Gaborone, Botswana, January 23, 2020 (ECA) – The issue of access to land by women, youth and other marginalized groups was on top of the agenda at today’s policy dialogue on land policy reform and social-economic transformation in Southern Africa organized by the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa Sub regional Office for Southern Africa (SRO-SA).
Participants included representatives of government Ministries responsible for land and agriculture, private sector and private sector organizations, academia and research, civil society organizations, African Union Commission, Southern African Development Community (SADC) and Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretariats, United Nations Agencies (FAO and UNDP) and SRO-SA.
In his welcoming remarks, ECA SRO-SA Director, Said Adejumobi, outlined the objectives of the dialogue as being to engage policy makers and other key stakeholders on the land reform process in the Southern Africa region, and proffer viable policy options and interventions that could accelerate the process of regional socio-economic development and transformation. He advised that the dialogue was also meant to deliberate on how Southern Africa can efficiently manage land for inclusive economic growth, industrialization and socio-economic transformation to create opportunities for all citizens.
He told the meeting that some of the pertinent questions to be addressed in the dialogue will include: how land reform is to be undertaken and land administration and governance improved upon without generating fears and anxieties. How do we ensure the values of inclusivity, participation and collective ownership in the land reform process? How do we balance the demand for land redistribution with the imperative of increased agricultural productivity and enhanced agro-processing capacity? And how do we reform the land tenure system to have better land access to women, youth and other marginalized groups?
He expressed gratitude to the Government and people of Botswana for hosting ECA and the policy dialogue. He then invited the experts, “to assist ECA to unlock the possibility of a better future in making land a transformative asset that can support Southern Africa’s drive in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Agenda 2063”. He advised that the countdown to the SDGs has begun with 10 years from now for the goals to be achieved and land reform can assist in the realization of some of the key goals including Goal 1, no poverty, Goal 2, zero hunger, Goal 5, gender equality, Goal 10, reduced inequalities, and Goal 15, life on land. “We therefore need to see the task before as a responsibility to assist our countries and the continent to create better societies”, he concluded.
The Policy dialogue was officially opened by Botswana Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Honorable Kefentse Mzwinila who said, it was gratifying to note that the Dialogue included representatives from regional member States and Regional Economic Communities (RECs). He noted that the presence of both SADC and COMESA was key to the agenda of policy harmonization in the sector and the pursuit and strengthening of regional integration and socio-economic transformation”.
The Botswana Government is a pioneer in land tenure, land policy and regulatory frameworks and agricultural development, he noted. The Minister applauded ECA for convening the meeting and providing an opportunity to all actors in the Southern African region to develop recommendations to cement land reforms. He informed the dialogue that his government considered land policy reform as a key strategy towards Botswana’s attainment of SDGs, particularly SDG 1 on no poverty and the attainment of the aspirations of Agenda 2063, which hinge on, “land reform and the utilization of land as an economic asset”, he emphasized.
The Minister encouraged participants from the region to share experiences and told journalists in a press briefing that the primary purpose of Botswana’s 2019 land policy is, “to protect and promote land rights of all land holders as well as support sustainable human resettlement”. He expressed satisfaction that the Dialogue would discuss harmonization of elements of land policies, regulatory frameworks, domestication, implementation and monitoring of principles to harmonize large scale land based investments in the region for inclusivity and capital formation and development.
The need for inclusive land policies was also articulated by the Special Guest to this policy dialogue, South African Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Hon. Thoko Didiza whose speech placed special emphasis on access to land by women, youth and other marginalized groups. She spoke about affirmative action to help these groups and create policies that deal with equity in the distribution of land.
She pointed out that trajectory of the land policies of Southern African countries such as Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe inherited the same history. The way these countries have been dealing with land reform process has created challenges that are still being addressed many years later.
She encouraged that this policy dialogue should address the question of land reforms without the question being divisive and contentious. The issue should now be tackled from a different angle focusing on land policy reforms and socio-economic transformation.
The policy dialogue being held in Gaborone is a follow-up to a policy research study that SRO-SA commissioned in 2018 and an expert meeting organized in November the same year in Livingstone, Zambia. The recommendations from this dialogue will build on the directions and roadmap from the earlier.
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