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Groups urge ECOWAS to wade into communities’ land rights

By Chinedum Uwaegbulam
20 February 2017   |   4:30 am
If plans being made by the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in sub-Saharan Africa sail through, the long wait by communities to secure land rights may end soon.

Mr. Ibrahima Coulibaly, President of Coordination Nationale des Organisations Paysannes du Mali (CNOP), Vice President of Reseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs de l’Afrique de l’Quest (ROPPA) (left); Executive Director, ERA/FOEI, Godwin Uyi Ojo and Secretary General FIAN International, Mrs. Sofia Monsalve during the presentation of the research finding dissemination Meeting in Abuja

If plans being made by the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in sub-Saharan Africa sail through, the long wait by communities to secure land rights may end soon.

The groups gathered in Abuja to present to the Department of agriculture and Rural Development of Economic Community of West Africa States, the Land Policy Initiative of the African Union, African Development Bank and the Economic Commission for Africa and to the regional Office of Food and Agricultural Organisation its findings of a three-year participatory research project on the impact and responses to land grabbing.

The research commenced in 2014 and was embarked upon by FIAN International Germany together with four African CSOs – Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria, national Coordination of Peasant Organisations of Mali and the Malian Convergence against Land Grabbing, Katosi Women Development Trust- Uganda, Masifundise Development Trust- South Africa, two academic research institutions( ISS-The Netherlands and PLASS-South Africa.

The research coming under the Bottom-up Accountability Initiatives and Large Scale land Acquisition (ISLA) in sub-Saharan Africa found out that LSLAs in Nigeria impacted women and men differently.

The report noted forced evictions, land dispossessions, inadequate compensations for livelihoods and biodiversity losses, environmental degradations as well as other related activities that have resulted in landlessness or limited access to land, negatively impacted social cohesion and peace.

According ERA Executive Director, Godwin Uyi Ojo, the burden of household food provision weigh more on the shoulders of the women who sometimes had to deal with malnourished kids, as well as ensure that there was food on their family table.

The report emphasized that small scale farmers should be supported to assert their communal land rights to farms land in order to promote staple food production rather than the promotion of transnational companies involved in land grabbing for palm oil that is mainly for export.

Ojo stressed that “we must work to put development parametres in the hands of local people, therefore local organizing and ownership of lands as well as community land rights should be the areas of policy change to favour local farmers and the prevention of large scale land acquisitions.”

The groups pledged to continue to liaise with the relevant authorities such as ECOWAS to ensure that community land tenure is respected across Africa.

The Head, Agriculture divsion, ECOWAS Commission, Ernest Aubee explained that the Land Policy Initiative ensures all land users have equitable access to Land and security of all bundles of land rights, by facilitating effective partnerships, dialogue and capacity building for participatory and consultative land policy formulation and implementation, and efficient and transparent land administration in both customary and statutory jurisdictions.

He also noted that ECOWAS is raising awareness of land related issues and challenges that hamper the appropriate utilization of land towards Africa’s development as wedll as building synergies, partnerships and resource mobilization for effective land policy development/implementation and monitoring in Africa.