Promoting responsible land governance in West Africa

IFAD has supported a Senegalese Think Thank, the Initiative Prospective Agricole et Rurale (IPAR), in their efforts to disseminate information on responsible tenure governance in order to improve practices in Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia. By raising the awareness on the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT), politicians, civil society organisations and journalists are now in a better position to influence policy processes in Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia. From 30 May to 1 June 2016, a workshop was organised in Dakar to present the results of this initiative.

The  promote secure tenure rights and equitable access to land, fisheries and forests as a means of eradicating hunger and poverty, supporting sustainable development and enhancing the environment. They were officially endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security on 11 May 2012. Since then implementation has been encouraged by G20, Rio+ 20, United Nations General Assembly and Francophone Assembly of Parliamentarians.

The Guidelines serve as a reference and set out principles and internationally accepted standards for practices for the responsible governance of tenure. They provide a framework that States can use when developing their own strategies, policies, legislation, programmes and activities. They allow governments, civil society, the private sector and citizens to judge whether their proposed actions and the actions of others constitute acceptable practices.

Sensitising policy-makers
States have a unique role in the development, implementation and enforcement of policy and law, and through the administration of tenure, including through courts, registration of tenure rights, valuation, taxation and spatial planning. Courts and government agencies responsible for the administration of tenure should try to deliver equal services to all, including those in remote locations. Services should be provided promptly and efficiently, and without requesting bribes for services. IPAR sensitised over 100 parliamentarians from the four countries on the VGGTs. In addition, the assessments of the status of land governance at country level, carried out in a participatory manner by the World Bank, were updated by taking the Guidelines into consideration.

Empowering civil-society
Civil society organizations can work to raise awareness and assist people to enjoy and protect their tenure rights. They can promote the participation of the public in decision-making processes. IPAR has trained more than 200 members of civil society organisations (including women and youth groups) and leaders of farmers’ organisations from the four countries to strengthen their participation in policy processes.

Raising awareness of journalists
Journalists can play a key role in promoting and raising awareness about the VGGTs. IPAR has therefore trained over 150 journalists from both the print and electronic media from Mali, Mauritania, Senegal and The Gambia. This is allowing them to analyse and report on ongoing land reform processes and agricultural investments in the target countries according to the Guidelines. In addition, in Senegal a network has been created for journalists reporting on land governance.

Multi-stakeholder platforms have been set up
As encouraged by the VGGTs and with the support of IPAR, four multi-stakeholder platforms and frameworks at national level have been set up to collaborate on the implementation of these Guidelines; to monitor and evaluate the implementation in their jurisdictions; and to evaluate the impact on improved governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests, and on improving food security and the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security, and sustainable development.

Improving the governance of tenure in the Senegal River Basin
Building on the results of this IFAD-supported initiative, IPAR and the Food and Agriculture Organisation is now supporting the implementation of the Guidelines in the Senegal River Basin. The new project is responding to an increasing demand from numerous actors in the Basin over the past few years - especially representatives from civil society, farmers’ and pastoralists’ organizations, local authorities, etc. - to discuss and improve governance of tenure and accountability in the context of new investments in agriculture being made by public and private investors. Given the importance of responsible land governance for its target groups, IFAD-supported projects that are operational in the area will be involved in these discussions.