Regional workshop on securing community land rights set for Accra

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, July 15, 2017 (ECA) – The Land Policy Initiative (LPI), in partnership with the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), are next week convening a regional workshop with African Land Commissions on Securing Community Land Rights on the continent.

Forty Land Commissioners and senior government officials from 16 African countries will attend the three-day meeting that begins Monday 17 July to deliberate on issues relating to securing community land rights.

The regional workshop is a joint programme organized by the LPI in partnership with the RRI and in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources of Ghana and Civic Response.

The LPI is a joint programme of the tripartite consortium consisting of the African Union Commission (AUC), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and Economic Commission for Africa (ECA). Its purpose is to enable the use of land to lend impetus to the process of African development.

LPI Coordinator Joan Kagwanja says the objective of the workshop is to facilitate cross-country learning and information-sharing about results and experiences in different countries among key actors within African land commissions on challenges and opportunities to secure local communities’, women’s, and Indigenous Peoples’ land rights through statutory recognition of customary land tenure and its subsequent operationalization.

She says many African countries are approaching pivotal moments in land and forest reforms that will shape their nations’ tenure rights for years to come hence the need for the LPR and RRI to convene the workshop.

Rural communities claim customary ownership of up to 80 per cent of all lands in Sub-Saharan Africa yet most national governments do not formally recognize communities’ rights to much of this land.

“To better understand some of the issues, including customary land management practices in Ghana, participants will have an opportunity for a field visit to a local community,” said Ms. Kagwanja, adding the regional workshop is targeting key government actors within land commissions on the continent, who can act as champions for community land rights and have demonstrated flexibility to change their own behaviors and attitudes on land rights and to catalyze such changes within their institution.

At the end of the workshop organizers hope to have a critical mass of land commissions leading land reforms in Africa, among other things.

The Land Commissioners are expected during the three days to articulate and agree on key challenges, opportunities and a regional agenda for securing local communities’, women’s, and Indigenous Peoples’ land rights; commit to the continental processes of the LPI; and champion statutory recognition of customary (collective) land tenure and its subsequent operationalization at the national and regional levels.

Participants are also expected to come up with recommendations and or commitments to guarantee securing customary land tenure in national land laws, policies, and regulations at the national, sub-regional and regional levels are identified based on experiences shared; enunciate country-specific next steps and goals for securing community land rights and implementing related laws that are identified and documented in a “return to work” plan.

“The commitment to a return to work plan is very important as is the need for the commissioners and government officials to maintain close contact with civil society participants to keep them informed as move this agenda forward,” said Ms. Kagwanja.

The commissioners are also expected to attend the Conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) that will be held in November 2017.

Participants are from Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.