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Friedrich Ebert, CSOs To Produce Land Policy Documents 

By Leocadia Bongben — The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Foundation Cameroon and Central Africa in collaboration with the Association Citoyenne de Defense des Interets Collectifs, ACDIC and the Centre for Environment and Development, CED have embarked on a project to produce national land policy documents in Central Africa.

A two-day workshop in Yaounde under the theme, “The Concession of Large Portions of Land in Central Africa” laid the ground work for the production of national land policy documents to aid in advocacy for the adoption of legal and administrative regulations in line with the human, population, economic, national and international rights relating to land concessions.

Participants from Chad, Gabon, Cameroon, DR Congo and Central African Republic, embarked the initiative, because the problem of land concession is a common phenomenon in those countries. François Bimogo of ACDIC presented a scenario whereby governments give out thousands or millions of hectares to national private and international enterprises from Italy, South Africa, China, Malaysia, USA and France.

Millions of hectares are acquired for the production of crops such as rice, maize, oil palm, banana and cocoa for a period of 25 to 99 years. In a region where 65 percent of the population depends on agriculture, of which 97 are small artisanal farmers, food security is threatened as a result of reduction in land space for family agriculture, he said.

The consequence is the spiral of importation of food stuff such as rice, fish, sugar and wheat observed in the region. Land grabbing has enormous social, cultural, economic and environmental consequences for the displaced population. The people at times have no choice than to succumb to the bad effects resulting from land grabbing or can only protest.

Presenting the recommendations, Samuel Nguiffo, Executive Secretary of CED, said Central African states should provide a clear distinction between public and private land, national and rural lands that cannot be leased out by the state or individuals. Also, states should recognise customary rights of the population on national or community land they occupy and besides, individual property right should institute collective ownership of the communities and villages among others.

Concerning the availability of land, the participants maintained that the states of the region should elaborate a plan of land attribution in a participatory manner, adopt a unique system of contracts for the exploitation of natural resources and adopt a system of free, transparent agreement with the population, among others, before any land concessions. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation representative, Herberg Mirko, maintained that the foundation takes interest in equitable development and democracy in Cameroon.

Through the phenomenon of land grabbing, he said equitable development and democracy are endangered. He argued that contrary to what people are made to believe, that the big plantations serve for the development of the nation, there is need to realise that they work against both the interest of the state and the populations of Cameroon and other countries in the region.

“The way land is being ceded or contracts given, the local population is not involved and is driven off their land. This poses a problem of social stability for the culture of Cameroonian people and peace,” he stated. It is within this context that Friedrich Ebert thought it is important that people learn about this phenomenon and the dangers that are involved.

First published in The Post print edition no 01369

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