The First Africa Land Forum (ALF) will take place in Yaoundé, Cameroon from 7-8 November 2012. This forum will bring together over 60 actors from several parts of Africa to exchange on the land rights of indigenous people and poor rural communities. It is therefore a unique opportunity for actors to explore policy options and strategies for rendering global, regional and national land policies more pro-poor, inclusive and responsive to the needs of marginalized communities and groups as a path to equitable development in Africa.
Global and Regional Context
In recent years, the demand for productive land has resurged as a result of the current global food and financial crises as well as increasing concerns about energy security. In many countries, carbon sequestration as a response to climate change has also contributed in a significant way to the pressure on land. This situation has rendered land an increasingly disputed and commoditized resource, thereby compromising poor rural people’s access to, and control over land.
Although the problem of insecure and poor land access is common to all rural poor communities, indigenous communities are suffering even more. Indigenous communities are victimized by non-inclusive land policies and governance practices. Their culture, mode of life and extremely poor representation in state systems result to their political, economic and social marginalization.
In Africa, a significant amount of arable land has been sold or leased to international and local investors who are anticipating greater gains from land deals and land-related investments. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that over 20 million hectares of agricultural land were acquired in Africa by international investors between 2007 and 2010. This strong global interest in Africa’s productive land as well as recent large-scale development initiatives (such as the establishment of protected areas and national parks, large-scale logging, mining, dam construction, oil drilling and pipeline construction) have increased the vulnerability of poor rural groups/communities who were already facing difficulties in accessing and owning land. At this level, indigenous people are again more affected than other rural poor communities. This is mainly because the indigenous peoples of Africa are mainly pastoralists and hunter-gatherers and the land they occupy and depend on for their livelihoods (which generally relate to, and play an important part in upholding their culture) is often considered as terra nullius (land belonging to no one). This land is therefore increasingly sold or leased to new investors and expropriated for the purpose of the above-mentioned development initiatives. This continuous dispossession of their land further impoverishes these indigenous communities and threatens their economic, social and cultural survival thereby alienating their right to economic, social and cultural development.
These changes and the increasing perception of land as a scarce resource have reshaped debates on global and national land policies and moved land to a higher position on the international policy agenda. While recognizing the significant progress made in land policy formulation at global, regional and national levels, it is clear that the new policies do not yet translate into real benefits for poor and marginalized African communities and vulnerable groups (such as indigenous people, women and youth). This is because in many African countries, these new policies are either not properly implemented or are implemented in ways that continue to hinder secure access to land for these communities and groups. For African women and youth, the situation is compounded by discriminatory customary rules.
Objectives of the Forum
- Demonstrate the importance of secure and equitable land access to the livelihoods of poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups in particular and to Africa’s socioeconomic advancement in general;
- Highlight the evidence for, and legitimacy of advocacy actions aimed at rendering global, regional and national land policies more responsive to the needs of poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups in Africa;
- Share land governance models, experiences and lessons in order to enhance regional, sub regional and national land policy/governance practices;
- Deliberate on land governance challenges and how these challenges affect development in Africa;
- Identify and propose governance models that can best advance Africa’s socioeconomic transformation;
- Identify concrete actions aimed at improving land policy formulation and implementation;
- Foster partnerships for advocacy aimed at enhancing the contribution of land governance to Africa’s socioeconomic transformation.