely affect national food security, Tiepoh’s dissertation has made a significant contribution to both the academic and policy discourses on African land tenure and agricultural and rural development.

An important policy recommendation from his research is the need for West African governments and international institutions involved with Africa to refocus attention on identifying those policies that facilitate the building of the necessary rural social capital and state-local institutions which the dissertation has found to be supportive of cooperative resource governance. Furthermore, as his research has demonstrated that the economic performances of individual West African countries, particularly their food production performances, may depend upon their own country-specific economic, political, geographic, and social conditions. Tiepoh has proposed that policies and programs be designed to promote research investigations into the nature of these specific conditions.

Although the available data in the West African case is extremely limited, his theoretical arguments, the models he developed, and the analysis he conducted, reinforced other existing findings regarding the importance of local social relations and institutions for the outcomes of such things as land-holding.

This thesis is informative, innovative, and stimulating.

About the Author: Ms. Leonie Morris is Departmental Assistant in the Department of Biology, Concordia University. Email:
© 2006 by The Perspective

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