Discussion Paper

Thanks but No Thanks: A New Policy to Avoid Land Conflict

Jan 18, 2013 | Martin Dufwenberg, Gunnar Kohlin, Peter Martinsson, Haileselassie A Medhin

This was created in partnership with Environment for Development .

Abstract

Land conflicts can be detrimental. An important goal of development policy is to help define and instill respect for borders. This is often implemented through mandatory and expensive interventions that rely on the expansion of government land administration institutions. We bring to the table a new policy that, in theory, promotes neighborly relations and equitable divisions at low cost. The salient features of this policy would be the existence of a regulatory institution and the option to bypass regulation in favor of a cooperative solution. Such a policy is particularly relevant when the government formally owns the land but tenure rights are about to be individualized. The key idea combines the logic of forward induction with the insight that social preferences transform social dilemmas into coordination problems. As a first and low-cost pass at empirical evaluation, we conduct a framed field experiment among farmers in the Ethiopian highlands, a region exhibiting features typical of many countries where borders are often disputed.