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Land Tenure

Author: nick on 13-09-2013, 20:00, views: 2 222

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In the Ibibio area, where farming is the main occupation and there is relatively much land for farming activities, a farming cycle prevails in which the same piece of land is cultivated every fifth to seventh year, depending on the available land owned by the village. This system of farming, generally referred to as rotational bush fallow, is still being practised today, but the fallow period has been greatly reduced, because of the pressure on the land. The area of land farmed every year is divided into sections, each ekpuk (extended family) having its own section. The head of the family subdivides the family land to each male member at the beginning of each farming season.

 

The size of farmland for the various families differs and is indicated by permanent boundary mounds. Attempts to alter it have led to serious quarrels between families, or between individuals in the same family. By tradition, no family land can be sold outright to anybody outside or even within the family, but a member of the family can pledge his piece of land to some other person, inside or outside the family. In recent times, however, quite a number of people have defied this tradition and have sold their land or the whole family land to rich individuals for reasonable sums of money, transferring their, or the family, title over the land to the purchaser.

 

Apart from the family land, there are also other land holdings, belonging to the community or used as sacred groves, which cannot be tampered with by an individual. The following categories of land tenure are recognised in Ikot Abasi area:

 

a) Family land (Ikot Ufok): This is the ancestral land, inherited by members of the family. No piece of this land can be sold by any member of the family to anybody. An individual can, however, pledge his portion for a fee and the land is always redeemable when the money is refunded.

 

b) Pledged Land (Ikot Ubiong): As indicated above, this is the plot of land pledged by a man to another person, usually outside the family circle for a fee. The length of time pledged may or may not be fixed. Even if it is fixed, and the owner does not pay back the money to reclaim the land within the period, he cannot forfeit his right to the ownership of the land. The agreement is usually so elastic that children or grand children can still redeem the land, long after the death of the original people involved in the contract. It has been observed that when the period is rather too long, the amount involved and the proof of ownership may bring quarrels between two families, since no written records had been kept.

 

c) Borrowed land (Mmum Nkama Ikot): In this case, the farmland is given to a friend from another family, or a distant relation, who has no right to the ownership of the land. No fee is usually involved. The borrower may farm it for only one farming season, or for a much longer period, but the land has to be returned to the man or his children, whenever the request is made.

 

d) Rented Land (Nto Nwo): This land is given to a person to farm for a season, after the payment of a fee, which is not refundable. After harvesting, the land is vacated and given back to the owner.

 

e) Community Land (Ikot hong): This is the land that belongs to the entire village and no individual has any right to farm on the land without permission from the village council or council of chiefs, who are the custodians of all traditional lands. In some cases, the land is set aside for family cultural rites. There is a day set aside for general hunting on the land, and any animal killed is shared among the entire people in the village. The land is never cleared.

 

Communal Co-operation
 
Communal labour stimulated economic growth and development. The building of houses, making roof mats, clearing the paths and sources of water supply, sweeping the markets, making fishing nets, etc. were done through group work. Giving of loans or gifts to friends in time of need - especially at burials, marriages and initiation into cultural societies, in hardship or at bad harvest, assistance in labour or in kind, was a reciprocal and important social obligation.
 

f) Sacred Land or burial grounds (ho Ndem or Akai Ndem or Akai Ikot Okpoho): This is a forested land, set aside for shrines, burials and for the Ekpo and other societies, etc. It is never tampered with.

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Category: Tradition and Culture

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