OPENING CEREMONY: AFRICA DAY
The 2015 Global Land Forum celebrates 20 years of the ILC and the opening plenary session provided the opportunity to take stock of progress to date and set future agendas. A recurring theme emerged throughout the discussion – how to achieve equitable and inclusive development of land.
To achieve this goal, addressing the vulnerabilities of specific social groups (women, local farmers, youth) should be a priority. Land value can be presented in various ways: it is not simply an economic property but actually the “life of local people”. Mr Michel Mordasini (IFAD) insisted that “securing land rights” should be the primary step for any actions relating to land. He admitted that “equitable land rights and secure tenure remain an unfinished agenda,” and it is time to switch from policies and guidelines to real actions. The land rights of smallholder farmers have long been ignored in policy and practice and as such they have become the sacrificial lambs of ‘development’.
The role of the family ownership in African agriculture development is also confirmed in the session. Papa Abdoulaye Seck, Minister Agriculture of Senegal, pointed out the necessity of the family ownership of land in farming. “Agriculture will develop in and with diversity”, he claimed. “For us, small holders farming should exist, and must be there, but we should offer training to the farmers.” It seems that agriculture in Senegal is trying to achieve a promising future with good variety of products, in which small scale land ownership is combined with modern techniques – a trend that many African countries would do well to follow in the future.
The panel also explored the relationship between inclusivity and sustainability. Inclusivity on land issues is about the relationship between human beings and nature. Under urbanization and population pressure, how to ensure both food security and sustainability is an important topic for us and the following generations to think about. Responsive development is encouraged and the governments in many countries are seeking a healthier partnership between public and private sectors in land development. The minister of Agriculture of Senegal argued for the need to balance sustainability with productivity in the context of growing African agriculture. Land in Senegal has essential functions from different perspectives, such as feeding people and animals, producing 68% of employment, protecting natural resources and attracting investments.
Finally, it is important to consider the inclusivity of the process of land reform in Senegal. A committee has been set up to take charge of the reform, and it is also interesting to know that universities of Senegal have become active participants in the land reform. One delegate named Maby Mansour I interviewed told me that he is a masters student Ecolo Superieure de L’Iface who was invited by the Senegalese government to attend the Forum. Agriculture experts of Senegal were asked by the President to attend the forum. Meanwhile, ILC and other countries’ experiences will give a broader horizon for Senegal to organize its land reform. Finally, a report which will summarize the contents of the forum will be produced and submitted to the president of Senegal, and this report will become an important reference point for the country’s land reform.