Focus on Land in Africa

GlobalWA member, Landesa, fully refreshed a new resource on land and natural resource rights in Africa: Focus on Land in Africa (FOLA). FOLA is an educational resource for development practitioners and policy makers that explores how land and natural resource rights affect, and are effected by, development in Africa. Through raising awareness of these issues, FOLA aims to elevate land and natural resource rights as an urgent priority for development in Africa. The following highlights specific examples of what elevating these rights can mean for people living in rural Africa.

In Rivercress County, Liberia, women are planting life trees—rubber and plantain—that will bring needed income and add value to their farms (Ali Kaba, Talking Land). Just one year ago, such investments seemed impossible.  But in the interim, the Liberian government developed a land policy that promises to grant secure land rights to rural people, and, today, change is underway.

landesa-logoAs in Liberia, secure rights to land and natural resources are a key component of sustainable development across Africa. Yet, many development initiatives fail to take these rights into account. They may go unrecognized in major efforts to improve agriculture, water and sanitation, women’s empowerment, and environmental sustainability.

But encouragingly, this too is beginning to change. African governments, civil society, and their partners increasingly tackle the reform of outdated laws, institutions and customs regarding land and natural resource rights. Innovations, experiments, successes and failures have resulted. Examples abound:

Development initiatives in Africa can both learn from and contribute to these efforts. The issue is urgent. Without secure rights, people are less able and less likely to make investments that improve the productivity, incomes and sustainability of their land.

Every day, small-scale farmers and pastoralists lose rights to their land and natural resources. Community lands that are rich in forests and wetlands, mineral deposits and rangelands may be particularly desirable and vulnerable to investors who fail to account for the rights of local people. In many countries, land-related conflicts are on the rise.

Focus on Land in Africa (FOLA) is a resource for the development community, and all people concerned with sustainable development, to better understand land and natural resource rights—how they effect, and are affected by, development in Africa.

Whether you are new to the topic of land and natural resource rights, or a land tenure expert, we believe that FOLA has something to offer you, and invite you to share your experiences, suggestions and questions.

Talking Land

We are launching a commentary series, “Talking Land.” It will feature the perspectives of civil society leaders, development practitioners, policy makers, and land rights experts working across the continent.  The first commentary is authored by Ali D. Kaba from the Sustainable Development Institute in Liberia. His contribution focuses on women’s land rights in Liberia with special attention to customary norms around land inheritance which often leave women at a disadvantage. We invite you to join the conversation, and help strengthen and protect land and natural resource rights in Africa.

From the FOLA team at WRI and Landesa: Peter Veit, Darryl Vhugen, Bee Wuethrich, Reem Gaafar