On September 12–14, 2023, the African Land Institutions Network for Community Rights (ALIN) is holding its 4th regional conference to scale up implementation of community land rights across the continent.
Organized by RRI in collaboration with the Government of Tanzania’s Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development, Tanzania Land Alliance, and the Tanzanian Forest Conservation Group, the conference capitalizes on commitments made and lessons learned at previous meetings in Ghana (2017), Madagascar (2019), and Togo (2021).
In July 2009, the African Union Commission, the Economic Commission for Africa, and the African Development Bank adopted the Land Policy Framework and Guidelines with the objective of securing land rights and improving the livelihood of Africans. Since then, progressive laws and initiatives have emerged in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, and Togo among others. Thousands of communities have secured formal land titles through these new laws. These successes would not have been possible without national land institutions keeping governments accountable for commitments made at local, national, and regional levels.
However, despite best efforts, many of these laws have yet to be implemented, and few opportunities exist for regular peer-to-peer exchanges between national land institutions across African countries. Within this context, RRI, the African Land Policy Centre, and the Government of Ghana facilitated the first-ever regional meeting of national land institutions on community land rights in Ghana in 2017. Since then, senior officials from over a dozen African countries, civil society, and international organizations have met bi-annually to share best practices, exchange opportunities and challenges, and identify pathways to advance Africa’s community land rights. Learn more about ALIN on our blog!
The 4th National Land Institutions on Securing Community Land Rights in Africa got underway this morning in beautiful Arusha, Tanzania near Mount Meru, Africa’s fifth-highest mountain peak!
Following a warm welcome from Tanzania’s Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development and an exuberant song and dance performances by the local Maasai, the Deputy PM of Tanzania, Hon. Doto Mashaka Biteko declared the conference as officially open.
His address lauded the unique opportunity ALIN provides to African countries and their land institutions to learn from each others’ legal policies and frameworks on land rights. The Deputy PM encouraged participants to share critiques of Tanzania’s legal frameworks and to share feedback with the Ministry for Land and Housing.
He also urged participants to discuss mobilization of financial resources that can help African countries to achieve their development goals through the land sector. “I hope this conference will prepare actionable objectives and also reflect on previous discussions on this subject in previous ALIN conferences,” he said.
“This is our opportunity to learn from each other, to be a teacher to other African countries as well as assess where we have not done well and improve.” – Hon. Doto Mashaka Biteko
The inaugural session set the stage for the conference discussions with facilitation from leading land expert Hubert Ouedraogo (Burkina Faso). The session presenters included RRI Coordinator Solange Bandiaky-Badji (Senegal/U.S.) and Africa Program Director Patrick Kipalu (DRC); Landesa’s Africa Regional Director Everlyne Nairesiae (Kenya); and Dr. Liz Alden Wily, RRI Fellow and independent land tenure expert.
Liz Wily explained to the audience the 30×30 target to formally protect at least 30 percent of lands by 2030, agreed upon by 180 countries She noted that Africa has tremendous advantages in making major contribution to this target, given its large number of Indigenous and local communities (about 200 to 250,000 in number) who claim its natural ecosystems. She said these communities have the single greatest incentive to conserve lands: their whole identity, way of life, livelihoods depend on them. She also pointed out that research shows that communal natural resources tend to function poorly when divided into smaller, individual plots.
Dr. Solange Bandiaky-Badji provided a global overview of community land rights in countries where RRI trackes community land tenure, and their vital role in achieving global climate and conservation goals. She emphasized the role of Indigenous and local communities as essential counterparties to new conservation and sustainable development models in Africa, saying they are more prepared and empowered than ever to take on the role.
“There are simply no logical grounds to secure conservation by displacing local communities.” – Liz Wily
Patrick Kipalu shared several recent laws in African countries that provide strong models for progressive land reform, but most of these laws await complete implementation to achieve real impact. Patrick highlighted the need to adapt rights-based objectives for all land reforms, investment in regional and subregional land institutions, and creating multi sector platforms that create spaces for private sector and communities to work together.
Everlyne Nairesiae introduced RRI Partner Landesa’s work, which focuses on promoting land rights for marginalized populations, particularly women. Her remarks emphasized the importance of creating an enabling environment for governments to promote investment in community land rights. She noted that secure community rights provide the best path to maximizing the benefits of private sector investments for all parties. She also shared the example of her home country Kenya’s Community Land Rights Act of 2016, which revolutionized women’s ownership rights in Kenya, allowing local community women like herself register land in their name for the first time.
“Private investors who don’t want to engage with communities should know that their investments will eventually be at risk, even if the government is powerful.” – Everlyne Nairesiae
Session 1 of the conference was led by Mathew Nhonge, Land Commissioner for Tanzania’s Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development and his team. They introduced the current land governance framework for sustainable land administration in Tanzania and how these laws have evolved. Going forward, they emphasized the importance of investment in technology and decentralization at local levels for the Ministry to ensure the land sector is vibrant and functions properly.
Dr. Baraka Kanyabuhiya, a lecturer at the UDSM Department of Law shared the current status of women and youth’s legal access to land in Tanzanian law. He noted various articles in Tanzania Land Governance Act 1999 and the constitution that recognize women’s right to own land and prohibit gender discrimination in property inheritance and ownership (such as in survivorship for widowed women). On youth, Dr. Baraka shared a few specific provisions in Tanzania’s agricultural laws to promote youth ownership, but said that the country needs a harmonized definition of youth to broaden its scope and provisions.
Beatha Mborow (FAO) and Godfrey Massay (Landesa Tanzania) gave a joint presentation on women’s access to land. Godfrey shared the enormous benefits for communities and families when women have land tenure security. These include stronger participation in decision making, politics, and leadership positions, as well as greater protection from domestic violence. He also highlighted their challenges around limited knowledge of laws, restrictive customs, and various systemic issues preventing them from claiming and owning land.
Beatha shared the role of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization in building momentum to advance women’s land rights. She mentioned FAO’s support for the Africa-focused Stand for Her Land campaign and plans to work with the Tanzanian government to make information more easily accessible to women on laws that relate to them. She lauded ALIN as a key opportunity for FAO and civil society organizations to interact with government officials and learn and share.
Innocent Antoine Houedji (Benin), a leader from the Youth Initiative for Land in Africa, talked about youth’s current access to land in Africa. Innocent noted that youth in Africa forms 54% of its agricultural workforce and a majority of its population. He shared results from an informal 2021 survey conducted by YILAA in 20 African countries, results from which have helped the network produce recommendations for governments to improve youth’s role in land governance and decisions. Innocent noted the importance of local governments in helping young people gain ownership of land for agriculture, and investment in their own programs for land mapping and training in land governance. Innocent also shared key current platforms and campaigns on land rights for youth to engage globally and regionally.
The final presentation from Makko Sinandei (Tanzania) of the Ujamaa Community Resource Team (UCRT) shared recent insights from his organization’s work with pastoralist communities to secure tenure, tracing Tanzania’s current technical process to secure community land rights. He explained how this process could work for communities like pastoralists, who face growing challenges from protected areas, land use changes, and climate change.
Makko shared a case study where UCRT helped two villages resolve conflict by helping them use their own traditional village councils and creating land use surveys to secure customary rights of occupancy (CCROs) from the government, as well as village land use plans and cross-border village grazing agreements. He also described the holistic rangeland management approach for ecologically regenerative and cost-efficient management of grasslands, which involves community monitoring and traditional conservation techniques (e.g., bunching of animals to reduce water surface run off in soil).
“There is a need to harmonize the wildlife corridors and certified communal areas. We must create an integrated approach that promotes co-existence between livelihoods and wildlife conservation.” – Makko Sinandei, UCRT
Session 1 ended with a panel discussion on conservation, land management, and preservation of community land rights in Tanzania. Dr. Stephen Nindi of TAWIRI; Charles Mecshack, Tanzania Forest Conservation Group; and land tenure expert Liz Wily focused their discussion on the urgency of adapting inclusive conservation models over obsolete colonial models that continue to displace communities. They illustrated the challenge of ensuring sustainable land governance by communities in the context of continued heavy investment into protectionary conservation, and provided recommendations for Africa’s governments to achieve this.
“Land policy reform and helping communities determine land use is necessary because land population is increasing along with demand for agriculture. Conservation must be a long term vision. We need to provide knowledge and resources to communities to achieve it.” – Charles Mecshack, Tanzania Forest Conservation Group
“Tanzania has potential to improve its policies by making them more inclusivey. I encourage the Government to continue working closely with communities, as well as civil society organizations and private sector to achieve this, as inclusive, participatory policies involving communities on ground level require huge resources and state of the art technology.” – Dr. Stephen Nindi, TAWIRI
“Governments need to make massive investment in community conserved areas. That’s where the missing piece in conservation lies.” – Liz Wily
We began day 2 on a rainy morning in Arusha by exploring how national and regional institutions can strengthen community land rights in their respective roles.
Tanzania National Business Council’s Dr. Goodwill George Wanga and Joseph Shewiya of Tanzania’s Land Tenure Improvement Project shared their experiences on using land as a stimulant for economic development in Africa. The Tanzania Land Tenure Improvement Project plans to improve land information management in the country by rolling out a new system to regional land and district offices, equipping them with technology to switch to digital mapping, strengthen their geodetic reference systems, and formulating new land value sharing guidelines.
This session included two panel discussions:
a. Regional institutions’ role in land governance
Judy Kariuki talked about the Africa Land Policy Center plans to ensure communities are not negatively impacted by land-based investments. She talked about the center’s work on training governments on negotiating land projects to ensure community participation and promoting women’s land rights in particular.
Maria Saguti Marealle talked about mainstreaming land issues across the AfDB’s projects by evaluating the role of land and how land issues affect its projects. She mentioned community land rights has been identified as a powerful challenge for land projects in Africa, and AfDB has developed guidelines to ensure that community impacts are minimized. Maria also noted a need for better inter-sectoral coordination between land-based projects funded by AfDB, especially between ministries before new projects are launched.
“Community land rights has been identified as a powerful challenge for land projects in Africa, and AfDB has developed guidelines to ensure that community impacts are minimized.” – Maria Saguti Marealle
Mukongo Shabantu Remi noted that ECCAS is supporting several regional Indigenous networks to strengthen community land rights, including REPALEAC, a youth network in Central Africa, community women’s networks as well as of corporations who are dealing with natural resources.
Dominico Kilo introduced his program, NELGA, which is supported by German aid agency GIZ and aims to implement the African Union’s land agenda. Dominico emphasized the need for governments to collaborate with local universities to help design and implement land projects to leverage on research as a tool for development.
b. Role of national institutions in strengthening community land governance
The second panel was joined by representatives of national land institutions from Madagascar, the DRC, and Tanzania, who each shared the evolution of land laws in their countries to strengthen community rights. They also shed light on what their ministries need to perform better and translate progressive land policies into action.
Simplice Mutombo Rubuz, who represents the DRC’s National Land Reform Commission (CONAREF in French), said the current government has been especially attentive to the land sector’s needs. In a resource rich country like the DRC where land contributes significantly to national revenue, land institutions require significant resources to serve communities. He particularly emphasized a need to invest in sensitizing local level officials on the content of new land policies because they are the ones doing the work on the ground with communities.
“There is a need to invest in sensitizing local level officials on the content of new land policies because they are the ones doing the work on the ground with communities.” – Simplice Mutombo Rubuz, CONAREF, DRC
The Madagascar delegate shared that his government is working to finalize a new policy that recognize customary land by October, since while Madagascar has a customary law, it’s not formally recognized by the government yet. She also shared that the country’s land ministry requires financial support as well in training and building capacity on land governance, especially now that it will be implementing the customary land policy.
The Tanzania delegate shared that village land use planning in the country needs more support, given that there are 12,318 villages in Tanzania. He also emphasized the need to improve ICT (information and communications technology) for better documentation of land use data, plans, and mapping.
Delegates from national land institutions across Africa shared their institutions’ functions, roles, challenges and plans for reforms. The delegates included:
The delegates shared that implementing community titling processes is a key priority for all of their land institutions to protect rural lands from encroachment and conflict. But beyond that, the extent of their roles vary across countries. For example, in Ethiopia, the ministry’s primary role is to resolve rural tenure insecurity for pastoralist and other communities by helping them register their lands, since tenure insecurity in Ethiopia is a major cause of conflicts.
In Liberia however, the Liberia Land Authority is a one stop shop for all land administration and implementation of laws to avoid multiplicity of functions across ministries. Its functions range from managing public land information system to surveys, zoning, and claim administration to advance implementation of the groundbreaking Liberia Land Rights Act of 2018.
The participants also shared many common obstacles that come in the way of efficient and effective implementation of their agendas. They mentioned weak institutional capacity for national roll outs of laws, challenges in sensitizing communities on land policies, and lack of financing for infrastructure to document and issue claims, which for some ministries like Sierra Leone’s means extra reliance on donor funding.
For the DRC land ministry, sensitizing Indigenous communities on the country’s recent progressive land policies is a major logistical challenge given the country’s vast size and widespread communities.
Abebaw from the Ethiopian land ministry also identified a lack of clear legal definition for communities in his country, which is something Tanzania has had experience in and can guide their Ethiopian peers on. In Malawi, land ministry officials also run into power struggles with community chiefs due to lack of information or fear of losing control. Ouattara Nanakan of Ivory Coast highlighted a need for legislators to clarify customary land rights policies, which are often challenging to translate into practice.
“In Ethiopia, there is a lack of clear legal definition for communities. This is something I am hoping to learn about from my Tanzanian colleagues today.” – Abebaw Abebe, Ethiopia
This session focused on tracking the status of legislative land reform and implementation in countries across Africa. Delegates from Kenya, DRC, Liberia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Malawi, Benin, Togo, Madagascar, Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone, and Tanzania shared their respective countries’ reforms.
This was followed by a round table on the steps needed to now advance implementation of these reforms, and initiatives supported by development partners to do so.
The development partners included Beatha Fabian of FAO, Margaret Rugadya of the Tenure Facility, and Dominico Kilo of GIZ, who engaged directly with representatives of land institutions to hear their concerns and respond to them. They all also agreed on the need for a donor working group that could help identify and learn from the common issues facing land institutions in implementing their community land rights agendas.
Margeret from the Tenure Facility, a funding mechanism for land tenure projects launched by RRI, said that it is important for donors to first understand what’s being done on the ground and support scaling up of existing projects instead of always investing in new ones.
The final session of the day presented an opportunity for participants to engage in a rich discussion with each other to share their takeaways from the meeting so far, on practical steps that land institutions can take to ensure secure community land rights. Some of these recommendations were: