Secure tenure, proper administration and farmers involvement are key

As President of the Eastern African Farmers Federation, Mr. Philip Kiriro provide a farmers perspective on the current challenges linked to land access and tenure security issues.

He pointed out that for the poor in the rural areas access to land is vital for food production and employment creation, since not only it helps reducing their vulnerability to hunger and poverty, but it also assists them to invest in other productive activities and ensure sustainable management of natural resources.

There is a strong relationship between land issues and poverty, he stressed, and Poverty Reduction Strategy plans formulated by sub-Saharan Africa governments attempt to mainstream and integrate land issues. Access to land, definition and administration of land rights, tenure security, effective land policies and laws, as well as institutional and technical reforms in the domain of land access, land rights and certification and titling of customary ownership are among the main issues of concern for farmers.

In Mr. Kiriro words, there is a strong need for well-formulated and effective land policies to enhance agricultural productivity and efficiency. A secure land tenure and proper administration and rights are critical pre-conditions for improvement of agricultural productivity. Eastern Africa national governments are developing land policies to hinder agricultural development and investment in agriculture. Nonetheless, Mr. Kiriro pointed out that farmers are not properly informed on what exists, what is being done and what has already been done to address land issues at the National level. They are also not well informed on the existing land administration procedures, neither on the existence of institutions and technical capacities which address the challenges associated with land rights administration. Regional Farmers Network are therefore key to ensure that producers are fully informed and able to participate to the on going land reform process at the national level.

Against this background, the land acquisition process in Africa is increasingly threatening land access and tenure security for local people, who risks to will be pushed deep into poverty through displacement and to be converted to peasants and farm labour. This in turn – Mr. Kiriro warned – will lead top instability since land also represents a major political resource in that it defines power relations between and among individuals, families and communities. Apart from promoting better livelihoods, land also contribute to develop more equitable relations within the society, thus contributing to a more sustainable development.

Therefore, he concluded, well-designed land reform policies granting appropriate protection for local communities, along with the support of the international community to support farmers capacity building and involvement in this process are crucial elements to address the land access and tenure security issues.