According to a new World Bank report, “Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity,” released yesterday, African countries and their communities could effectively end ‘land grabs,’ grow significantly more food across the region and transform development prospects if they can modernise the complex governance procedures that govern land ownership and management over the next decade.
Africa has the highest poverty rate in the world with 47.5 per cent of the population living below $1.25 (Sh108) a day.
“Despite abundant land and mineral wealth, Africa remains poor,” said Makhtar Diop, World Bank Vice-President for Africa.
He added, “Improving land governance is vital for achieving rapid economic growth and translating it into significantly less poverty and more opportunity for Africans, including women who make up 70 per cent of Africa’s farmers yet are locked out of land ownership due to customary laws,” he said, adding, “The status quo is unacceptable and must change so that all Africans can benefit from their land.”
The report notes that more than 90 per cent of Africa’s rural land is undocumented, making it highly vulnerable to land grabbing and expropriation with poor compensation.
However, based on encouraging evidence from country pilots such as Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda, the report suggests an action plan that could help revolutionise agricultural production, end land grabbing and eradicate extreme poverty in Africa.
The report suggests that Africa could finally realise the vast development promise of its land over the course of the next decade by championing reforms and investments to document all communal lands and prime lands that are individually owned.
The report says it would cost African countries and their development partners, including the private sector, $4.5 billion over 10 years to scale up policy reforms and investments.
“Improving the performance and productivity of Africa’s agricultural sector is vital for broad-based growth, more jobs, investment and substantially less poverty,” said Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Sustainable Development in Africa.
Turkana springs to life as hunger and poverty fight gets boost
Posted Thursday, July 25 2013 at 21:59
- Turkana senator John Munyes says although the people have benefited from the contributions by fellow Kenyans to uplift their livelihoods, challenges persist in accessing markets due to lack of vehicles and smooth road network.
crops and some families are already minting cash.
The greenhouses are the size of a basketball court, and are shared between two households.
Small farmers can make the most of Africa's land
January 18, 2012 - FSE, FSI Stanford News
By Kate Johnson
But Kenya – and other underfed countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa – have more than enough land to grow the food needed for their hungry populations.
The juxtaposition of food deprivation and land abundance boils down to a failure of national agriculture policies, says Thom Jayne, professor of international development at Michigan State University. Governments haven’t helped small farmers acquire rights to uncultivated land or use the land they own more productively, he said.
Speaking earlier this month at a symposium organized by the Center on Food Security and the Environment, Jayne said lifting African farmers out of poverty will require a new development approach.
The focus, he said, should be on increasing smallholder output and putting idle land to work in the hands of the rural poor.
Much of Sub-Saharan Africa’s fertile land, Jayne explained, falls under the ownership of state governments or wealthy investors who leave large tracts of land unplanted.
Meanwhile, population density in many rural areas exceeds the estimated carrying capacity for rainfed agriculture – approximately 500 persons per square kilometer, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. Above this density threshold, farm sizes become so small, farming becomes economically unsustainable.
“As farm size shrinks, it’s increasingly difficult to produce a surplus,” Jayne said. “As it’s difficult to produce a surplus, it becomes difficult to finance investments in fertilizer and other inputs that could help you intensify.”
Agricultural development policies, Jayne said, have exacerbated these problems. One Zambian fertilizer subsidy program, for example, delivered support payments to over 50 percent of farms greater than five hectares in size – but only reached 14 percent of farmers whose holdings measured one hectare or smaller.
“This was a poverty reduction program that was targeted to large farms,” Jayne said. “Where’re the allocations to R&D appropriate to one hectare farms, tsetse fly control, vet services, all the things that are going to make that one hectare farm more productive?”
He stressed that investments in small farms could reduce poverty.
“Fifty to seventy percent of the population in these countries is engaged in agriculture,” he said. “There aren’t very many levers to reduce poverty and get growth processes going except to focus on the activities that that fifty to seventy percent are primarily engaged in.”
Smallholder-based growth strategies delivered stunning results in Green Revolution-era India – while large-farm strategies in Latin American countries have largely failed to alleviate rural poverty, he said.
Symposium commentator Byerlee, a rural policy expert and former lead economist for the World Bank, agreed with Jayne. In particular, Byerlee expressed skepticism about the benefit of large land investments by foreign agricultural interests.
“The social impacts aren’t going to be very much,” he said of the large-scale mechanized farming operations favored by foreign investors.
“They don’t create many jobs,” he said. “That’s really what we should be focusing on in terms of poverty reduction – job creation.”
Byerlee also stressed the need to formalize Sub-Saharan Africa’s land tenure systems. Currently, he said, about eighty percent of Africa’s land is titled informally under “customary” rights.
“When you have this population pressure, and on top of that you have commercial pressures coming in from investors, this system is just not going to stand up,” he said. “If you had better functioning land markets, it could reduce the transaction costs for investors, allow smallholders to access land, and provide an exit strategy for people at the bottom end.”
Jayne suggested reforms and new policies should include mechanisms to help small farmers gain access to unused fertile land. He called for comprehensive audits of land resources in Sub-Saharan African nations, a tax on uncultivated arable acreage, and a transparent public auction to distribute idle state lands to small farmers.
Additionally, he said, governments can help by improving infrastructure in remote rural areas and clearing fertile land of pests – such as tsetse flies – that threaten crops and human health.
But whatever particular policies they choose to pursue, Jayne said, African governments cannot afford to ignore the problems associated with inequitable land distribution and low smallholder agricultural productivity and. Failure to implement broad-based, smallholder-focused growth strategies will result in “major missed opportunities to reduce poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa,” he said.
This was the seventh talk in FSE's Global Food Policy and Food Security Symposium Series.
Land Grabs – There Is No Idle Land In Africa
Some defend the investors' acquisition of land in their countries, saying it is “virgin” or “under-utilized” or “uncultivated” or “degraded” land…This suggests they know precious little about the importance of fallows and the resilience and diversity of agroforestry systems, or about sustainable agriculture and the knowledge base of their own farmers.
Communal land, small farmers and even entire villages are often displaced in the drive for land purchases. The Oakland Institute think-tank released a report on the African land grab, which points out:
Experts in the field, however, affirm that there is no such thing as idle land in…Africa…Countless studies have shown that competition for grazing land and access to water bodies are the two most important sources of inter-communal conflict in [areas] populated by pastoralists.
According to Michael Taylor, a policy specialist at the International Land Coalition, “If land in Africa hasn't been planted, it's probably for a reason. Maybe it's used to graze livestock or deliberately left fallow to prevent nutrient depletion and erosion. Anybody who has seen these areas identified as unused understands that there is no land…that has no owners and users.”
In other words, as activist Vandana Shiva puts it, “We are seeing dispossession on a massive scale. It means less food is available and local people will have less. There will be more conflict and political instability and cultures will be uprooted. The small farmers of Africa are the basis of food security. The food availability of the planet will decline.”
In fact, because much of its food is produced for export, sub-Saharan Africa is the only region in the world where per capita food production has been declining, with the number of people that are chronically hungry and undernourished currently estimated at more than 265 million.
Nations with large amounts of land sold or leased to foreign owners are often food importers, and their inability to feed their own populations is exacerbated by the displacement of food producers who grow for local use. The UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) reports that Africa has lost 20 percent of its capacity to feed itself over the past four decades. Ethiopia alone has 13 million people in immediate need of food assistance, yet its government has put over 7 million acres of land up for sale.
And worsening hunger is still to come. …
Large-scale land acquisition poses massive ecological threats to the African environment. The dangers are numerous: hazardous pesticides and fertilizers cause water contamination from their runoff, the introduction of genetically modified seeds and other problems. Land previously left to lie fallow is now threatened with overuse from intensified agricultural development, a trend further exacerbated by speculative investment and the drive for short-term profits.
Yet deals transferring vast tracts of land are typically taking place far removed from local farmers and villagers with virtually no accountability. As Khadija Sharife writes on the Pambazuka Web site:
The deals involving these concessions are often cloaked in secrecy, but African business has learned that they are usually characterized by allowing free access to water, repatriation of profits, tax exemptions and the ability for investors to acquire land at no cost whatsoever, with little or no restriction on the volume of food exported or its intended use, in return for a loose promise to develop infrastructure and markets…
In many cases, farmers and pastoralists have worked this land for centuries. However, governments are claiming this land is idle in order to more easily sell or lease it to private investors. (New African Land Grab)
I found this a particularly telling passage from (Mis)investment in Agriculture: The Role of the International Finance Corporation In Global Land Grabs (PDF) a publication of the Oakland Institute.
Proponents of the land deals will dismiss my concerns and claim that this type of foreign investment will benefit the local people by providing jobs and creating infrastructure. They will also say that the land being offered is “unused.” These are hollow arguments. Investors have been quoted as saying they will employ 10,000 people and use high-tech, high-production farming techniques. The two promises are completely incongruous. As a farmer, I can tell you that high-tech, high production devices are appealing precisely because they reduce labor. Investors will not hire significant numbers of people and simultaneously scale-up their production techniques. And if they choose the former, they are likely to create low-paying jobs and poor working conditions. I may be making assumptions, but they are based on history—a history dating back to colonialism and one that has exploited both natural resources and people.
Particularly disconcerting is the notion that the “available” land is “unused.” This land is in countries with the highest rates of malnutrition on the only continent that produces less food per capita than it did a decade ago. In most cases, this land has a real purpose: it may support corridors for pastoralists; provide fallow space for soil regeneration; provide access to limited water sources; be reserved for future generations; or enable local farmers to increase production. The fact that rich and emerging economies do not have or do not respect pastoralists or use land for age-old customs does not mean we have a right to label this land unused.