BRUSSELS, Kingdom of Belgium, April 9, 2014/African Press Organization (APO)/ — A new programme worth €33 million to improve land governance and help improve the food and nutrition security of family farmers and vulnerable communities in Sub Saharan Africa, was announced today by Development Commissioner, Andris Piebalgs. This will be done, among other things, through the application, at country level, of some Voluntary Guidelines set up by the international community in 2012 to improve land governance.
Roughly 1.2 billion people worldwide live without permanent homes, land access or formal property rights, a reason which is often used for their land to be attributed to large scale land investors. Therefore, land governance issues are strongly linked to key challenges such as food scarcity, water shortages or urban and population growth.
Speaking ahead of the high level conference on land tenure, due to take place today at the European Parliament in the presence of President Blaise Comparoe of Burkina Faso, Commissioner Piebalgs said: “I am convinced that these land tenure guidelines, which recognise farmers’ ownership and access rights, are essential to achieve efficient, sustainable and inclusive agriculture, and to promoting human rights and peace in society. This new programme will help farmers, and specially women, to make a living and feed their families, without fear of losing their property.”
Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Cioloș, who will also attend today’s event, added: “Improving land tenure management is a key challenge to strengthen family farms, encourage investments in agriculture and increase food security. We need to support African countries concretely by sharing our experience in this field to make sure that guidelines and voluntary processes are translated into national legislation or into standard contracts for local governments.”
Other activities of this new programme include:
• the development of new land registration tools and digital land registry techniques for example through satellite images
• support to local organisations and civil society groups in making farmer groups (particularly women and young people) aware of their land rights so they are able to maintain them
• formalisation measures will be put in place to make land use legitimate; e.g. the provision of property deeds and relevant documentation to recognise land rights
The programme will be rolled out across ten African countries: Angola, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan and Swaziland.
The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) contributes to the in-country implementation of the programme: in Somalia, it will carry out an in-depth assessment on territorial rights and will set up strategies on land management. In Kenya it will review and harmonise the national strategies, policies and legislation required for strengthening of institutions and for the building up of future strategies.
Ahead of the event, Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director General of the FAO said: “Any solutions for eradicating poverty must examine the ties between rights, entitlements, opportunities and poverty, with a special emphasis on empowering the most vulnerable. Only an empowered population, with secure rights and a stake in their future can move a nation forward and transform natural assets into wealth.”
The concept of this programme is to apply at country level the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT), adopted by the Committee of World Food Security (CFS) in 2012. They were seen as a major step forward by the international community to improve land governance at a global level.
Land governance is a particular challenge in many developing countries; particularly for smallholder farmers who often struggle to gain recognition for a communal area or agricultural investments. Many countries suffer from the lack of a transparent and effective land ownership system, with no public registration system. Fragile states are particularly volatile in terms of land tenure. Setting up a clear legislative framework for land registration and governance in this context is crucial.
The issue of land ownership will become increasingly important as the world population is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050. Additional pressure is put on land through food and biofuel production, as well as the importance of preserving forest basins and climate change.
Today’s ‘High-Level Conference on Property Rights: Land Tenure Security, the Missing Key to Eradicating Poverty’ will be hosted by Commissioner Piebalgs and MEP Nirj Deva at the European Parliament, from 2pm-7pm. Other high level invitees included President Blaise Compaore of Burkina Faso, Dacian Cioloș, European Commissioner for Agriculture, HE Raymond Tschibanda, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo, HE Pierre Mabiala, Minister for Land Affairs and Public Domain, The Republic of Congo, HE Mamadou Sangafowa Coulibaly, Minister of Agriculture, The Ivory Coast, Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director General FAO and Klaus Deininger, Lead Economist at the World Bank.
Today’s event marks ten years of strategic cooperation between the EU and the FAO.