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Despite being only State Donor, Talks on Land Governance open without Nigeria’s participation

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By Our Correspondent in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

What many experts describe as diminishing relevance of Nigeria in global matters might have been demonstrated again on Wednesday in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where global discuss is focused on equitable land governance in Africa.  

   As of the time of filling in this report, there is no government official from Nigeria in attendance, compared to official state delegations from many African countries. Besides a handful of non-governmental organisations from Nigeria, there is nothing to tell that Africa’s most populous and country and biggest economy is still on the continental map.

   Ironically, Nigeria is the only state actor that contributed financially to the African Land Policy Initiative. Yet, in spite Nigeria’s financial commitment to the initiative and months of advertisement by the organisers, the African Land Policy Centre (ALPC) for submission interest, no Nigerian government Ministry, Department or Agency showed any interest in participation.

“Apart from some members of the Nigerian academia and non-governmental organisations, what we got from the government circle is mute. Not a word of interest. This is unusual for a country with huge and devastating pastoral challenges,” Land Tenure Officer-Attached to the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Mr. Mackay Rigava, said.   

  Like many other countries, Nigeria has its fair share of land-related problems, as exemplified in incessant and fatal clashes between herdsmen and farmers on the one hand, and within local communities over grazing rights of cattle. Despite legislative attempts, the conflicts between the government at the center and state governments, and by extension, agitation for resource control, are major problems proving a clog in the nation’s journey to economic and infrastructural developments.

   The four-day conference, Land Policy in Africa, enters its second day yesterday, with speakers engaging in discussions, which included:  land planning and governance, land certification system, technology application for agriculture, conflict management, access to land for women and youth and environment management.

   The conference, organized by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC) and the African Development Bank (AfDB) and under the coordination of the African Land Policy Centre (ALPC), is the second of its series.

 Deputy Head of Mission, German Embassy in Ethiopia, Mr. Matthias Schauer, who in addition to representing Germany, also spoke on behalf of the European Union and Switzerland, disclosed that “all three support the Land Policy Initiative and sustainable land governance on the African Continent significantly. As we could all see in the video introduction: Land is absolutely essential – also for African development.”

   The conference, under the theme: “The Africa we want: Achieving socioeconomic transformation through inclusive and equitable access to land by the youth,” was governed by many thematic sessions, including “Land Governance Monitoring In Africa – the MELA Initiative, AU Agenda 2063 and SDGs”, “Youth and Land reform: A Story of Engagement and Exclusion”, “Land Access: the Link between Youth Employment and Prosperous Life”, “Protection and Support of Tenure Rights to the Commons for Food Security and Livelihoods”, among others.

   Speakers also included the Namibia’s Minister of Land, Mr. Utoni Nujoma, Uganda’s Minister of Land, Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Richard Oput, Ethiopia’s Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Dr. Eyassu Abraha Alle, Chief Economist and Coordinator (Enable Youth Programme), African Development Bank (AfDB), Mr. Edson Mpyisi, Director (East African Region) AfDB, Mr. Gabriel Negatu, Director at the African Union Commission (AUC), Dr. Janet Edeme Edeme, Unit Leader (Land and Global Land Tool Network) of the United Nations Human Settlements Programme, Mr. Oumar Sylla; Senior Policy and Advocacy Officer at the Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF), Mr. Michael Iyaji; Postgraduate Programmes Coordinator at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Dr. Yakubu Aliyu Bununu. 

   Agriculture and agribusiness is projected to become a US$ 1trillion industry in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2030. The continent, regarded as the last frontier, is home to more than half of the world’s uncultivated agriculturally suitable land and underutilized water resources. The engagement of young people in the political and cultural arena, according to Mpyisi, is crucial.

“They should be included in policy dialogue in the course of the elaboration of land policies and legal frameworks”, said the AfDB representative.

   The ECA Deputy Executive Secretary and Chief Economist, Mr. Abdalla Hamdok, said there was no doubt that good land governance was key to Africa’s transformation and central to livelihoods and sustainable development.

   “Land forms the basis for agriculture, forestry, mining, industry, tourism and urban development. But to maximize on the benefits of land and its resources, inclusion of land users in decision making on how land is governed and managed is crucial,” said Mr. Hamdok.

   However, according to Negatu, without proper governance of natural resources, land included, it would be difficult to achieve sustainable and equitable growth on the continent.

  “The crafting of sustainable and equitable land policy appeals to several interrelated goals, including natural resource management governance, conflict management, sustainable economic growth, poverty alleviation and good environmental management,” he said.

   On his part, Alle said land is one of the major resources that Africa has in abundance and should be properly managed and used for the benefit of current and future generations.

   “As agriculture is the mainstay of the majority of the population of Africa, its future development is heavily dependent on designing and implementation of appropriate land policy, land use plans and integrated natural resource management systems,” he said.

   According to the Ethiopian minister, effective land policy with appropriate implementation mechanisms promotes secure, equitable access to land by an array of beneficiaries, including the youth, women and others and in the process stimulating economic development.

   He said the inappropriate and misuse of land resources have aggravated environmental degradation leading to poverty and food insecurity.

   “We need to join hands to overcome our land degradation and policy challenges in a smart way through the implementation of the AU declaration on land and other regional frameworks and land tools,” Alle said.

   But speaking for youth and women, Ms. Mwikali said young women and men on the continent continue to have limited access to land making it difficult for them to engage in viable and sustainable agricultural or income generating ventures.

   “Too often young people’s voices are not heard during the policy process and implementation and so their complex and multifaceted needs are not addressed,” she said.