After years of efforts, land rights are finally getting global attention. With several land-related indicators included in the Sustainable Development Goals, the land sector now has the unique opportunity to create an unprecedented momentum around land tenure issues and bring it to a higher level on the development agenda. Our goal is, of course, to contribute to the success of the SDGs, but also to be part of sustainable development in its real and practical sense!
For hundreds of years, pastoralists in Ethiopia’s lowlands have relied on strong customary land tenure systems to survive. Historically, legislation has failed to clearly define communal rights to rangelands, and the specific roles and responsibilities for both communities and local government to administer and manage these resources. This legislative deficiency prevented pastoral communities from fully exercising their constitutional rights to land (Ethiopia’s Constitution broadly recognizes pastoral communities’ right to access land and prevents their involuntary displacement).
Kenya’s new constitution provides for ‘community lands’. Group ranches and trust lands will be vested in communities. But why, some ponder, would modern citizens want to own land as communities? Is the constitution protecting old ways instead of leading us into the future?
This week I will answer these questions through a global lens. Next week I will zero in on constitutional directives and how far the proposed Community Land Bill delivers.
At the end of September, the global land community met in Bern, Switzerland for the 2nd International Conference on Community Land Rights, to tackle some of the most pressing issues facing those who rely on access to community lands for their livelihoods. Discussions at the conference focused on the perpetual divide between indigenous peoples and governments with regard to land ownership.