13 May 2015

PANEL: Developing and Implementing Land Policies and the Role of Local Authorities Featured

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The role of Indigenous leaders and local authorities for policy implementation: AFRICA DAY.

May 12 2015 - Dakar

Governments can continue to draw up ambitious land policies to tackle inequitable allocation of land, food security and environmental degradation, but if there is no implementation at the local level, there is no use.
The moderator of the debate, Mr Souleymane Niang of West Africa Democracy Radio, stressed that land is after all a local resource. The organisers behind the Global Land Forum put together a panel dedicated to this issue of implementation, with particular focus on the role of Local Authorities. Here the experience of the host country seems to have been crucial for the choice of theme, as land governance in Senegal since 1996 has been devolved down to local municipalities and rural councils. The panel consisted of Awulae Amihere Kapanyill III, a traditional chief from Ghana, Albhou Abey Bazou, permanent secretary of the Code du Rural in Niger, as well as Jacquiline Amongin, member of the Ugandan Parliament  and representative to the Pan-African Parliament. Mr Sourang, Commissioner of Land Reform in Senegal, wrapped up with some concluding remarks.

The policy makers on the panel were challenged by Awulae Amihere Kapanyill III, who commented on the reluctance of states to involve traditional leaders in land governance; perceiving them as mere museum objects. Given the loud applause his speech received, many of the delegates seemed to recognise this problem of just being included as token participants. The discussion on the discrepancy between national policy making and local implementation crucially addresses politicians grounding in the communities they are supposed to represent. Indeed Amihere Kapanyill III argued that despite being non-elected traditional leaders are sometimes closer to the people. Their ‘term in office’ also doesn’t run out. This point was, however, not picked up by any of the other panel members.

Sharing his experiences from Niger, Albhou Abey Bazou pointed towards the importance of protecting also pastoralists, where clear identification of pastoral zones can prevent conflicts with sedentary peasants. These have to be implemented at the local level but national strategies for allowing seasonal movement of herds are crucial. The problem of moving from policy formulation to implementation was brought up in several other panels during the day including how to translate gender equality in law down to actual change on the ground. When Jacquiline Amongin thus argued that despite positive African land policy initiatives many states lack capacity, she made explicit a concern that many participants shared – the need to think practically about policy implementation was thus the main take away point of the session.

The panel was also interesting for its silences. During the Q&A session one participant raised concerns about how to deal with urban-agricultural land conflicts. In many countries with rapid urbanisation the development of cities poses a continuous threat against peasants’ lands and livelihoods. Urban growth is often prioritised in national economic policy, so when housing, offices and infrastructure threatens small farm land holders the latter often have to give away.  This question was, however, only addressed by Awulae Amihere Kapanyill III. He alone recognised the problem, while for example Ms Amongin seemed to perceive it as an entirely misplaced question; in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, you cannot farm was the simple reply. In an increasingly urbanised world, however, we will have to acknowledge the problems of urban expansion if we want to ensure food security for both peasants and the new urban residents. In this process land has to be valued for not only its financial worth, but also for its symbolic importance for the people who live on it, as Mr. Sourang concluded the discussion.

AUTHOR: Mikael Omstedt, University of Sheffield

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