Section I. Introducing Responsible and Smart Land Management

Framework of Responsible and Smart Land Management


Globally, a number of problems challenge the social-regulatory fabric of society with regard to land. Climate change, energy shortages, droughts, sudden outbreaks of new infectious diseases, migration, fake news, big data, and increasing privacy intrusion require new institutional forms of people-to-land relations to ensure sustainable and acceptable development. Problems occurring at local levels, such as boundary conflicts, disputed claims on land, international land grabbing of communal land, and natural disasters increasingly have a global effect. They lead to global land pressures and increasing vacant and unused land at the same time. They also lead to demographic and spatial changes, such as urbanization and increasing urban and rural divides. At the local level in Africa the global pressures manifest in different types of problems affecting the person-to-land relationships, including access, use, and ownership. The dualistic divide between urban and rural centering on tenure security has led to serious and complex land disputes. In Africa the interplay between the tenure systems that are regulated by statutory laws and customary tenures that are regulated by the customs and norms of society remains the focal point of the arguments. Obeng- Odoom (2012) argues that land reform in Africa is based on two theories: those who argue that land policies should be rooted in a theory of social capital, especially the African traditional land tenure system, and on the other hand, there are those who are convinced that individualized tenure systems are more effective and desirable. Resolving these conflicts requires a framework of responsible and smart land management.

Land Management

To handle these problems properly one needs land management. The traditional way of presenting land management is a science of practice, i.e. a science that carefully examines the problems that professionals face in order to come up with solutions. The focus of such a science is to compare the practical solutions with the range of instruments available to a practitioner. Subsequently, the most effective, efficient, and appropriate combinations of alternatives or instruments are sought. This is not a problem in itself, as it helps practitioners to progressively expand their methodologies. Conversely, it helps the scientists to complete their insights on the practical work and the associated challenges.

On the other hand, however, this approach does not allow for a completely different view of the problem itself. The theory of “governance of problems” (Hoppe, 2011) states that problem-solving is essentially related to the epistemic community that shapes and defines problems. In other words, problems are not value-neutral. They reflect current political and ideological views and priorities. Therefore, a selection of issues also reflects the priorities, values, and contemporary beliefs in which the decisions are made. Therefore, as a scientist, one must understand the operant thoughts, which are largely normative, and the alternative thoughts that could provide new frameworks for the problems. In other words, the standards and techniques for solving problems are dynamic. Research on land management should therefore incorporate this dynamic.

Given this, de Vries and Chigbu (2017) describe land management as a combination of interventions in governance, law, socio-spatial relationships, economic opportunities, perceptions, and behavior. One can conceptualize this as an equation connecting how land interventions relate to and influence changes in multiple aspects relevant for land. If an intervention in land management can be quantified as ALM, then ALM is a function of (or otherwise put, it depends on, or yields to) the respective changes in governance, law, social-spatial relations, economic opportunities and dependencies, perceptions and beliefs, and behavior. In short form:

The idea that land interventions are both changes in themselves, and also derive changes, relates to Kotter et al. (2015) who argue that land management (and real estate management) is primarily action-oriented, namely towards components of spatial development and by corrective measures for the use of land and buildings. This does not happen in isolation of context and regulations. That’s why Magel et al. (2016) emphasize the holistic nature of land management, from organizing engagements to changing spatial relationships to implementation at all levels of government. This holistic nature makes it so that while it is impossible to clearly distinguish land management from land administration or land policy and land governance, land management is specific in the sense that it concentrates on the use of land resources under current policy guidance and the legal framework for a given land area (Mattsson and Mansberger 2017). In order to describe land management, one needs, on the one hand, new ways to describe the relationship between action and changes in action and one needs new meta-concepts or theories, such as “human geodesy” (de Vries 2018, 2017). Part of the new meta-concepts is a more concrete understanding and application of what is “responsible” and “smart” land management.

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