Earth day in Africa: campaigning for land rights of vulnerable communities

Thursday, 18th May 2017

Every year, millions of people around the world celebrate Earth Day. A day to recognise the contribution of the earth and its ecosystems to human life while raising awareness about environmental challenges and concerns.

Africa is home to 1.2 billion people. With a growth rate of 2.25, it is projected that Africa’s population could increase to 2.47 billion by 2050. Rapid urban development, high demand for food and natural resources, and climate change have increased competition for access to land in Africa; creating serious pressures and conflicts on land all over the continent.

The Land Rights Now Movement, includes the support of many ILC members who took part in a mobilisation week from 22-29 April to show that securing land rights is a key component to fighting climate change. During this week, ILC members held a number of activities, the most notable in Cameroon.

On April 25th, in North-West Cameroon, ILC member, Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association (MBOSCUDA) brought together victims of land grabbing, land rights defenders and media for  a knowledge sharing focus group that encouraged discussions around testimonies and experience on land conflicts. 

In Yaounde, two actions were held from April 21 to 28. The National Engagement Strategy (NES) in Cameroon organised a national workshop to strengthen the capacities of Indigenous Peoples and local grassroots communities on land rights and climate change adaptability. NES members and other key stakeholders brainstormed on recurrent problems relevant to access to land, shared knowledge about methodological approaches and discussed their experiences in securing land rights. NES Cameroon and a local NGO, Community Initiative for Sustainable Development presented a guide for strengthening community influence in land negotiations in local communities.

The workshop ended with recommendations formulated for governments, traditional authorities, local councils and CSOs. One strong recommendation was for the government to modernize customary land ownership, urging them to elaborate and adopte an inclusive land policy in Cameroon. The issue of regularising lands acquired customarily have caused many conflicts in the country. Local people in communities do not understand why the government has asked them to provide land titles for lands that their ancestors passed on to them for generations. 

Talking to Voice of America, Samuel Nguiffo, Secretary General of CED said,

"People living in rural areas feel that they are invaded by the city and are required to have land titles on land acquired customarily”.

He built his argument after launching the “Atlas of Anger and Community Resistance” a tool, which maps areas where people are facing land abuses and repression in the continent.

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Check out what ILC members in Asia did for Earth Day 2017 mobilisation week!