Nairobi Action Plan to Promote Land-Based Investments that Benefit Africa

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Participants at a two-day High-Level Forum on Foreign Direct Investments in Land in Africa resolved to promote land-based investment models that increase agricultural productivity and maximize opportunities for Africa’s farmers.

The traditional leaders, government representatives, private sector and civil society actors at the forum stressed that the majority of Africans derive their livelihoods from agriculture, including pastoralism, and that women comprise the majority of smallholder farmers.

The outcome - dubbed the Nairobi Action Plan - emphasizes the need to minimize the negative impacts of large-scale land acquisitions.

The forum came in the wake of what former Botswanan president, Festus Mogae,  referred to as “dramatic trends in large acquisitions of land by multinationals for agricultural purposes as they seek to assure food security for industrialized nations.” In many circles, this trend is equivalent to land-grabbing.

The Kenyan Minister for Lands, Mr. James Orengo, told the forum that Africa’s exports to the world market had declined remarkably in the last 10 years, mainly due to protectionist policies adopted by the industrialized countries.

“This is the crux of the scramble for Africa’s arable land, as it is now apparently clear, that industrialized countries are willing to receive agricultural exports from Africa, only when such products are produced by their own multinationals.”

Minister Orengo said that, in Kenya, excessive fragmentation of land and encroachment into marginal areas had resulted in low productivity and severe land degradation. This, he added: “has culminated in high competition for the dwindling resources and eruption of violent conflicts.”

The Kenyan government has had to step in to stop the leasing of large tracts of land to investors without exhaustive consultations with the local people, and in consideration of the need to harmonize land laws with the National Land Policy and the Constitution.

The forum agreed to promote assessments of past and on-going large-scale investments within the next year, and that the assessments will be gender- differentiated and will assess the impact on poverty. The move is aimed at supporting evidence-based advocacy to promote profitable, equitable and sustainable land-based investments.

The forum also agreed to establish, in the next two years, a monitoring and reporting mechanism for tracking large-scale land-based investments, and to ensure that these ventures are beneficial to national economic development and local communities. In this regard, they agreed to pay special attention to women’s land rights.

Further, they agreed to develop principles that encourage sound and sustainable investments in land, and guide fiscal policy in this regard within six months.

In the medium term, efforts will be made to implement land policies that facilitate equitable access and secure the rights of communities –including women, investors, both local and foreign.

Mr Mogae chairs the Coalition for Dialogue on Africa (CoDA), which creates a forum for discussions on issues that “may be controversial and where the usual policy processes may not yet have a sharp enough focus.”

The forum was convened by the Land Policy Initiative (LPI), which comprises the African Development Bank, African Union Commission and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

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