Land institutions from 11 countries shared lived experiences, opportunities, and challenges to advancing African communities’ land rights, with a focus on the women, youth, and pastoralists among them; the meeting was a unique opportunity for national land institutions to engage with each other as well development finance partners and civil society; the event is held under the umbrella of the African Land Institutions Network for Community Rights (ALIN), created by the Rights and Resources Initiative (https://www.RightsandResources.org).
More than 100 participants from 11 countries gathered in Arusha, Tanzania, this week for the 4th Conference of National Land Institutions in Africa, working to secure community land rights.
The participants produced a final declaration that strongly calls for African national governments to scale up financial and technical resources for national land institutions to implement progressive land policy reforms and help them secure customary communities’ land rights, particularly of the women and youth within these communities. Read the Declaration (https://apo-opa.info/44ULEFK).
The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) organizes the event bi-annually in collaboration with a host country and its collaborators. Tanzania was selected as host this year through its Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlement Development, in collaboration with the Tanzania Land Alliance and Tanzania Forest Conservation Group.
RRI is a global coalition of over 150 organizations working to advance the rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and Afro-descendant Peoples across the global South. RRI’s recent research shows Africa saw the greatest increase in legal recognition of community land rights globally—an increase of 12% between 2015 and 2020, but many of these laws have yet to be implemented.
Tanzania’s Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Doto Mashaka Biteko, opened the conference and lauded the unique opportunity ALIN gives to African land institutions to learn from each other’s legal frameworks, institutions, systems, and approaches in policy making and implementation. He reminded the participants that Tanzania was chosen to host this conference because its land rights laws provide an exemplary model for Africa due to their recognition of customary community rights and promotion of a community-based system for managing rural land ownership.
“This is also our opportunity to be a teacher and learn from other African countries to see where we can improve our laws.”
He also advised the national land institutions in attendance to not hesitate to solicit funding from the development finance partners at the conference to promote the land sector in Africa.
Patrick Kipalu, Director of Africa Program at RRI, said: “Thousands of communities have secured their titles since the AU Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa, and AfDB adopted their Land Policy Framework and Guidelines to secure land rights. None of these successes would have been possible without national land institutions. They do the real work on the ground of translating policies into practice and keeping governments accountable for their commitments. However, implementation of most laws has been slow due to the challenges shared by our country delegates this week. We hope ALIN provided a place of reflection and peer to peer exchange to help them overcome some of these obstacles.”
Charles Meshack, Executive Director at Tanzania Forest Conservation Group (TFCG), said, “Clear and transparent land rights frameworks are essential for protecting the rights of local communities and promoting responsible land use. African National Land institutions must integrate climate considerations into land planning, promote sustainable agriculture, and establish protected areas to combat climate change and preserve biodiversity. Community engagement, technology, and international collaboration are pivotal for success on this critical journey.”
Bernard Baha, National Coordinator of Tanzania Land Alliance, said: “Tenure security for communal lands is paramount to secure community land rights. The law recognizes community lands in Tanzania, and we have seen different programs that now need upscaling. These include the joint village land use plans and group rights which must be applied in all places where customary communities own land communally.”
In his remarks during the closing ceremony, Baha also thanked RRI on behalf of TALA for placing its trust in Tanzania for holding this important conference, which has previously been hosted by Ghana (2017), Madagascar (2019), and Togo (2021).
In addition to land institutions, the conference was attended by representatives from the Africa Land Policy Center, UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the African Development Bank, the German development agency GIZ, and the Tenure Facility, a global fund to support implementation of progressist legal frameworks that recognize community tenure rights.
Maria Saguti Marealle, Chief Land Officer at the AfDB, said during a discussion on how development partners play their role in advancing community land rights. “Community land rights has been identified as a powerful challenge for land investment projects in Africa, and AfDB has developed guidelines to ensure that negative impacts on communities are minimized in all its projects.”
While delivering the final declaration of the participants, Hon. Atty. J. Adams Manobah, Sr., Chairman of the Liberia Land Authority, hailed this regional gathering of African institutions as a
celebration of the “spirit of African unity and resolve to protect and strengthen its customary communities” for national and regional development.
Dr. Solange Bandiaky-Badji, Coordinator of RRI and President of its secretariat, said, “As governments and regional institutions in Africa increasingly recognizing the security of Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities’ land rights as one of the critical drivers of social peace and sustainable economic development in Africa, we hope this conference provided a strategic opportunity to accelerate their commitments into action in the lead-up to the 2023 UN Climate Conference (CoP28). We hope this gathering will enable national land institutions to consolidate political will, mobilize resources, and establish a roadmap for scaling up law and policy implementation in their respective countries.”
Read the final declaration of the 4th ALIN Conference: https://apo-opa.info/44ULEFK
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).