International Development Planning Review

Neo-customary title registration in informal settlements: The case of Blantyre, Malawi

International Development Planning Review (2005), 27, (4), 451–477.

Abstract

This paper contributes to debates on neo-customary land management by exploring whether title registration alters land transaction behaviour and housing investment by shifting people's perceptions of property rights and feelings of security. Title registration had limited impact on transaction and investment behaviour in the case study of an informal settlement in Blantyre, Malawi. Everyone made use of the informal system of registering transactions with the local headman, while the new formal registration system is marginal and of real interest only to those with substantial investments. The persistence of the informal system is the consequence of the social support structure embedded in it. The informal system is up to date, has credibility and transparency, gives more security to wives and children, is a guarantee of burial rights, and is a natural input to dispute and conflict settlement. Policy makers should take up an 'adaptation' paradigm for tenure and transfer registration incorporating the culture of local ownership rights and accepted local modalities of land registration.

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Chome, John

McCall, Michael