Land takes centre stage at African Development Forum VIII

Monday, 29th October 2012

‘Food security will be the major challenge for mankind in the 21st Century. Many African countries do not have strategies for how to use their land and natural resources to assure their own food security priorities, leaving themselves being vulnerable to serving the interests of others’, noted Madiodio Niasse, ILC secretariat Director in a high-level roundtable on land on the opening day of the seventh African Development Forum in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The biennial ADF is the flagship event of the African Union, UNECA and African Development Bank, bringing together high level officials, civil society, development partners and the private sector to ‘establish an African-driven development agenda’. This year’s theme Governing and harnessing natural resources for Africa’s development gave a central profile to the role of land tenure.

Through the statements and debates from the floor during the Forum, it was clear that there was greater agreement on the diagnosis of the challenges faced, especially on equity and distribution of benefits from land and natural resources. However, there was also greater diversity in the visions expressed for the future, and the relative roles of large-scale investments in agriculture and of smallholder producers.

‘Most policy makers still appear inclined to favour large-scale investments as the fix, which misses the target’, reflected Odenda Lumumba, Chairman of Kenya Land Alliance and Chairperson of ILC Africa Platform. ‘It is agreed that low productivity from land and agriculture is a challenge, but unlocking its potential lies with greater support to smallholder producers.’

In a panel presentation on alternative investment models, Harold Liversage of IFAD presented examples from IFAD-supported projects that brought together large-scale investors with smallholder producers, such as in palm oil production in Uganda.

‘The first and most urgent task is to legally recognise the land rights of millions of land-users whose livelihoods can become precarious in the face of increasing competition for land’ noted Michael Taylor of the ILC secretariat on the same panel.

There was agreement across the board that the Africa Land Policy Framework and Guidelines should be taken up more widely by all stakeholders as a reference in guiding land policy reform.

ILC members participating in ADFVIII included Kenya Land Alliance, Zambia Land Alliance, East African Farmers’ Federation, Oxfam, Landnet Malawi, CODELT, IIED, GLTN, IFAD, UNCCD and FAO.

More information on ADFVIII at http://new.uneca.org/adfviii/home_adf8.aspx

More information on Africa Land Policy Framework and Guidelines at http://new.uneca.org/lpi/home_lpi.aspx