Sharing experiences and insights on land and natural resource rights in Africa

Making Agricultural Investments Work for Land Users & Communities
By Kaitlin Y. Cordes is a lawyer and researcher, and leads the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment’s work on investments in land and agriculture.

Earlier this year, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf made an unexpected commitment related to foreign investment in land and community land rights. In a meeting with communities who had raised concerns regarding a British company’s attempts to expand its palm oil production onto their customary land, the President effectively told those communities that they would have the right to say yes or no to further expansion. Read more


Inclusive business model? The Case of Sugarcane Production in Tanzania
By Emmanuel Sulle, researcher, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Since the emergence of the “land grab” phenomenon in the mid-2000s, alternative approaches to land-based investments have been developed and tested to mitigate the often significant and adverse impacts on rural people of such grabs while still supporting foreign direct investments, particularly in agriculture, for economic development in African countries. Read more


New Investments at US-African Leader Summit Need to Keep Land Rights Front and Center
Darryl Vhugen (Landesa), Peter Veit (World Resources Institute), and Bee Wuethrich (Landesa)

African leaders, US development organizations and companies have been pressing US President Barack Obama and his administration for years to engage more in Africa. Now nearly 50 African Heads of State have been welcomed to Washington DC for the US-Africa Summit. This meeting and surrounding events, such as the US-Africa Business Forum, create opportunities for the US to work with Africa’s leaders on critical sustainable development issues.  Read more


Cost-effective methods for strengthening land rights in Africa
Roy Prosterman, Founder and Chairman Emeritus, Landesa, and Professor Emeritus, University of Washington School of Law

A growing population, changing weather patterns, and increased global demand for farmland affect the lives of people throughout Africa and make the security of their land rights more important than ever.  Read more


Smallholder agriculture and Zimbabwe’s economic future
Journalist Busani Bufani interviews Professor Mandivamba Rukuni, Agriculture and Tenure Expert
 
The distribution and redistribution of land rights has been a driving force in Zimbabwe’s history and political and economic development. Since independence successive governments have undertaken a series of land reform efforts aimed at correcting the severe imbalance in land ownership between black Zimbabweans and whites, a result of decades of colonial policies that displaced local populations. Read more


Elevating women’s land rights & measuring progress in the Post-2015 global development agenda: What it means for Africa 
D. Hien Tran, Global Advocacy Director of Landesa

The theme of this year’s World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty, Integrating Land Governance into the Post-2015 Agenda, has special significance for women and for Africa.  In Africa, some 70 percent of farmers are women who, for the most part, are less likely to own and control land than men, & whose land rights are disadvantaged by a web of statutory law, customary laws, norms, and traditions. Read more
 

Offering a new resource: DFID Topic Guide on Land
Iris Krebber, Senior Livelihoods Adviser - Land Policy Lead, Growth and Resilience Department, Department for International Development (DFID), UK


A new DFID Land Topic Guide the international land community with a summary of the latest thinking around contemporary global land issues in developing countries, beginning by addressing the key topics around large-scale land acquisition. Read more


For responsible mapping of community land, create accountable land governance
Rachael Knight, an attorney and Director of Namati’s Community Land Protection Program

As the global land grab appropriates land from rural communities at an unprecedented pace, many within the global development community have begun to advocate for rapid global campaigns to map, document and protect community lands. Read more


Will Liberia lead the way to land property rights for women?
Cécile Ndjebet, President of African Women’s Network for Community Management of Forests and Julie Weah, Executive Director of Liberia’s Foundation for Community Initiatives

This is a critical moment in the history of women in Liberia, a game-changing moment for women’s secure ownership rights to land, and we must ensure that the moment is not lost. Read more


Century-old land title has kept the Xhosa of Zimbabwe together
Busani Bafana, a Zimbabwean journalist specializing on agriculture and social development issues

For the Xhosa community in northwest Zimbabwe, land is more than a geographical space, it is a culturally unifying resource. The Xhosa community, settled in the Mbembesi area, have for more than 100 years enjoyed documented land rights. But, while this position has fostered their cultural development, it has not been the expected ticket to the economic benefits. Read more


Local Liberian community demands benefit sharing from timber concessions
Ezekiel B. Freeman, Private Investigator, Liberia Customary Land Tenure and Land Rights

Liberia’s National Forestry Reform Law (NFRL 2006) authorizes the Forestry Development Authority of Liberia (FDA) to grant licenses to logging companies to purchase, cut and remove timber from the lands of Liberia.  The NFRL also clearly delineates the framework for the use, management, and protection of the forest resources that must balance the commercial, community, and conservation priorities of Liberia. Read more


Opinion: Assessing South Africa's New Land Redistribution Policies
Ben Cousins, DST/NRF Chair in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, Senior Professor PLAAS, Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, South Africa

Land reform in post-apartheid South Africa is in trouble. Research reveals that at least half of all projects have seen little or no improvement in the lives of their beneficiaries, mostly because of poor planning and lack of effective support. Read More


Women's Land Tenure Insecurity: Overcoming a Barrier to Agricultural Productivity in Ghana
Agnes Loriba, CARE International - Ghana, Project Manager-Pathways Project

Land is the essential productive resource in agriculture and it is an area where the gender gap is stark. The FAO 2010-2011 State of Food and Agriculture report states that "if women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent. This could raise total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5-4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12-17 percent." Read more


Councils of Elders - A Platform to Secure Women’s Land Rights in Kenya
Eileen Wakesho, Program Officer, Women Land and Property Rights, Kenya Land Alliance

The Constitution of Kenya is celebrated as one of the most progressive constitutions in Africa as far as securing women’s land and property rights is concerned. Article 60(1) directs that land be held, used and managed in an equitable, efficient, productive and sustainable manner and in accordance with principles of equitable access to land, security of land rights and the elimination of gender discrimination in law, customs and practices related to land and property. Read more


Empowering Local Communities to Manage Land and Natural Resources: Lessons from Southern Africa
Jimmiel Mandima, Director of Program Design and Partner Relations at the African Wildlife Foundation

Community land and resources in most of post-colonial Africa are ‘owned and managed’ by State machinery, a setup that has  generally been ineffective at conserving natural resources or ensuring that local communities benefit from resource exploitation.

In southern Africa, as on the rest of the continent, the duality of State authority over land and customary tenure bestowed to the local community members through chiefs and other traditional authorities creates confusion and ambiguity that is often exploited by investors when negotiating deals for investments. Read more


Uganda`s National Land Policy
Naome Kabanda, Department of Land Administration, Uganda Ministry of Lands

In an economy such as ours, where almost 80% of the population's economic activity is in agriculture and land, policy and regulation on these two should not be burdensome: the system in regard to procedures and processes to acquire a land title and credit should be less costly, nearer to the people, rather transparent, efficient, and should be implemented in a simple, consistent way regardless of connections, political affiliation, one's education, or whether man or woman. Read more


When Property Rights Systems Collide
The FOLA team at WRI and Landesa

When Dutch traders purchased Manhattan Island from the Lenape Indians for $24 in 1626, it was more than an unfair deal.  It was a collision of two different systems of property rights.  The shock waves of that collision, and the many injustices perpetrated in its course, are still felt by the descendants of dispossessed Native peoples across the Americas. But such collisions are not only a thing of the past.  They continue today, including in African countries where competition for land and natural resources is escalating...Read more

Note: This commentary first appeared on the Land Portal Blog


Protecting Women's Rights in Liberia
Ali Kaba, Program Director, Sustainable Development Institute - Liberia

Women in Liberia rely heavily on land to support their agricultural livelihoods, yet remain disproportionately marginalized in their access to land ownership.  Such gender-based differences exist due to longstanding power imbalances in traditional practices, inadequacies in statutory laws, and a failure by society to enforce policies and laws that were around to protect women’s land rights.  As Liberia moves forward with new policies and policy aspirations – i.e. the Agenda for Transformation, National Vision, The Decentralization Policy, the Strategic Roadmap for National Healing, Peace-building and Reconciliation, and the Land Rights Policy – attention must be spent on how these laws will impact women...Read more


Elevating Land Rights for Development in Africa
The FOLA team at WRI and Landesa

In Rivercress County, Liberia, women are planting life trees—rubber and plantain—that will bring needed income and add value to their farms. (see post by Ali Kaba, Talking Land).  Just one year ago, such investments seemed impossible.  But in the interim, the Liberian government developed a land policy that promises to grant secure land rights to rural people, and, today, change is underway.  As in Liberia, secure rights to land and natural resources are a key component of sustainable development across Africa.  Yet, many development initiatives fail to take these rights into account.  They may go unrecognized in major efforts to improve agriculture, water and sanitation, women’s empowerment, and environmental sustainability...Read more