Improving rural youth’s access, use and management of land, water and other natural resources: 2019 International Youth Agro-pastoral Entrepreneurship Summit

By PROCASUR
 International Youth Agropastoral Entrepreneurship Summit 2019 © Benjamin Ombe
The Youth Agro-pastoral Entrepreneurship Summit – promoted and organized by the Cameroon Youth Agro-Pastoral Entrepreneurship IFAD funded Programme (PEA Jeunes), the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MINADER), the Ministry of Livestock, Fisheries and Animal Industries of Cameroon (MINEPIA), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Procasur Corporation – took place from February 28th to March 3rd 2019, in Yaoundé, Cameroon. It aimed at facilitating a global dialogue and knowledge sharing amongst youth and Public-Private sector entities to strengthen youth entrepreneurship, reducing rural poverty and improving food security and nutrition. The Summit provided spaces for youth to explore on-farm and off-farm business opportunities that promote decent work and are environmentally friendly. More than 500 youth attended the event, from more than 35 different countries.

The workshop “Improving Rural Youth’s access, use and management of Land, Water and other Natural resources” took place in the afternoon of the 1st March 2019, in a crowded room with about 150 people. Organized in collaboration and with the facilitation of Harold Liversage, Lead Technical Specialist in Land Tenure for the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the workshop gathered panelists and participants to discuss about main challenges limiting youth's access to land and possible solutions to improve young people’s access to land and natural resources.

Challenges:

Some panelists pointed out as the main challenge of accessing land by rural youth was not the access itself but rather the securitization of land titles for youth and women. Land that is not secured does not promote investments and some projects include only temporary access to land, which goes against the principles of ownership and continuity of the benefits that public and private interventions should bring to rural youth. Others mentions cultural and social perceptions held by older members of communities, who consider youth as unable to manage and make decisions regarding land and businesses in general. Another challenge mentioned was the exclusion of youth from decision-making processes and political spaces regulating land; and the costly administrative procedures that are sometimes required in order to securing land titles, which is a de facto obstacle for poorer and vulnerable people. Finally, panelists pointed to the ownership of land by large scale investors acquiring land rights in order to develop business projects that were not sensitive to the communities’ needs or climate change context.

Innovative tools, good practices and solutions:

Secondly, panelists shared their stories of success in improving access to land for rural youth: what they did, the results they achieved and the lessons they learned. As a result, the panelist agreed that improving access to land for rural youth involves the coordination and actions of different stakeholders, requires political advocacy and ends up benefiting not only youth, but also other vulnerable population (for example, women). Finally, the panelists identified concrete tools that helped them to achieve positive results, such as: the inter-generational mechanism of transferring land to younger members developed by the Los Pinos cooperative in El Salvador; the experience of mapping land using ICTs, led by young members of the community developed the National Land Observatory in Burkina Faso; pushing political change in favor of rural youth through youth-led platforms in Kenya and Cameroon; securing land for agricultural and agribusinesses purposes through public investments in Cameroon. In general, and in the cases of all countries, panelists agreed that there was a gap between what the law said and what happens in practice, since rural youth and women can hardly secure land, despite laws that do not establish differences. One solution mentioned was to establish positive discrimination measures that actively and deliberately target women and youth as beneficiaries of land securitization and land acquisition initiatives. At the end of the workshop, most of the interventions from the audience referred to the situation of Cameroon, identifying current difficulties faced by Cameroonian rural youth when accessing land or mentioning current initiatives (such as public policies) aiming at improving rural youth’s access to land in the country, as emphasized by Olivier Missoup, representative of the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure (Mindcaf).

More in detail, the panelists presented their experiences as follow:


Medard Some from Burkina Faso explained how the National Land Observatory, in partnership with USAID, implemented the MAST (Mobile Application to Secure Tenure) technology in order to delimit land surface for land titles after Burkina Faso passed a law on rural land tenure in 2009. This law established the right to a “rural land possession certificate” recognizing customary land rights. Although the project did not specifically targeted rural youth, rural youth were the ones knowing, using and developing the necessary skills to use the application, which made them more empowered about land issues.

Eulogio Benitez from El Salvador described how the cooperative to which he belongs (called Los Pinos), created in 1980 with the agrarian reform in the country, started recently to encourage older members to transfer land to their children. Strictly speaking, what older members of the cooperative transferred was their membership in the cooperative, since the membership gives access to the cooperative’s land. In order to encourage older members to do so, they could keep their housing and profits share, among other incentives. So far, the cooperative has registered an increased leadership and membership by rural youth. Indeed, one of the members of the cooperative’s board is a young woman.

Ken Otieno, Africa coordinator of the Global Rangeland Initiative, stressed how organizing and consolidating youth social capital can be used to secure land rights. He spoke about integrated approaches that support full engagement of the youth in agro-pastoral businesses, including the implementation of ICTs, participatory planning techniques and multi-stakeholder youth platforms. He mentioned the importance of building partnerships with financial institutions to respond to financing gaps by creating credit facilities that addresses the youth needs, for example, the Youth Enterprise Fund and the single business permit in Kenya.
International Youth Agropastoral Entrepreneurship Summit 2019 © Benjamin Ombe
Michelle Sonkoue, from the Cameroon National Engagement Strategy (NES), described how active and deliberated measures pro-youth are necessary in order to facilitate access of the poorest peoples to their rights, as recognized by the Law. The NES is a strategy of the International Land Coalition (ILC) that aims at promoting people-centered land governance, contributing to the elaboration of land policies that suit and protect land rights and interests of vulnerable groups such as small farmers, women, indigenous people, migrants and youth. They advocate for intergenerational justice in local land management and the promotion of land acquisition processes free of charge for young entrepreneurs. They also advocate for prior and fair compensation in the case of forced displacement of young agricultural entrepreneurs.

Josephine Atangana, co-coordinator of the program OXFAM/PROPAC for the land rights of women, emphasized the importance of effectively applying existing law and statuses that already exist in many countries, including Cameroon, but are not fully enforced. This could involve giving legal support for women and youth, so they can secure their lands. She also mentioned the role of communities in the improvement of the land situation of women and youth, so the whole community recognize their rights to land.

Olivier Missoup, Directeur des Domaines (par interim) and representative of the Ministry of State Property and Land Tenure (Mindcaf) from Cameroon described what the country has been doing in order to improve access to land, especially securing funds and specific land property for agro industrial projects, which could be eventually accessed by youth.

Other general mechanisms that can contribute to the improvement of rural youth’s access to land were mentioned: improving transparency in the attribution of land titles and financial support from public institutions, the need to raise awareness in traditional authorities concerning women and youth, the need to improve skills of youth and the role of partnerships (with public and private stakeholders) to promote access and land security for rural youth and women.

Final remarks:

At the end of the workshop, the participants were still enthusiastic to share their experiences when accessing land and securing land titles. As the facilitator pointed out, it wasn’t possible to discuss all the difficulties that rural youth face when accessing land and all the potential tools to improve the situation. As Harold Liversage summed up, although land issues are a controversial matter in which most rural youth have experienced challenges, knowledge exchange is a first step in order to improve the situation. Different stakeholders – government representatives, private sector and rural youth themselves – should be involved in finding solutions for improving rural youth’s access and securitization of land.