Private Sector Perspectives on Responsible Land-Based Investment: You Asked, We Answered

USAID LandLinks hosted a webinar on “The Business Case for Land Rights: Private Sector Perspectives on Responsible Land-Based Investment” on March 8, 2018. Due to the high level of interest, there were more questions from the audience than we were able to answer. We share here answers to some of the most interesting questions, to which our panelists, Larry Riddle, Kate Mathias and Felizardo Mogole, from Illovo Sugar Ltd., along with the webinar moderator, Sarah Lowery, from USAID, took the time to respond:

Question: Can Larry or Kate speak to how long the pilot took and how Illovo managed internal tensions regarding the time investment required for this in-depth, participatory process vs. other business priorities and time constraints or imperatives?

KATE: The pilot with USAID was for 18 months; however, our broader land rights program is on-going, and we do not foresee an end to it. There are challenges around time management when engaging in the programs; however, we view land rights and land management as integral to the business and develop clear business cases for engagement. This particular pilot focused on empowering community members to be able to undertake the participatory mapping through the growers’ cooperative with support from Illovo, USAID, and Terra Firma, and we believe that this is the most sustainable and effective way of implementation and helps to build the capacity of the local enumerators and cooperative leadership whilst reducing the impact on employee time.

Question: When documenting land rights, what is included on the document, and how is this information obtained, and where is it recorded?

FELIZARDO: The project beneficiaries were requested to show a formal identity document of some form, as long as it contained information such as name, age, residence. The documents were requested during sensitization sessions, which were conducted by trained enumerators from the community. In the cases where a beneficiary had no documentation, they would be requested to bring witnesses who would corroborate their statements. The data would then be captured on a digital form that would be sent to a database housed at Terra Firma (soon to be relocated to the cooperative). A formal ‘corrections and objections process’ was incorporated into the process to provide opportunities for grievances to be tabled and resolved if possible before certification.

The land document includes:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • Birthdate
  • Identification Type, and Number
  • Issuance date
  • Delimitation date (of mapping)
  • Witness name
  • Edict date and term limit
  • Date of signature
  • Parcel #, district, postal code, etc for map
  • Area and latitude/longitude for parcel

Question: Does the investor (e.g. Illovo Sugar) negotiate with individuals or with communities? If the former, how are the rights of the community respected? And if the latter, how is community membership defined, and how do the economic and social benefits of the investment reach individuals within the community?

FELIZARDO: I am not sure I understand what is meant by “negotiation with individuals or with communities” since this is a process that follows a Free Prior and Informed Consent for the free-of-charge land mapping and registration to obtain a certificate of occupancy; i.e., community members will continue farming their land in their preferred manner either individually or through their original associations, be it for sugar cane or food crops. The benefit they receive from the project is that now their land rights are registered. As previously mentioned, the process was implemented by community-based enumerators in line with legal requirements, so Illovo did not directly negotiate with landowners; its role was more as a facilitator along with our partners (Terra Firma, Indufor N.A., Cloudburst Group).

Question: How did Maragra ensure the sustainability of the project learnings among the outgrowers?

KATE: By running the project in partnership with the growers’ cooperative, we have assisted in building their capacity to sustain the project and have included training around land rights into our broader extension and capacity building programs. Additionally, we have retained Terra Firma, our local implementing partner who led the participatory mapping and documentation, on contract to continue to support the cooperative and its ongoing work on land.

Question: The women and men in my mining community and around the county want agricultural programs that work in customary rights systems. Both women and men lack food security and economic empowerment. I am a licensed diamond miner and diamond broker since 2013. Women and men in Gbarpolu County, where I mine, and throughout rural Liberia, usually have customary rights to land. I would like to know:

  1. How Mr. Felizardo Mogole implemented the land rights guidelines with specific reference to an example of how Illovo’s participatory mapping process model (a la Terra Firma) helped customary rights farmers strengthen their tenure security?

FELIZARDO: The whole process of strengthening tenure security started with a sensitization stage involving government officials and local authorities as well as beneficiaries from the communities. We also involved the project beneficiaries in training on land legislation and their rights, and they were integrally involved in the participatory mapping of their own and neighbors’ lands. They also had the chance to look at maps of all the parcels and the personal information that would be included on their land rights certificate. This gave them a chance to discuss and compare among their peers and also consult with neighbors to ascertain the validity of the information prior to its approval.

  1. How would the Illovo pilot be modified to work in countries like Liberia where urban farmers have no formal land ownership documents and have been granted the right to use land by a town chief, for example?

SARAH: Jumping in from the USAID Land and Urban office – the participatory mapping approach that we implemented in Mozambique with Illovo can be applied to any context. We use a suite of innovative technology tools and inclusive methods that use mobile devices and a participatory approach to efficiently, transparently and affordably map and document land and resource rights. In the Liberia example you cite, this approach would be based upon a needs assessment including the town chief and other relevant government officials and/or customary leaders to determine their interest and support for giving land documentation to landowners.

This is similar to our work in Zambia with customary chiefs that increased tenure security for treatment households, and USAID has demonstrated significant increases in community land governance from participatory mapping, creation of bylaws and related activities under the Community Land Protection Program. One caveat is that our approach would likely need to be adapted to a context with greater population density, such as a village or town, as the preciseness of the mapping would need to be higher than in rural areas.

Question: On land for food use, is there a balance between land being used by the growers in the region for food and for cane? How is Illovo minimizing the risks and adverse impacts of monocropping?

KATE: The project with USAID registered all land in the selected blocks whether the land was under sugarcane or other crops. The local communities are encouraged to choose whether they would like to supply sugarcane to Illovo, and there are clear procedures to enable growers to register or grow sugarcane, which include environmental suitability checks. The project with USAID, along with a number of comprehensive studies, has assisted the growers’ cooperative and Illovo to better understand the land situation and work with the communities on land use planning.

Our separate grower development project, the Maragra Smallholder Sugarcane Development Project (MSSDP), supports the development of infrastructure and water management processes that will protect over 3,000ha of community land that has been underutilized due to annual flooding since the year 2000 when El-Niño floods changed the river flows and drainage. MSSDP seeks growers to produce cane on approximately 1540ha and supports organized food crops or alternative crops on 460ha; the remainder of the land is developed by the community members as they please. The project commenced with very comprehensive civic education, which assisted the growers to understand the project, its opportunities and make choices around their involvement and their land use. Some associations and individuals decided to incorporate very little of their land into sugarcane and others a larger percentage. It is entirely their own decision.

Question: Do you think that community land-based information and planning before any investors’ intervention would make it easier to investors to engage with rural communities when it comes to land-based investments? Can it improve community consultation?

KATE: Yes, I do. It would provide investors with better information to ensure that they consult with the right parties, and it would empower communities to better understand their rights and protect against potential land grabs. I believe it will improve community consultation and negotiation for all, as community members will come to the table with more security, understanding and power over their choices.

Question: You [Kate] quoted land titling theory (improved tenure security brings about economic investment and reduces poverty) but this has been shown to be a tentative relationship at best in sub-Saharan Africa, possibly because of the multi-generational relationship of land rights-holders to land. How do you balance a more capitalist (land titling theory) approach and a broadly African view of land?

KATE: Through conversations with our growers, complemented by the initial baseline evaluation for this project, uncertainty about land tenure has been highlighted as a key concern by farmers in some of our countries. This can also be backed up by examples of farmers disinvesting from their crops and land once their land tenure is under threat. We are looking to further test this theory through other internal projects as we respond to the demands of our farmers to address as many of their insecurities as possible to enhance and sustain their livelihoods and our supply chain.

SARAH: Jumping in again from the Land and Urban Office, there is in fact a growing body of evidence demonstrating that securing farmer’s rights to land does in fact encourage investment and higher productivity. A few examples from sub-Saharan Africa from our Fact Sheet on Land Tenure and Food Security include:

  • In Ethiopia, land certification led to land productivity increases of 40 to 45 percent in the Tigray Region, and soil and water conservation investments rose by 30 percent in the Amhara Region. And an increase in land allocated to women decreased household food insecurity by 36 percent.
  • In Rwanda, investment doubled in farmers’ soil conservation. And women whose land rights were formalized were 19 percent more likely to engage in soil conservation, compared to 10 percent among men.
  • In rural Benin, communities that participated in a process to map and recognize land rights, were 39 to 43 percent more likely to shift their crop investments from subsistence to long-term and perennial cash crops, and tree planting. In particular, women were historically unlikely to invest in soil fertility by leaving their land fallow; but this gender gap disappeared in communities where female-headed households mapped and documented their parcel boundaries. In these communities, female-headed households were just as likely as male-headed households to leave their land fallow.

Finally, it is important to note that USAID endorses principles of “secure enough”. There are a number of alternatives to formal land titling that can help to create more secure land tenure while avoiding the pitfalls of individualized freehold tenure systems, including the exacerbation of inequality. These include policy and legal recognition of customary rights; issuance of certificates that secure usufruct, management and/or inheritance rights; or community titling.

Question: There is a lot of work being done by the private sector in terms of ensuring that labor abuses, child labor and labor exploitation is being addressed in supply chains. In your experience, have you observed any connection between weak land rights, land acquisition in agricultural commodities and vulnerability to labor abuse, exploitation and labor coercion?

KATE: I have not personally observed a connection; however, I believe that social development, livelihoods, land rights and human rights are all linked. If people are not empowered in any of these areas, it opens them up to potential abuse in other ways. Ultimately, it is beneficial for businesses to engage with empowered and resilient individuals and communities.