By Keziah Auma
At a hybrid press conference from Nairobi, International Land Coalition (ILC) Africa displays its plan for protecting community land rights environmental defenders—the first of its kind on the continent
ILC Africa has reiterated that Africa Land Forum 2021 taking place October 26-28 under the theme “Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Africa through partnerships for inclusive land governance” will mobilize different stakeholders to protect the land rights of communities and users.
The platform that counts 76 members in 26 countries said it would bring together the region’s actors on land governance, including rural communities and women, to explore opportunities, and design new ways of addressing land-based communal violence, famine and climate change.
Protecting women’s land rights is a top priority for Africa and the world.
“We work for half of the world’s population, which are women; where land rights are respected, women’s income goes up 3.8 times higher, and everybody benefits including households,” Mike Taylor, ILC Director said from Rome. “I have never met any government official that denies women’s land rights.”
The Forum will provide an opportunity to assess the strength of partnerships in the face of emerging needs in people-centred land governance. “The 2021 Forum will strengthen existing partnerships on land rights. We will introduce our national platforms, drivers of the SDGs at the country level, through a multistakeholder approach,” Audace Kubwimana, ILC Africa Regional Coordinator said.
The African Union declared the Year 2021 as “The AU Year of the Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”. Land is part of Africa’s cultural heritage. Africa’s art and cultural heritage will help forge regional cooperation and foster innovative and bold solutions to regain the drawbacks from COVID-19.
“Demographic changes and conflict on the continent are making us re-think how land can be better used, leveraging our cultural identity, to advance the progress of Member States,” said Dr. Janet Edeme, Head of the African Union Commission’s Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Development. “For us land is more than an economic resource; it is part of our history. The African Union Commission hopes that our collaboration with International Land Coalition in Africa will help realise the Africa We Want.”
Regional Economic Communities play their role in advancing the AU’s mandate on land governance. The Intergovernmental Authority for Development (IGAD) has been walking the road with ILC to guarantee people-centred land governance, but more remains to be done.
“The IGAD region is the most conflict-prone region of Africa, with high levels of land degradation and climate change. We want to use the two most important resources we have which is land, on the one hand, and people, on the other, to improve the standard of living of the people in the IGAD region,” Esther Obaikol, Land Governance Expert at IGAD said.
Indigenous Peoples have been experiencing intensive land grabbing over the past few years. For activist Amina Amharech, “Policies based on colonial laws do not respect the rights of indigenous peoples. Today just 1% of land is occupied by Indigenous Peoples in the world. Farming activities for Indigenous Peoples do not go beyond 2 hectares. They cannot realise the SDGs with this. I am hoping that the Forum will also address this.”
With the murder of Joannah Stutchbury, the plight of environmental and land defenders became a burning issue. “Through Natural Justice, ILC Africa has set up the African Environmental Defenders Fund, a platform that enables defenders to highlight their plight and receive support. The same applies to communities as they strive to defend themselves. It is the only such resource on the continent today,” said Samuel Nguiffo, representing ILC Africa members.
ILC Africa’s broader work extends to participatory rangelands management, youth access to land, family farming, data development in the land sector, ecosystems, food systems, to name but a few.
ILC Africa also said that this year’s Forum will be a pre-event of the 2021 Conference on Land Policy in Africa.