Control, Dispute, and Concentration of Land During Civil War: Evidence from Colombia
Fortou, Jose Antonio
Johansson, Sandra Lillian
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How are patterns of armed control and dispute by armed actors related to land concentration, land property rights, and distribution? We argue that armed actors affect land tenure by using different land transfer mechanisms to distribute the land, which reflects the dynamics of control and dispute during civil conflict. We test this argument by studying the case of Urabá, a region in northwestern Colombia, using a mixed-method strategy. First, using extensive qualitative fieldwork, we find that armed actors systematically applied different land transfer mechanisms in areas where they held control. Armed actors strategically changed from employing one land transfer mechanism to another in relation to the level of dispute, political and economic objectives, and alignment with the state, among others. In our fieldwork, we identify how these land transfer mechanisms led to patterns of territorial control and land tenure structure. We then analyze an original dataset of rural plot ownership in Urabá, based on official cadastral information, to empirically verify our qualitative findings. We estimate a village-level fixed effects model that shows that disputed territories and those under paramilitary control had larger plots, higher land inequality, and fewer land transfers. In contrast, territories with established control by left-wing insurgents exhibit a small landholder scheme. These results offer important insights into the relationship between civil armed conflict and land and the logic of rebel governance.