Land lies at the heart of social, political and economic life in Africa.
It is what connects the people, their identity and quest for freedom in all the liberation struggles that took part across the continent.
Land has also been, and can best be described as the “true mark of independence”, once a nation or state is in full control of its land.
This probably explains why any renowned African writer and author worth their salt, have at one time, written one or two literature works on land.
Land as the central issue was given prominence in Ngugi wa Thiongo’s “Weep Not Child”, while Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka, Zimbabwe’s late Charles Mungoshi and other African writers glorified Africa’s indigenous culture and the land upon which all this was happening.
Following the “literature activism”, which effectively complimented the political efforts that were being taken by various liberation movements to unyoke themselves from the grip of the colonisers, various African states later attained freedom.
They got their land back, a further affirmation that they were indeed the sons and daughters of the soil.
There was no way Africans could be called a people without owing their land.
Far from being a symbol of independence and heritage for generations, Africa had to have land to be able to produce and sustain its people.
It, therefore, should not come as a surprise, when land is a perennial discourse that take place in different context, as Africans deliberate on how best they can fully utilise the land they have, and also claim ownership if the resource is not yet under their embrace.
It is against this background that yet another conference on Land Policy in Africa (CLPA) will be held next month in Rwanda to discuss how best Africa can consolidate on this resource for the good of the continent.
Running under the theme: “Land governance for safeguarding art, culture and heritage towards the Africa We Want”, the conference is expected to bring several African leaders, scholars and a host of speakers to deliberate on several contentious issues that are yet to be addressed on land.
The conference aligns to the African Union Declaration of 2021 as African’s Year of Art, Culture and Heritage through the theme, “Arts, Culture and Heritage: Levers for Building the Africa We Want”.
CLPA is organised by African Land Policy Centre (ALPC), a joint initiative of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), the African Union Commission (AUC), and the African Development Bank (AfDB). It will be co-hosted by the government of Rwanda.
Joan Kagwanja, ALPC chief notes that land in Africa is at the centre of culture and heritage, which provides a framework for a continental discourse towards improving the land governance space and attaining “The Africa We Want” as envisioned in the AU Agenda 2063.
“The year of arts, culture and heritage happens at a time when AU Member States are grappling with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, which imposes heavy human, financial and economic costs to the land governance space in Africa,” Ms Kagwanja was recently quoted in the media.
The overall objective of the conference is to deepen commitment and strengthen capacity for land policy development, implementation and monitoring in Africa through improved access to knowledge and information in support of evidence-based land policymaking.
The conference is expected to improve knowledge in support of evidence-based land policy development, implementation and monitoring in Africa.
It should enhance and deepen consensus among African policymakers and stakeholders on promising avenues for addressing any challenges; improved networking, partnerships and resources for land governance and land policy in Africa and better appreciation of the role of land for safeguarding Africa’s culture, and heritage on livelihood for the majority of African people.
Given the historical narrative of land which resulted in numerous wars of conquest and territorial dispossession, different forms of expropriation and exploitation historically, the land issue remains an area of contestation.
What should, however, be clear is that any intention to promote neo-colonialism should be thwarted at all cost, considering how Africa has over the years struggled to retain its resources and claims for its people.
By and large, experts feel that such conferences should not be mere talk shows, but they should also promote dialogue for countries that are yet to reclaim its land from colonisers, so that millions of African people can be re-settled and be given agricultural and commercial land.
For a continent, whose almost 60 percent of its population is under the age of 25, making Africa the world’s youngest continent, land is a crucial resource that should be guarded jealously, to ensure that there is enough land for production and settlement.
Several countries — among them Zimbabwe — can attest the importance of land as a resource in ending poverty and increasing production in all sectors.
Following the land reform, it is unquestionable that the rate of return to the majority of people who got land is high.
Thousands of farmers are already enjoying the benefits of owning land, and are not only growing for the local market, but are even exporting to various countries, having increased their agricultural productivity over time.
In addition to maize, macadamia nuts, bananas and an array of vegetables for export market are now part of the farming basket for the discerning farmers who are also eyeing regional and international markets for their products.
Without appearing to be too boastful, it is fact that a lot of international companies are now eyeing Zimbabwe for fruitful partnerships in agriculture.
Recently, Nespresso, an operating unit of Switzerland-based Nestlé Group, partnered a local organisation, TechnoServe, to revive the country’s coffee production, with results now manifesting in coffee production areas such as Honde Valley.
African countries can take notes from an array of successful land usage on the continent.