The Enigma of Informal Rural Land Deals in Ethiopia: Evidence from Peri-Urban Areas of Hawassa City
The 1995 FDRE Constitution and all statutes pertaining to the land law regime of Ethiopia either prohibited or strictly regulated transfer of rural land use rights. However, land transaction has been going on informally against prohibitions or strict requirements for transfer of rural land use rights. Thus, this study investigates nature, manner and status of informal rural land deals vis-à-vis formal statutes, court decisions, and expert views of key informants. The focus of this article is on peri-urban areas where transfer is made mainly for the construction of dwelling houses (squatting). In addition, acquiring land for other uses like farm land and small businesses (poultry, dairy farms, for planting perennials etc.) are considered. Consequently, informal rural land deals is defined in this paper as any transactions in land except those allowed by law. The nature of informal rural land deals include transferring land use rights through donation and inheritance without fulfilling legal conditions related to family member, minimum holding size, and willingness to live on agriculture by the transferee, and in a manner that does not displace the landholders. It also includes sale and mortgage in any manner, and rent without following preconditions such as: minimum holding size, rent period, consent of the family, registration and writing contract. Hence, informal land transition is found to be rife in the study area. The formal laws and institutions are unable or incapable to control it and in effect the rule of law is being undermined. The government is well advised to study the matter and bring order by paying attention to the realities on the ground.