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Private and Communal Land Tenure in Morocco'sWestern High Atlas Mountains: Complements, Not Ideological Opposites

Research reports

In Morocco's Western High Atlas Mountains, Berber agropastoralists are oblivious to the ideological debate over land tenure occurring in the rangeland development community. Berber producers of sheep and goats use a continuum of tenure institutions, from private ownership, to communal control, to uncontrolled, open range. Far from being ideological opposites, these different types of land tenure are complementary tools. This complementarity contradicts the neat ideological lines drawn between pro- and anti-commons schools of thought in the range development community.

My purpose is twofold. First, I review briefly the current controversy over land tenure in the range development community. Then, arguing against a popularized paradigm that proposes that private tenure of scarce resources is necessarily more efficient than communal control, I present a case study of forage-land tenure in a High Atlas valley. Using examples of tenure in this valley, I argue retroductively in favour of a more comprehensive paradigm of rangeland tenure that considers both benefits and costs as factors of the appropriateness of private or communal tenure.

Lloyd Mendes