Tenure insecurity and investment in soil conservation. Evidence from Malawi

Working Paper 114


Tenure insecurity can have important consequences for the conservation of natural resources.

Land titling is often considered a solution to the problem of weak investment incentives under tenure insecurity. Using a large plot-level dataset from Malawi, this paper shows that land titling alone might not induce greater investment in soil conservation under the existing customary inheritance systems, and that a reform of the rental market is in order.

The paper focuses on two main sources of tenure insecurity: informal short-term tenancy contracts and customary gender-biased inheritance practices.

Both sources of insecurity matter for soil conservation investments and are likely to be unaffected by the introduction of land titling alone.

Further evidence suggests that soil erosion can have adverse distributional effects and that tenure insecurity accounts for one-third of the long-term loss in land productivity.

Stefania Lovo