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Conference on Land Policy in Africa: re-thinking land reform


Improving the agrarian system to ensure a decent livelihood for small farmers was the focus of the deliberations during a session entitled “Re-thinking land reform in Africa: New ideas, possibilities and challenges” at the 3rd Conference on Land Policy in Africa taking place in Abidjan.

As Horman Chitongue, Professor at University of Cape Town, South Africa, stated: “It’s a question of guaranteeing the means for people working the land to have a livelihood from it, so that these farmers can not only work, but actually live from their work.”  

The panel was composed of other academics such as Liz Alden Wily, political economist specialising in land and Sheila Khama, a consultant at the African Development Bank.

“Still today, only 10% of land in Africa belongs to the private sector and only 11% is dedicated to agriculture. Do African governments realise that this century must deliver a new agrarian system?  The system is still a traditional one, although we are at a turning point of   industrialisation. How can economic growth be created in such conditions?” Wily questioned.

According to the panel, a long-term vision is required to end illegal land appropriation. Historically, agrarian reforms occur during a country’s development phase; that is, change in the institutional, production and land redistribution framework. African States should prioritise an empirical approach to agrarian reform, she said.

For Horman Chitongue, “The objective is to improve land management through good governance. Currently, land is not productive because of bad governance in Africa”. Both agreed that institutions must be enhanced to monitor and implement land sector reforms.

The session also discussed participatory governance in the land sector.

Horman Chitongue said:  “The role of the people in this process is the key element of success. Governance cannot occur without the people themselves. They must be involved and their concerns taken on board. Furthermore, traditional leaders should be involved in managing land policy.”

The Conference on Land Policy in Africa is a joint initiative of the African Union, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa and the African Development Bank. This year’s theme is “Winning the Fight against Corruption in the Land Sector: Sustainable Pathways for Africa’s Transformation”.  It brings together researchers, academics, international experts and key figures from around the world to debate, in round tables and workshops, the key issues of land and corruption in Africa.

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