A new land code in Togo: what is NES in it?

Wednesday, 15th August 2018

An interview with Frédéric Djinadja(FD), Coordinator, National Engagement Strategy, Togo

Togo recently adopted a new land code. On June 5 2018, Members of the Togolese Parliament decided, by an overwhelming majority in favour of a new land code. Frédéric Djinadja explains NES Togo’s role in the process that led to the adoption of law number 2018-005 of June 14 2018 on the land and state domain.

Q: After years of campaigning in which the land reform was seen as merely a dream, an almost unachievable process, the land code was finally passed into law in June 2018. As you reflect about the process, talk about the role of NES Togo to this success.

FD: NES Togo played an important role in this process, which I can summarise in to the following points:

  1. We started-off conducting studies on the land tenure systems in Togo in September 2012. This led to the development of a framework document land actors in Togo used to formulate the national engagement strategy (NES)
  2. Following the creation of the NES, the platform took part in the national conference on land in January 2013
  3. The national conference on land led to a preliminary draft of the State and Land Tenure Code (SLTC), which we evaluated and provided recommendations. NES Togo built on the knowledge from this process to advocate for the inclusion of grassroots people’s concerns in the draft law before its adoption
  4. To encourage discussions on the draft SLTC, we organised a national civil society forum, with the SLTC as a key debate theme
  5. We equally supported the National Land Forum, where experts shared experiences about land reform cases from Morocco, Benin and Senegal to enrich the SLTC.
  6. Finally, NES Togo in collaboration with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation financed a workshop for MPs in March 2018 to discuss the draft SLTC before its adoption.

Q: Now that the law is passed, this should be stress-free moment for you, but it seems not. Following the approval of this law, you started with a soft awareness campaign in the cities, then vigorously extended your efforts to different groups and communities. Where did you go and what were the reactions so of people?

FD: Following the adoption of the land code, we went to the maritime and the plateaux regions to set up the regional NES hubs. We took this opportunity to introduce the new law. In the two regional headquarters, participants welcomed the vote on this law, and believe it would help solve numerous boiling land conflicts across the country. We also sensed from the people we met that this good news is received with caution. Without proper application, there is no success.

Q: What does this law say that protects poor people’s land rights?

FD: After analysing the provisions of the law, we believe that it can protect vulnerable people. The main provisions for vulnerable people are grouped under four main headings:

  • When it comes to land tenure, the law insists all lands must be titled before changing hands, reconciles customs, sources of traditional laws with the modern laws, questions the principle of inviolability and unassailable land titles
  • In terms of governance, the law provides for the creation of institutions responsible for land reform and land management at the national and local levels, thus bringing the administration closer to the people
  • On the technical side, the law provides for the creation of a multipurpose digital cadastre that will systematically identify all existing land tittles and its holders
  • On the social level, the law provides for a land regularisation mechanism for de facto occupations and securing plots by registration at the initiative of the public authorities.

Q: What is the next step for NES Togo? What do you want to change this time, far from guaranteeing the implementation of the said law?

FD: The next step for NES Togo will be to:

  • Influence decision-makers to hasten the implementation of this policy
  • Popularise the law in rural populations
  • Influence on decision makers to develop the different policy that are relevant to ease the implementation of the law.

Q: Finally, what lessons can you learn from the process?

FD:

  • Influencing the decision makers for the elaboration of a national law requires a good dose of patience and especially a mastery of the topic.
  • Advocacy may fail because the decision-maker is free to decide whether or not to put in place what you advocate for
  • It is necessary for effective advocacy to take such actions to different levels and meet different actors. The success of SNE Togo was made possible thanks to the joint actions supported by of the ILC Secretariat and the MCC (Millennium Challenge Corporation)

Q: One last word

FD: There are many ways to not succeed but the most obvious is to never take risks. The Togolese civil society, thanks to the NES, took risks to influence the process of elaboration and adoption of a land code and it succeeded. This experience constitutes for this civil society a lever that will push it to more brilliant actions.