“Promoting Sustainable Land Governance in Africa
for Accelerating Implementation of the AfCFTA”
21-24 November 2023 | Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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TS 21-H: Technical Session 21-H: 21 Nov.
Assessing transparency, inclusiveness, and sustainability in large-scale land acquisitions in Africa
1International Land Coalition, Italy; 2CIRAD, France; 3German Institute for Global and Area Studies, Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, University of Goettingen;
All over the world, mega-trends reshaping the global economy over recent decades have been exerting new and rapidly intensifying pressures on land – pressures that have been particularly apparent through the large-scale land acquisition (LSLA) hype that took place around 2009-2010. These pressures, and related challenges, led to the development and implementation of innovative legal, regulatory, and guiding frameworks to strengthen land governance at both international and national levels, including actions to operationalise international soft law instruments, such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGTs). These pressures also led to legislative measures such as new national constitutions that, for the first time, entrench rights for the landless; national legislation that covers wide-ranging policy areas related to land and land investments; and effective support for securing land rights, including the collective registration of community, indigenous, or pastoral lands.
Notwithstanding these aspirational global frameworks and land policy reforms at national levels, one main question remains: how have these significant legal improvements impacted on the practices in the land sector?
This work endeavours to contribute to answering this question by presenting results of a monitoring exercise based on the implementation of the VGGTs, more specifically assess compliance of the LSLAs with globally-agreed agricultural investment principles by monitoring the VGGTs implementation with regard to LSLAs at continental, country, and deal level using Land Matrix Initiative (LMI) data.
The Land Matrix is an independent land monitoring initiative that promotes transparency and accountability in decisions over LSLAs in low- and middle-income countries by capturing and sharing data about these deals at global, regional, and national level.
The Land Matrix monitors large-scale land deals involving conversions of land over 200 hectares (ha) from either local community use or important ecosystem service provision to large-scale commercial production in the food, biofuel, mining, tourism, timber, and carbon-trading sectors, based on both official and on-official data (such as press articles, company reports, contracts, and analytical and research reports). Through an assessment of the VGGTs chapters, 16 Land Matrix variables have been identified which align with 18 VGGTs articles focusing on LSLAs. These variables cover rights and responsibilities related to tenure (Chapter 4); safeguards (Chapter 7); indigenous peoples and other communities with customary tenure systems (Chapter 9); informal tenure (Chapter 10); markets (Chapter 11); investments (Chapter 12); expropriation and compensation (Chapter 16); valuation (Chapter 18) and resolutions of disputes over land tenure (Chapter 21). The output of this exercise is a score between 0 and 100, the maximum meaning that every aspect of the deal (country?) reported in the Land Matrix database is VGGTs compliant.
Our results show that despite the progress made regarding the development of global and regional land policy frameworks and guidelines – and to their uptake into policies at national level – land governance practices around LSLAs have yet to change.
At deal level, we highlight that as much as 20% of the deals assessed do not comply with any of the VGGTs principles, while 78% show unsatisfactory levels of VGGTs uptake and implementation (a score of less than 50). A similar picture emerges when these results are aggregated at country level, with 20 out of the 23 countries assessed in Africa (87%) scoring less than 50 as well.
Taking a deeper dive into the thematic areas of the VGGTs, as represented by the different chapters, results show that overall, at a continental level, land deals in Africa are the least performing with regard to i) consultative processes; ii) respect of national laws and legislation, including investment and land legislation; and iii) respect of legitimate tenure rights, including informal tenure of local communities and indigenous peoples.
Against this backdrop, in practice, measures remain limited when it comes to respecting human rights and providing impartial and competent judicial and administrative bodies to timely, affordable, and effective means of resolving disputes over tenure rights, including alternative means of resolving such disputes. This is also the case for aspects related to safeguards, unlawful expropriation, and application of agreed-upon compensation measures.
Through this study, we underline that one of the key, and transversal, challenges remains the lack of access to information on land overall, and on land deals in particular. Although the results of our evaluation show relatively positive results regarding the improvement of publicly available information and data on land transactions in certain countries, such as Liberia and Sierra Leone, sectors (like forestry), or through particular initiatives (including the Land matrix and Open Land contracts), LSLAs remain characterised by a continuous lack of information. Nevertheless, there is still a long way to go by governments, and more particularly by investors, to make information available. Based on the data used for the monitoring presented in this report, very few deals and countries have extensive information for the aspects covered by the VGGT principles with regard to land investment: only two countries have data for 30% of the variables covered in this exercise, and most countries only cover between 5% and 20%. This gives a concrete picture of the lack of data and dire state of transparency surrounding LSLAs – one of the principal guidelines of responsible investments in general, and the VGGTs in particular. This also exposes the factual incompleteness of the results we are presenting, and of LSLAs overall, which will remain limited as long as transparency does not improve.
Positive policy change and progress is meaningless if it does not lead to effective (sustainable and inclusive) transformation on the ground. This goes beyond questioning and pinpointing the shortcomings of the frameworks and tools deployed to accompany these changes. It is about how to mobilise these global frameworks, guidelines, and references in view of achieving effective change overall, and more responsible land investment and increased accountability in particular. In terms of LSLAs, based on this assessment and taking into consideration the aforementioned frameworks, three indispensable reforms still need to be followed up and further implemented; fast track land reform, corporate and investor country accountability, and increased transparency and monitoring.
Medium Scale Commercial Agriculture and its Role in Structural Transformation, Wealth Creation and Enhanced Livelihoods in an African Context: Evidence from Contemporary Zimbabwe
University of South Africa, South Africa;
In the past decade, Africa has witnessed an unprecedented emergence of medium scale commercial farms, and this has been attributed to the dynamics of agricultural policy reforms, the rise of land markets, lobbying by farmers, the emergence of farmer networks and high global food prices. As the phenomenon has spread across the continent, Zimbabwe has been no exception as it has also seen the emergence of a cohort of medium scale commercial farmers in the past two decades. Unlike other contexts on the continent, the Zimbabwe experience has been unique, with the State being proactive in creating a medium scale farming model that emerged from the country’s radical and controversial fast track land reform programme (FTLRP). The FTLRP was undertaken to redress the country’s historic unresolved land question which was a consequence of the legacy of settler colonialism, and it is significant as one of the most comprehensive land reform programmes in modern history. This cohort of medium scale farmers created by the FTLRP has become pivotal in the country’s reconfigured agrarian structure with the State identifying them as key drivers of its agricultural transformation strategy. In an economy that is heavily reliant on the agricultural sector, medium scale commercial farmers are considered as agents of change, bridging the gap left by the predominantly white owned large scale commercial farming sector, decimated by the FTLRP. The predominate black medium scale Zimbabwean farmers are increasingly being considered as critical in spearheading agricultural commercialisation trajectories, facilitating accumulation and as catalytic agents for socio-economic transformation and development. In a Zimbabwe context where there is a new political dispensation sympathetic to neoliberal orthodoxy and increasingly embarking on policy trajectories which are informed by the dictates of global capital, the role of middle-scale farms has become central. The State has in recent years implemented policies, strategies and legislative interventions aimed at transforming the agrarian sector to maximise agricultural output while ensuring the sustainable development of the sector and its associated value chains and reconfiguring food systems to ensure equality as well as food and nutrition security. As the State has embarked on this trajectory, questions are arising on the role of medium scale commercial farmers in the local and national economy, in structural transformation trajectories as well as in wealth creation and enhanced livelihoods. It is considering this, that this paper acknowledges lacunae in understanding the realities and dynamics of middle-scale commercial agriculture and it utilises the political economy approach to critically analyse this sector focusing on rural Zimbabwe, two decades after redistributive land reform. The analysis is informed by field based empirical evidence gathered through a mixed methods research approach from two rural districts namely Goromonzi and Zvimba. The study utilised surveys and in-depth interviews which targeted 300 households. Cognisant of the critical role played by agriculture at national and continental levels; its utility for local and national economies as well as its ability to enhance food security and contribute to sustainable food systems, the paper engages with the lived experiences of middle scale commercial farmers and undertakes a comparative analysis with their counterparts in the smallholder sector which was also created by the FTLRP. The paper asks questions which are crystallised around understanding the implications of the current land tenure and land governance regime with a special focus on land ownership access and control; agricultural policies and politics of inclusion and exclusion and how this implicates on the productive and social reproduction capacities of medium scale commercial farmers. It also looks at investment and re-investment dynamics, commercialisation dynamics, capital accumulation in the countryside and how these aspects are linked to the State’s vision of industrialisation, employment creation, opportunities for wealth creation, enhanced rural livelihoods and agricultural transformation. The paper shows that from the Zimbabwe experience there are important lessons to be learnt. It reveals that the shifting economic and agrarian landscape has created new economic and livelihood opportunities for land reform beneficiaries and surrounding communities. It highlights that in rural Zimbabwe, there are discernible and diverse patterns of accumulation and agricultural commercialisation pathways which are impacting in different ways on livelihoods, asset ownership, agrarian labour relations and agricultural finance. These are implicating in different ways on the welfare and wellbeing of farming households and local communities. Having access to land, a supportive macro-economic and policy landscape, robust and inclusive land governance, and administrative institutions are seen as having the potential for creating a land-based context in Africa which is transformative, inclusive, egalitarian, and empowering for citizens. Lessons from Zimbabwe demonstrate that despite numerous challenges, medium scale farms have the potential to deal with the challenges of poverty, disenfranchisement, marginalisation, inequalities and inequities in power and resource allocation. These have proved to be a constant challenge in the post-colonial African context and evidence suggests that with the requisite support, medium scale farms possess qualities necessary for spearheading agricultural transformation.
Potential Livelihood Benefits of Entitling Customary Rights to Land in Africa: Evidence from Farm Households in Nigeria
1Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, Nigeria; 2Landmark University, Omu-Aran, Kwara State, Nigeria;
While secure Land Tenure and Property Rights (LTPRs) is crucial in the pursuit of key development objectives, the routes to achieving a de jure secure title to land in most African countries is very difficult to follow by most resource poor smallholder farmers, particularly women and youths. The difficulties arise from difficult hurdles such as requirement for expensive perimeter survey, exorbitant legal and titling fees, and frustrating bureaucracy. Consequently, most (over 95%) of the smallholder farmers in Africa do not hold de jure secure title to their farmland even though the LTPRs are in many cases de facto secure. In Nigeria for example, the Land Use Act supports the granting of two types of rights to land occupants: statutory and customary rights. The latter is applicable lands in rural areas, where most agricultural land are found, and the former to land in urban areas. While the statutory rights are often granted with the issuance of a Certificate of Occupancy, the customary rights, which are governed through customary laws and practices, are predominantly characterized by land transfers from ancestors to their descendants through inheritance. Whereas the Local Government Councils are empowered by the law to grant the customary rights, the right is rarely titled, thus limiting ability of holders of customary rights on land in Nigeria to use such land as collateral for loan. The lands are also often prone to unfair expropriation by the Elites in government. These notwithstanding, most lands held under customary rights are often freely transferred through direct inheritance, sales, leases, and other arrangements, with the associated LTPRs being de facto secure in many cases.
Most studies on LTPRs security, such as Bandiera (2007), Michler and Shively (2014), Ogundari and Awokuse (2016), and Caulfield et al. (2020), among others, often narrowly examine security of LTPRs from de jure secure perspective. An exception is Xianlei et al. (2017) in China, who however, reported that issuance of land certificates to rural households promoted temporary migration and part-time farming, and negatively impacted TE. A similar study in Nigeria by Shittu et al. (2018), revealed that those who hold de jure secure title on agricultural land, are not significantly more willing to accept incentives to adopt measures to combat land degradation, which was unlike those who hold de facto secure title on land through inheritance and land purchase. These were reported to be significantly more willing to accept incentives to adopt measures to combat land degradation. Further interrogation revealed that that most those that have gone the full length of securing statutory rights on agricultural lands are those seeking to resell and/or convert the land to other uses.
Against the above background, and most especially against the rising clamour for land reform in Africa, and Nigeria in particular, urgent needs arise to empirically examine LTPRs patterns among rural farm households and the impacts on livelihood outcomes. Specifically, the study comparatively examined livelihood outcomes of smallholder farmers that have de facto and de jure secure title to their farmlands, the LTPRs to which include use, control, and transfer rights as against those whose rights do not include the transfer rights. The latter include famers that leased or used communal/family lands, while those with de facto secure titles are those that inherited and/or purchased their farmland without securing a statutory right of occupancy on such as it is the case with those with de jure secure title.
The study was based on data from the four waves of the General Household Survey (GHS) – Panel (2010 – 2019) in Nigeria conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in collaboration with the World Bank Living Standard Measurement Study (LSMS) team. The outcome variables include household food security (HFS), poverty status, and access to credit while plot size, extent of LTPRs/mode of farmland acquisition, and land titling as well as livelihood asses and some socio-economic variables, among others, were the explanatory variables. HFS was measured using the USDA’s – 18 questions household food security modules as well as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) guidelines for measuring Household Dietary Diversity (HDD) while poverty status was determined using the Foster–Greer–Thorbecke indices. The HFS, poverty status, and access to credit were analysed within the framework of random effect logit.
Preliminary results show that about two-fifths (42.2%) of the smallholder farmers in Nigeria cultivate farmlands on which they enjoy at least a de facto secure LTPRs – with about one-third (33.6%) cultivating personally inherited farmland and a few (8.6%) purchased farmland, while only 5.6% had a registered survey and/or statutory certificate of occupancy on their farmland. Majority (57.8) cultivates communal/family land (48.1%) or leased land (9.7%). Significant gender differences exist in the LTPRs of men and women, with a relatively larger percentage of women cultivating communal or leased land than their male counterparts. Farmers with de facto secure LTPRs had significantly lower access to credit than their counterparts with de jure secure title, whose households are also significantly more likely to be food secure and be a non-poor. Their livelihood outcomes were however significantly much better than what obtains among households that lacks any form of secure LTPRs. The evidence supports the need to lay more emphasis on promoting the recognition and entitling of customary rights that rural people have on their lands than the more expensive/difficult route of granting statutory rights.
Selling a birth right: the curse of a land policy among customary land holders in Zambia
Namibia University of Science and Technology, Namibia;
Land policies in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) are claimed to play a crucial role in promoting sustainable growth, good governance, and enhancing the well-being and economic opportunities of rural communities (Chamberlin & Ricker-Gilbert, 2016; K. Deininger & Binswanger, 1999; K. W. Deininger, 2003). According to scholars and development agencies, land policies are lauded to enhance tenure security, establish mechanisms for distributing land rights, promote social stability, and provide a foundation for economic development (USAID, 2012).
An avenue through which land policies are implemented are land markets. Land markets, where land rights are transferred temporarily or permanently, are considered crucial for redistributing land to more efficient users. This redistribution enhances productivity and economic welfare. This view assumes that any undesirable effects attributed to land markets such as landlessness of the poor, results from failures of markets (Colin & Woodhouse,2010). Studies have shown that one of the challenges to the implementation of land policies is the process of policy development itself. This is attributed to the desktop research that leads to quick fixes producing policy prescriptions that do not answer to the needs of communities who depend on land resources for their livelihoods (AU, 2009).
To this end, there is a growing body of research on the nature of land markets on customary land in developing countries (Chimhowu & Woodhouse, 2005; Chitonge et al., 2017). Specifically, there have been limited studies that examine the conversion of customary land into leasehold tenure and its associated concerns (Chitonge et al., 2017). However, an area needing further inquiry is how land policy implementation could be informed by understanding the decision-making process of customary landowners and the associated consequences of those choices. This exploratory study imports insights from behavioural sciences to understand the social and economic choices available to customary landowners and particularly the consequences of customary land selling (Berndt, 2015; Hoff & Stiglitz, 2016). Human conduct and the elements that influence it, according to Reddy et al., (2017), are complicated. To change even a somewhat focused behaviour, such as reduction in cutting down trees, several actors’ behaviours must be changed, and often coordinated. This includes modifying the behaviours of all actors who are linked or related to the problem at hand. This is because the action of any one actor is influenced by the behaviour of others as well as various internal and external influences, some of which are not easily visible. As a result, values, beliefs, attitudes, preferences, habits, costs and benefits, technology, social norms, regulations, laws, and institutions can all interact to impact the behaviour of people and the choices they make.
Like in other domains, there is hope that the field of behavioural sciences can play a crucial role in reducing rural landlessness by systematically identifying unintended policy triggers and determining effective strategies to address them. It is common cause that behavioural sciences have been utilised in various fields such as health and savings to shape policy. However, their potential in enhancing customary tenure security remains largely unexplored.
Using a grounded theory framework, I propose a set of five guiding questions for the application of behavioural insights to informing land policy, particularly in relation to customary land markets. These questions assist in framing the issue of excessive sale of customary land as a problem related to behaviour change. The questions aim to comprehend the underlying behavioural mechanisms and determine suitable approaches for promoting behaviour change, such as raising awareness, providing incentives, and utilising nudges. Additionally, the questions aim to assess and modify these approaches based on newly acquired insights into human behaviour.
To investigate the determinants of land sale decisions among customary landowners, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 103 landowners in Situmbeko village, Zambia. The analysis of the interview transcripts reveals four recurring themes in the decisions of landowners. Firstly, the decisions to sell customary land is primarily motivated by external private individuals or businesses seeking to convert customary land into statutory land, as stated by the Zambian National Land Policy of 2021. Second, customary land sales generate financial incentives for traditional authorities, as well as local and national government, through the collection of administrative fees and mandatory statutory fees. Third, contrary to common predictions, customary landowners who are believed to rely on land resources for their livelihood are in fact willing to sell their land readily. Fourth, the current policy environment invariably promotes landowners to act in ways that are inconsistent with the expected standards of preserving their land assets. The study’s findings can inform revisions to the land policy in rural areas of Zambia, with the aim of better serving the interests of customary landowners.
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