News of soaring demand for land in Africa and the strain this places on rural men and women is not new. Nor is it news that some of the land governance systems on the continent have not sufficiently protected rural communities in the face of heightened demand for land.
But at the conclusion of the first African Land Policy Conference on Nov. 14, the momentum behind land policy reform on the continent is strong and clear.
Just last week, the Land Policy Initiative — a joint initiative of the African Union, the U.N. Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank — launched its Principles for Large-Scale Land-Based Investments, which is certain to spark new policy and laws among African countries at a time when several of them are in the process of historic reforms to their land tenure laws and policies.
Rwanda, for example, has documented land rights for its rural women and men for the first time. Kenya adopted a new constitution in 2010 which protects women’s rights to land and family resources. Uganda adopted in 2013 a new land policy which envisions an overhaul of the current land rights laws, and further establishes land rights for women.
Each of these efforts was supported by far thinking donors who understand that if countries don’t get land rights right, their efforts on a host of other priorities — from women’s empowerment to food security — will be frustrated. Donor resources are limited: Every dollar counts and the money won’t last. The question for donors is thus how to best support Africa in securing access to land for rural people at this critical juncture.
Here are 10 ways:
1. Work with governments, the private sector and communities to support healthy and sustainable land sector investments.
2. Increase support to Africa’s small and medium-size farms.
3. Support government efforts to recognize and protect community land rights.
4. Seek ways to support women’s access and rights to land — as enshrined in the constitutions, laws and policies of many African countries — and support work to ensure that those rights are realized and implemented.
5. Support government efforts to decentralize land governance at the local level.
6. Base programs on a thorough understanding of local needs, priorities, and capacity.
7. Coordinate more effectively with other donors.
8. Commit to long-term horizon for land policy reform.
9. Invest in robust research and monitoring efforts.
10. Dedicate resources to capacity building in-country wherever and whenever possible.