African Land Commissioners meet in Accra, discuss on securing community land rights
GHANA- The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) reports in a press release that the first ever meeting of African Land Commissioners opened in Accra on Monday, 19th of July “with Ghana’s Lands and Natural Resources Minister, John-Peter Amewu, lamenting the extreme levels of poverty in some parts of the continent despite the availability of vast arable land resources.”
According to the report, John-Peter Amewu while addressing attending Land Commissioners, senior government officials, representatives of civil society and others members of the audience described the situation as alarming. His deputy noted this on his behalf during the meeting.
“While we have most land suitable for agriculture, our productivity gap turns to be the highest. We see land ownership inequalities and landlessness growing in several African countries and women, as majority primary producers, are constrained by customary laws.”
The Minister added, according to the report, that arable land on the continent, forests and wet land were being degraded at an alarming rate while there’s a high rise in urban slums that undermine urban developments and poverty reduction efforts.”
“It is recognized that land issues and systems are very diverse and complex and therefore there’s need for comprehensive policies to guide the access, utilization and management of land resources within our various countries.” It is however “heart-warming that this declaration was being moved forward by the Economic Commission for Africa(ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) through the Land Policy Initiative.”
Mr. Amewu further disclosed that efforts at reforming land administration in Ghana strongly recognize the fundamental role of customary land. According to the report, the Minister said it is enough fact as gather from experience that constant efforts at consultation, collaboration and commitment are the only things to help with the diversity and complexities around land matters.
Adding to the discussion, Janet Edeme, Head of Rural Division in the Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture at the AUC, said land was at the heart of the political, social and economic development of most African states, where majority of the populations rely heavily on agriculture and natural resource use for most of their livelihood. She likewise noted that customary land regimes are not uniform but vary from community to community hence the importance of the workshop in tackling some of these issues.
Solange Bandiaky-Badji of The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), a global coalition of organizations working to encourage forest land tenure and policy reforms, at the meeting, said at both regional and country level, community land rights are integral to land reform processes.
“A large share of national land area in sub-Saharan Africa is held under customary or traditional forms of land ownership in practice.” Bandiaky-Badji said.
At the end of the workshop, according to the press release as published on APO, “organizers hope to have a critical mass of land commissions capacitated to lead land reforms in Africa; articulate and agree on key challenges, opportunities and a regional agenda for securing local communities’, women’s, and Indigenous Peoples’ land rights.”
The workshop was well attended by participants from Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Correspondent: Ridwan A. Olayiwola