How can people’s rights to land be secured on a continent in which an estimated 90% of land is untitled and held under informal and customary tenure systems that are often not recognized as constituting real property rights? This remains a profound challenge, and there are no easy answers.
African states have in recent years taken several initiatives to secure land rights, and specifically to improve land governance, in the face of large-scale land-based investments (the term ‘land grab’ does not appear).
Key among these is the African Union’s Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges in Africa (PDF) of 2009, which committed members states to ‘ensure that land laws provide for equitable access to land and related resources among all land users including the youth and other landless and vulnerable groups such as displaced persons’ and ‘strengthen security of land tenure for women which requires special attention.’
The key coordinating body that is meant to help to deliver on this mandate is the Land Policy Initiative, a secretariat established jointly by the African Union, African Development Bank and UN Economic Commission for Africa, and based in Addis Ababa.
At the same time that the land rights agenda is bearing fruit, African states are being called on to commercialise their farming sectors, to speed up agricultural growth, and attract external investment. The Malabo declaration of June 2014 includes the commitment to ending hunger, halving poverty, and achieving 6% agricultural growth in Africa by 2025, by at least doubling productivity through access to inputs. It remains to be seen how the tensions among these goals – especially between equity and growth – will be resolved in practice.
It is in this context that the LPI hosted a side event during the 11th Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) Partnership Platform Meeting held in Johannesburg this week. Entitled ‘Improving Land Governance for Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural Transformation’, the purpose was to brief policy makers from across the continent, mostly from agricultural ministries, about the policy processes underway and how the LPI will work (and monitor) the required land reforms at country level, together with governments but also with other stakeholders.