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andrew bonanno, sierra leone, 2019-2020

Fulbright Year: 2019-2020
Country: Sierra Leone
Proposal Type: Research
Field of Study: Anthropology
Proposal Title: Examining Land Tenure Change and Economic Well-being in Sierra Leone
UGA Degree Program: Anthropology, Ph.D.
Hometown: Tivoli, New York

During Andrew Bonanno’s nine-month Fulbright research in Sierra Leone, West Africa, he will work with local communities to assess how customary property rights are distributed throughout rural Sierra Leone and how this impacts local well-being.

Andrew’s research will analyze the types of land rights that exist in rural Sierra Leone, whether these rights have been registered with the government, and whether significant well-being differences can be detected between households that have different types of land rights.

In addition to looking at standard well-being indicators such as income and wealth, Andrew says that he "will be paying special attention to peoples’ capabilities — in other words, the things that people are actually able to do materially and socially with their land rights. For example, does having the right to own land, or to access land for cultivation or hunting, allow people to meet various material needs? Does it help people attain basic social dignity?”

When he returns to the U.S., Andrew hopes to use insights derived from his Fulbright experience to contribute toward public debates about rural development and land governance in Sierra Leone and beyond.

“Accurately understanding land governance and its impact on well-being is critical," he says, "given the importance of land to rural people, potential for land conflicts to escalate into security risks, and increasing global demand on land resources. I hope that my experiences, particularly those assessing capabilities, will inform decisions that strengthen rural livelihoods in the United States as well as in places like Sub-Saharan Africa.”