Background – Agricultural Investment and the Land Rush

In August 2014, the Southern Africa event Making Agricultural Investment Work for Africa: A parliamentarian response to the land rush is the last in a series of events organised by the Pan African Parliament.

African countries and institutions, such as the African Union, African Development Bank, UN Economic Commission for Africa, New Partnership for Africa’s Development, the Land Policy Initiative and others, have clearly recognised the urgent need to increase public and private investment to the agriculture sector to improve food security and rural livelihoods.

For information on the other events in this series, visit the IISD website.

About the project

Investor interest in farmland has been particularly popular in Africa since the 2008 food crisis. In the past decade, there have been 685 large-scale investment projects in Africa, covering nearly 40 million hectares of land. Indeed, investment can boost production, generate employment, increase incomes and promote economic growth. But for investment to work, countries need a robust policy and legal framework that promotes sustainable agricultural development. Otherwise there is a serious possibility of negative effects on people’s land and water rights, food security and the environment, particularly for women.

Since 2011, the Pan African Parliament (PAP), in cooperation with the regional parliaments, launched a campaign to raise awareness about large-scale investment in land, entitled Making Agricultural Investment Work for Africa: a parliamentarian’s response to the land rush. Over 300 parliamentarians have participated in the initiative, which comprised of five regional seminars across Africa. The impact of the project is evident at the national, regional and international level. Each regional parliament adopted a declaration and plan of action that was developed at the seminars. A few parliamentarians tabled new legislation in their parliaments and African parliamentarians have spoken at international conferences and influenced international processes, such as the Committee on World Food Security.

Parliamentarians are now well informed about what is happening in their countries and regions. At each seminar, they undertook commitments to draft new laws and reform existing ones, set up land observatories, monitor investment, strengthen parliamentary oversight of agricultural investments, and expand partnerships with key African institutions and processes. Parliamentarians are now calling for phase 2 of the project to support their efforts to implement the commitments made at the regional seminars.

Advisory Group

The project is supported by an Advisory Group comprised of the bureau of the PAP Committee on Agriculture, Rural Economy, Natural Resources and the Environment (CARENRE), Africa Forum, African Union Commission, CIRAD – Agricultural Research for Development, European Parliamentarians With Africa (AWEPA), Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS), Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), International Land Coalition, Land Policy Initiative (LPI) of the African Union–UN Economic Commission for Africa– African Development Bank (AUC–UNECA–AfDB), New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD)/Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), Oxfam International and the University of Pretoria.

Global and African responses to the land rush

Several global principles and guidelines on investment in agricultural land have been developed at the international and continental level to respond to the sharp rise of investor interest in farmland.

In 2009, the African heads of State have mandated the land Policy initiative to assist Member States with the implementation of the African Union Declaration on land issues and challenges in Africa, in accordance with the Framework and Guidelines on land policy in Africa. The secretariat of the LPI is working, among other topics on issues related to large scale land based investment. In 2011, they organised a High-Level Forum on Foreign Direct Investments in Land in Africa which adopted the Nairobi plan of Action. The plan of action agreed to create a monitoring and reporting mechanism for tracking large-scale land based investments, develop principles that encourage sound and sustainable investments in land, and promote mechanisms that facilitate equitable access and secure the rights to land and natural resources for communities –including women, investors, both local and foreign.

At the global level, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), has been extremely active as well. In 2012, they endorsed the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (Voluntary Guidelines) and are currently negotiating Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment in the Context of National Food Security and Nutrition, which they hope will be endorsed in October 2014. The World Bank, UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched their own Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investments. All of the policy responses are voluntary for both investors and governments. Nevertheless, they establish important principles that help decision-makers ensure responsible agricultural investments that are transparent, involve communities, respect land rights, contribute to food security, boost employment and sustainably use land, water and other natural resources.

African Parliamentarian Responses: regional workshops

From 2011–2014, five regional workshops took place across Africa: in South Africa at the Pan African Parliament, in Benin for West Africa, with the Inter-parliamentary Committee of the Economic and Monetary Union of West Africa (CIP-UEMOA), in Rwanda for East Africa with the East Africa Legislative Assembly (EALA), in Equatorial Guinea for Central Africa with the Parliament of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC-Parliament), and in South Africa for Southern Africa with the parliamentary forum of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC-PF). At each seminar, parliamentarians adopted an ambitious declaration and plan of action. They considered a range of campaigns, policies, legislative measures and other monitoring and oversight roles that are currently taking place in the region or that they would like to conduct in the future.

For further information on these regional seminars, visit the IISD website.

At the regional seminars, parliamentarians committed to the following actions:

  1. Work towards transparency of all investment contracts and treaties, whether by local or foreign investors, by making them available to the public in a timely manner;
  2. Work for the development of legal frameworks that, while attracting investment, ensure the preservation of ecosystems and sustainable development. This involves reviewing and strengthening existing laws and adopting new laws related to investment, agriculture, land, water and related natural resources;
  3. Harmonise laws with the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa (Land Policy Initiative) and other international good practice.
  4. Mobilize public opinion and governments on the question of land grabs and raise awareness among citizens through public campaigns and special parliamentary debates;
  5. Create a network of parliamentarians on responsible governance of investment and land under the auspices of the parliamentary fora (including the Pan African Parliament, the parliament of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC-Parliament), the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), the inter-parliamentary committee of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA-CIP), the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS-Parliament), the parliamentary forum of the Southern African Development Community (SADC-PF), the Association of European parliamentarians partners with Africa (AWEPA) and others;
  6. Mobilize resources to promote agriculture in Africa, in particular to ensure the implementation of national, regional and international commitments, such as the 2003 Maputo Declaration.