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Last update 03-06-2020) 

The information concerning rights to land among the Etsako is somewhat confused. While the heads of village communities are sometimes stated to be the nominal owners of village land, the farming land appears normally to be parceled out between wards. Within the ward there are collective land-holding rights in the sense that no claims to rights in fallow are recognized either on the part of individuals or families, though extended families associated with descent groups of two to three generations in depth generally farm a discrete bloc of land during the two-year cyclic of cultivation. Boundaries between the farming territories of wards are marked by natural features such as streams. Members of other wards within the same village may be allowed farm land with the consent of the village ‘‘ elders ‘‘ and without any payments. Strangers, however, must approach the village council through the ‘‘elders ‘‘of the ward in which they wish to farm and pay fees in yams and palm-wine, which are shared by ward and village elders. In the modern, situation lease of land to aliens must be referred to the tribal council . Surface rents payable under mining titles, however, go to the village rather than the tribal authorities.

Permanent crops may be planted by members of the ward community at will and by members of other wards in the village with the consent of ward elders. Such crops are the property of the planter and pass, on his death, to his heirs. He may pledge, mortgage, or sell them, but if the transferee is a stranger the elders may withhold permission to do so. The transfer of crops does not alter the ownership of the land on which they are planted.
Boundary disputes appear to have been rare in the past, but the introduction of permanent crops and the increasing importance of the palm-oil industry has led to a desire to define boundaries. The boundaries in question are those between. villages, and disputes are generally settled by the swearing of oaths at the disputed boundary by the headmen of the villages concerned; oaths are sworn on the spirits of the “ancestors,” who are held to have first farmed in the area and carry their own penalty in the sense that disaster is believed to befall a village or village head who has sworn falsely.

Women have no rights in land, but may obtain plantations by purchase, gift or by paying labour to plant and work them.

Fishing rights appear to follow the same principles as rights in land. Each are of water has its keeper, who controls the opening and closing of fishing seasons probably on the behalf of his community.

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