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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Meret Shehena, 'Brothers' Land': S. F. Nadel's Land Tenure on the Eritrean Plateau Revisited
Author:Tronvoll, KjetilISNI
Year:2000
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Volume:70
Issue:4
Pages:595-613
Language:English
Geographic term:Eritrea
Subjects:land law
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Agriculture, Natural Resources and the Environment
Development and Technology
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1161474
Abstract:This article, which is based on field research carried out in the early 1990s, revisits S.F. Nadel's study on land tenure in highland Eritrea from the mid-1940s, and presents the current framework of the system of communal land tenure, or village ownership, called 'meret shehena'. A brief history of land reforms in Eritrea is presented before the emphasis shifts to explaining the ethnography of the system, i.e. the rules defining people's rights of habitation ('tisha') and access to land, and the process of land rotation ('meltsi') and management. The article also discusses women's rights of access to land and the current pressure from the scarcity of land and the fragmentation that follows in its wake. The article proves that since Nadel's study, descent rules defining habitation rights have been changed in order to restrict descendants returning to the village and claiming their land rights. Nevertheless, the overall workings of the system that redistributes all 'shehena' land every seventh year to the village inhabitants shows a remarkable resemblance to the observations made by Nadel. It appears that the customary operational guidelines of the system have been virtually unaffected by the wars and political turbulence of the last fifty years, following the core principle that each male adult individual with habitation rights who marries and establishes a separate household, will be entitled to an equal share of the village land. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French.
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