The international NGO Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) has released two reports, examining land transactions in West and Central Africa, which have implications for what is happening across the continent.
They say governments are often dangerously split, with one ministry moving to protect rural land rights, while another is busy selling it off to agribusiness and mining. A good example of what is going on can be seen in Cameroon, according to Samuel Nguiffo, Secretary General of the Center for Environment and Development (CED), Cameroon.
He says, "the slow pace of good intentions–the efforts to protect communities of subsistence farmers who have no wealth except for the land that they cultivate–has been overtaken by greed and power. Real economic development brings wealth to all, not just the elite."
Similarly, In Liberia, the Community Rights Law (CRL) of 2009 was hailed as a major breakthrough for the region because it recognized customary ownership of land.
But large-scale developments are already planned for nearly three quarters of the country, meaning these rights may not be worth the paper they are written on. Other examples are present in Ghana, where a project converting forest and crop land into jatropha (a plant used to make biodiesel) plantations resulted in harsh migrant-native farmer conflicts over lost jobs and income, along with the clearing of 780 hectares.
And in Rwanda, a Ugandan sugar company converted 3,150 hectares of swampland used for food and cash crops into sugar cane fields–in contravention of promises it when it acquired the land. Thousands of local people who were pushed into low-paying jobs as a result responded with violence and arson.