UC Davis Agricultural and Resource Economics

Laura Meinzen-Dick, University of California, Davis

Decentralization of Land Governance and Elections in Burkina Faso

Date and Location

Tuesday, November 3, 2020, 4:10 PM - 5:30 PM
933 988 20491, online Zoom


I study politicians' responses to the decentralization of land governance in Burkina Faso. To what extent are politicians motivated by private rents versus a concern with constituent welfare? I develop a theoretical model and test its implications using municipal elections during the experimental pilot phase of a land governance decentralization reform. I find that additional political parties contest elections in municipalities slated to receive pilot-phase local land offices, although voter turnout drops somewhat and elections do not become meaningfully more competitive. After implementation and documentation of land rights, both parties and voters behave similarly to their control municipality counterparts. By examining heterogeneity in political responses according to different tensions emerging from customary land rights systems, I argue that politicians are not only driven by their own private rents, but also demonstrate a policy-centric focus on constituent welfare. This speaks to a trade-off inherent in decentralization: despite potential efficiency gains and increased accountability to local citizens, more localized government could be more vulnerable to elite capture, so the motivations of those elites are important.

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