This paper examines the relationship between land tenure security and land degradation. It investigates how land degradation is viewed, and, in turn, managed by rural land users in Ethiopia through a case study in two districts of the Amhara region. Many have argued that Ethiopia's land tenure system lacks the tenure security required to stimulate investment for enhanced agricultural productivity and sustainable land use. The state's continued ownership of land has been widely criticized by scholars and international development agencies, arguing that it has created a high degree of tenure insecurity – which, is believed to be responsible for the lack of investment in land and the lack of environmental conservation. However, this paper argues that the narrative that the farmers’ lack of tenure security contributes to the widespread land degradation problem appears to be misleading. While the literature suggests an inverse relationship between land tenure security and land degradation, the evidence in this paper contradicts this and mobilises relevant data to explain why this is the case. Despite tenure insecurity, poor people in the two Amhara study sites are making substantial investments to halt and reverse land degradation – though to quite differing degrees – and by so doing, are simultaneously investing in the security of their land tenure.

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Keywords Conservation, Ethiopia, Land degradation, Rural indebtedness, Tenure security
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Journal Land Use Policy
Moreda, T. (2018). Contesting conventional wisdom on the links between land tenure security and land degradation: Evidence from Ethiopia. Land Use Policy, 77, 75–83. doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2018.04.058