A three-day Regional workshop on securing community land rights has been opened in Accra with a call for comprehensive policies to guide the access, utilization and management of land resources within the various countries.
Sixteen African countries are participating in the workshop being organised by Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) and Africa Union Land Policy Initiative (LPI) in collaboration with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources and Civic Reponse.
The workshop would look at  the roles and functions of land commissions in reform processes and subsequent implementation to secure community land rights; strategies to record community land rights using experiences of land commissions with strategies to record local communities,  women’s, and Indigenous Peoples’ land rights and boundaries, and strategies.
In a speech read on his behalf, Mr John Peter Amewu, Minister of Land and Natural Resources, said land issues and systems were very diverse and complex and called for comprehensive policies to guide the access, utilization and management of land resources within the various countries.
He said a key tool to ensure all countries move in the same direction to achieve the all-important declaration on land, was to foster close collaboration and constant contact with one another to facilitate understanding and learn lessons from each other.
Citing a recent World Bank publication on “Securing Land for Africa”, Mr Amewu said it showed the serious dichotomy between the availability of vast land resources and yet extreme levels of poverty.
“The report discloses that Africa has the highest poverty rate; 47.5 per cent of the population lives below 1.25 dollars per day. While we have most land suitable for agriculture, our productivity gap turns to be the highest; we see land ownership inequalities and landlessness growing in several African countries.
“Women as majority primary producers are constrained by customary laws; arable lands, forest and wet lands are being degraded at an alarming rate while there is a high rise in urban slums that undermine urban development and poverty reduction efforts,” he added.
The Minister said Ghana’s land policy was to facilitate access to land, ensuring security of tenure and enhancing institutional capacity for land management, among others.
 He said to speed up land documentation procedures and the issuance of land titles and registered deeds, five Client Service Access Unit were established and equipped with re-engineered business processes to minimize human contact in land documentation.
That, he said, had improved the turn-around time from an average of seven months to three months, adding, “it is intended that by December, 2017 this should be reduced to 30 days”.
He announced that to enhance total digital coverage in land administration in the country, Ghana Enterprise Land Information System was being designed and it would be piloted in four districts in the Greater Accra region by October this year.
“A comprehensive land Bill has also been formulated and currently submitted to Cabinet for policy approval and passage before December, 2017. This revises and consolidates the numerous laws on land in the country into one consolidated document.
“These efforts at reform in land administration in Ghana, strongly recognizes the fundamental role of Customary Land. It is estimated that close to 80 per cent of land ownership was held in customary tenure,” he said, adding that any reform measure that did not take that fundamental fact into account would not succeed.
Dr Janet Edeme, Head of Rural Division, DREA, African Union Commission, said beyond the core issues confronting community land governance, evidence available at the Land Policy Initiative also pointed to serious capacity needs even among the land administration agencies at governmental level.
She said within the overarching aim of the African Union Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges to improve land policy formulation and implementation, the LPI had set up a programme to support member states to deal with all aspects of land governance, particularly in the area of capacity development.
Some of these  programmes, she said included training in effective land administration, capacity development of traditional authorities on large scale land based investments out of which a platform for traditional authorities was being developed, capacity development in negotiations for government lawyers, a platform for Civil Societies working on land issues.
Dr Edeme said the LPI was also working with academic institutions to improve curriculum in African Universities and develop capacities through research to enable the universities to respond effectively to meet the capacity needs for good land governance on the continent.
“Institutional nodes have been identified in each region as part of this process while scholarships are being given to deserving students to increase the teaching capacities in our universities,” she added.
Dr Solange Bandiaky-Badji, Director, Africa and Gender Justice Programmes, RRI, said the workshop expected to have a critical mass of land commissions capacitated to lead land reforms in Africa; articulate and agree on key challenges, opportunities and a regional agenda for securing local communities’, women’s, and Indigenous Peoples’ land rights.
It is also expected to commit to the continental processes of the LPI; and champion statutory recognition of customary (collective) land tenure and its subsequent operationalization at the national and regional levels.
GNA