Land Grabbing in Africa is Increasing Actual Poverty

Deforestation in AfricaLand Grabbing in Africa is an increasing challenge. It is caused by economic and political reasons. Land grabbing causes decrease in agricultural sovereignty and increase in actual landlessness resulting into increase in actual poverty.

Land Grabbing is defined as the large-scale land acquisitions by domestic and transnational companies, governments, and individuals to be used for commercial farming, industrial production and investment purposes on the expense of the local society.

The reasons for this trend are economic and political. Although global economic recession has inflated demand on land, decrease in profitable traditional investment opportunities has and will increase overall demand for land in Africa. Another reason is global trend of investment seeking: African countries are encouraged to seek investment and replace traditional development grants with private capital, such as hedge funds to develop mining or industrial scale production of food crops, timber or energy crops.

Africa has suffered from chronic investment deficit on land and agriculture. The end of colonialism removed the state financial apparatus and now only less than 10% of national budgets on average are spent on agriculture in Africa. Another difficulty are cautious banks in Africa, which are conservative in issuing credits and grant loans only against assets such as land titles. Given that approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the land is unregistered customary land, the farmers cultivating it lack means to seek loans to invest in it. Lack of investment has led to poor land management and maintenance setting the scene for famine.

Although there is no right to land codified in international human rights law, it is a cross-cutting issue for human rights in the international legal framework. Denying access to land of the local community will hinder development and increase poverty. Fair access to land is also necessary for numerous economic, social and cultural rights, and as a gateway for many civil and political rights.

To solve the problem of land grabbing, FINNMAP is promoting participatory land use planning to enhance land related human rights imbedding responsible agro investment and small scale farming approach promoting food sovereignty. Over 50 years of working with African partners, has enabled to gain thorough understanding of the land related challenges. FINNMAP has developed a resourceful land registration system which uses participatory method and is very cost efficient with less than 10 USD per land title.

VotingThe method of policy, legal and technical development of the complete land admin system was successful in Cambodia in a MFA funded project. The project was also chosen as a highlighted example of a successful implementation of the revised practices and guidelines to implement Finnish Development Cooperation by the Cabinet of Finland.

During the recent years FINNMAP has taken an active approach in promoting local ‘family ownership’ model as a substitute to the ‘plantation model’ widely used in development projects relating to land and forestry. Especially in East Africa, an alternative approach was suggested, where local villagers in families would form cooperatives and associations to increase their bargaining power on the goods market, but remain owners of the local land.

Land titling programs have been launched throughout developing and transition economies as part of poverty alleviation efforts. A holistic approach from legal institutional support, democratic market development and strong involvement by the society is how FINNMAP ensures a pro poor approach in addressing the problem of land grabbing.