The continued spread of COVID-19 and the scorch of climate change in Africa have caused economies to contract substantially. Lives and livelihoods are put at risk, as COVID-19 and the associated economic challenges continue to spill into an African food crisis. Before COVID-19, half of Africans faced food insecurity due to climate change and other factors, of which 50% are severely food insecure. And the number of people who are hungry might likely double in 2021. Land is a vital resource. It is essential to agriculture on which 70% of Africans rely for their livelihoods.
People-centred land governance is necessary to relaunch Africa’s agriculture. We cannot stand and wait until the sector is crushed. From 15-17 September 2020, the International Land Coalition in Africa (ILC Africa), African Union Commission (AUC) and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) are convening various stakeholders on land governance to the Africa Land Forum 2020.
Over 1000 development actors will grapple with one theme: Delivering on the African Union’s Agenda 2063 for people-centred land governance in Africa.
“For ‘the Africa we want’ to be achieved, we must strategically address the burning issues of weak land tenure security, locust swarms that destroy crops in the Horn of Africa, regional insecurity and conflict that decrease effective land governance, and climate change-related droughts and flooding destroying crops and the livelihoods of millions of African smallholder farmers,” says Audace Kubwimana, ILC Africa Regional Coordinator. “These concerns echo many aspirations on Agenda 2063’s master plan for the transformation of Africa into the global powerhouse of the future in a few decades.”
Agenda 2063 and land governance
Africa remains a huge net food importer, at a cost of more than $47 billion in 2018. COVID-19 restrictions are equally triggering higher lost income, as unsold and rotting food accumulates on farms. That was not the wish of Member States in 2013 when they adopted Agenda 2063.
Good land governance cuts across the aspirations and strategic goals of Agenda 2063 blueprint. To decrease food importation and escalating food prices, the implementation of AU’s Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges at regional and national levels is imperative. Processes such as the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in Context of National Food Security (VGGT), and the AU Guiding Principles on Large Scale Land Based Investments in Africa (LSLBI) provide the continent with instruments to make land a key driver of economic prosperity.
“The above-mentioned processes need to be strengthened, documented and monitored through effective multi-stakeholder approaches, multi-disciplinary discourse and continuous learning. We need to factor in the role of continental and regional integration institutions to enable a better implementation of the Africa Union Land Agenda. The 2020 Land Forum affords us the opportunity to assess how far we have come, and what needs to be adjusted so as to improve land governance on the continent,” says Dr. Janet Edeme, Head, Rural Economy Division, AU’s Department of Rural Economy and Agriculture.
Youth, gender and unequal access to land
For rural women and men in Africa, land is often the most important household asset for supporting agricultural production. It is also essential to providing food security and nutrition. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), secure land tenure is associated with higher levels of investment and productivity in agriculture. It also determines higher incomes and greater economic wellbeing.
Secure land rights for women and men are often correlated with better outcomes for them and their families. It strengthens women’s bargaining power at household and community levels, leads to better child nutrition and favours lower levels of gender-based violence. In many African countries, however, both men and women have inadequate access to secure rights over land, with women being particularly disadvantaged.
The International Land Coalition-Africa’s recent statistics reveal that while women constitute 70% of the active rural population and 80% of food production capacity in Senegal (and most of sub-Saharan Africa), only 13% have access to land and 2.6% hold secure land tenure rights. Furthermore, 61.2% of women say that lack of resources deepens inequality on access to land.
“I am happy to note that the Forum has given a prominent place to inclusion and gender equality in land governance. It is critical that the actors on the continent employ multiple pathways to gender equality agenda on land if we are to meet the targets set in the Agenda 2063. It is equally important for us to understand how meeting these targets unlocks the full potential and contribution of youth and women toward the Africa we want, in the COVID-19 era and beyond,” says Esther Obaikol, land governance expert at IGAD.
Many questions will be asked. The Forum’s task is to provide the answers.