The long road to African land rights: next steps

Land deals, gender, youth and agricultural investment

b2ap3_thumbnail_CAADP-group2.jpgI made a presentation summarising lessons on large-scale land-based investments, outlining the key policy frameworks – the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Voluntary Guidelines on Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security adopted in May 2012 and the African Union (AU) Guiding Principles on Large-scale Land-based Investments in Africa adopted in April 2014 by African heads of state.

As requested by LPI, I focused on what we now know about the implications of big land deals – for gender equality and for what I’m calling ‘generational equality’ (in other words, implications for young people and the next generation of African farmers). The state of knowledge in this area has rapidly improved, with an explosion of research over the past 5-7 years, and certain lessons emerging.

My input summarised this state of knowledge and identified lessons for improved and different kinds of agricultural investment drew directly from two significant events over the past year in which we as Future Agricultures have worked with the LPI: the inaugural Conference on Land Policy in Africa (hosted by the African Union, African Development Bank and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa’s LPI) and the Agricultural Investment, Gender and Land in Africa conference (co-hosted by FAO, LPI, Future Agricultures and PLAAS).

Participants responded in diverse ways to the lessons around women’s land rights, with one taking issue with the principle of women having independent land rights, as an affront to custom and a step that would undermine family cohesion. On the issue of the implications for young people, another argued that multinational corporations want large areas of land for their farming and, in contexts of existing scarcity, this means young people will not inherit – potentially leaving them landless and without livelihood opportunities.

In each area, the debate turned on how to interpret the AU Guiding Principles – which, while laudable, are necessarily set at a level of abstraction that is open to local interpretation. This should serve as a warning for the coming period in which they are to be operationalised and implemented.

Mainstreaming land governance in agricultural plans

How can the LPI play a role in ensuring that African states address land issues, in line with the AU Declaration and also its Guiding Principles?

Belay Demissie of the LPI presented on efforts to mainstream land governance issues in National Agricultural and Food Security Investment Plans (NAFSIPs). The LPI’s own assessment is that while CAADP planning mentions land degradation a lot, overall it fails to deal adequately with land in a broader sense. Land rights and land governance issues are largely missing in CAADP investment plans and in policy planning. There is little attention to how land will be available for agricultural investments, and how to address tenure and land governance challenges – in other words, how to ensure that, as governments seek agricultural investors, people do not lose their land?

Several plans are afoot to ensure that AU member states comply with their commitments and are supported to work out how to realize the objectives contained within them.

First, LPI and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are working together to mainstream land policy reforms in NAFSIPs, and are seeking to identify promising approaches that can be upscaled and replicated. To start with, six pilot countries are to be identified in East and Southern Africa – selection will consider which countries have urgent needs for improved land governance and yet have the potential to succeed in policy reforms.

Second, even as the pilots get going, LPI, FAO and NEPAD are collaborating to raise awareness of both the FAO Voluntary Guidelines and the AU Guiding Principles among all African member states.

Monitoring land governance in the CAADP results framework

All African states report on their agricultural policies and programmes against the CAADP results framework – and this presents an opportunity to ensure that land rights and land governance feature in concrete terms in all evaluations of how states are doing. Eugene Rurangwa, land tenure focal person at FAO, spoke about the CAADP results framework and land governance.

He reported that the LPI is working with the FAO and others to establish a monitoring and evaluation framework that will be used to assess African governments’ efforts to realize the principles in these frameworks they signed up to. They see the monitoring and evaluation framework as being central to ensuring that governments institute changes in land governance; support greater transparency in land transactions; and release data for improved land tenure governance.

The monitoring and evaluation framework will assess progress in four thematic areas: land tenure security, land use planning and management, land conflict management and large-scale land-based investments. For each, the intended policy outcomes and indicators of these are to be finalized in the coming few months, alongside the Global Land Indicators for the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals. (An advanced draft of the Global Land Indicators is being presented at the World Bank Land Policy Conference in Washington DC this week.)

What are the ‘knowledge management’ needs of African land policy makers?

As researchers, we need to ask what all this means for us, and the roles we can play.

Through engagements with member states, the LPI has identified several priority issues on which research and accessible policy advice are needed. Top of the list are:

  • Promoting and scaling up of gender-sensitive and cost effective registration of land rights;
  • Mapping, recognition and management of land rights, especially customary rights, and identifying ways to reduce the cost and complexity of doing so;
  • Understanding rural-urban linkages and what this means for land use planning;
  • Decentralization and institutional development; and
  • Identification, acquisition and management of public land.

As researchers keen to support land policy processes, it’s useful to have such a list, especially as we at Future Agricultures embark on a new programme, Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND), in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute, Natural Resources Institute, and the International Institute for Environment and Development. As a team, we will need to engage in more detailed conversations with the LPI and other partners to see how the agenda can be refined; the information collected and analysed; the knowledge generated; and the insights communicated.

From principles to policy to practice

Africa’s regional land policy process can be dated back to 2006, the start of the development of the AU Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy (2009), which led to the Declaration on Land Issues (2009), which in turn laid the basis for the more specific AU Guiding Principles.

The AU’s key policy frameworks on land have been negotiated and hammered out. Enormous effort has been invested in policy, but results on the ground are less evident.

Now the task is – at multiple levels and with complex politics – to work out what is to be done and do it. This was never going to be straightforward, but having our governments accountable to one another for commitments already made might just help.

View the presentations

You can look at the presentations from our side event at the CAADP Partnership Platform below, hosted on Slideshare:

Image: Presenters at the LPI side event