LandNet as a Civil Society Platform on Land Governance.
LandNet constitutes the “Civil Society Platform on Land Governance”. It has developed and is implementing a “National Engagement Strategy” (NES) whose objective is to guide Civil Society’s engagement process with various stakeholders to speak with one and unified voice. The NES sets the agenda for strengthening collective voice towards influencing and engaging with the national policy space on the issues of land identified as core by Network members.
Research and Documentation
Under the CSO World Bank grant 2009 LandNet conducted an advocacy based research from 2009 to 2010 in the eight districts of Nsanje, Chiradzulu, Mwanza, Salima, Dowa, Mzimba, Rumphi and Chitipa and documented at least 100 case studies of women and men being dispossessed of land due to oppressive cultural practices.
Another research was on the impact of large-scale commercial land investments on the food security of the smallholder farmer. The extent to which local communities have a voice over the manner in which community land is alienated including for various investments has been a concern over centuries. Land alienation has included ‘land purchases’ from chiefs for establishment of large-scale tea and coffee plantations in southern Malawi; to post colonial local elite commercial agriculture expansion and recent foreign large scale land investments. There has been stealth but systematic alienation of community land which has reduced smallholder agriculture amidst a burgeoning population. This has been described in different ways by various institutions depending on their perception. Others have termed it “commercial pressures on land”, ‘large-scale land acquisitions’ or ‘investment deals’. The result however is the same- loss of smallholder land to commercial agriculture. The ‘land transfer’ negotiation processes with the local community have often been viewed as unethical and unbalanced hence calling it “land grabing”. Therefore, with funding from Oxfam, a research was conducted into perceived “Landgrabs” resulting from large scale commercial land investments culminating into a Policy Brief on “Large Scale Land Acquisitions and Food Security in Malawi - Towards a Responsive Policy Frame-work”.
The University of Western Cape, with funding from the Australian Development Corporation, sub-contracted LandNet in January 2013 to contribute towards a SADC region action research under the title - Commercialisation of Land and ‘Land Grabbing‘: Implications for Land Rights and Livelihoods in Southern Africa. The research which started in September 2013 and is still continuing involves:
Conducting an “Action Research” on two research sites in Malawi (Chikhwawa and Nkhotakota) to critically assess the impacts and outcomes of land deals on land rights and livelihoods, the responses of land-rights holders, implications on social differentiation and gender equity.
Analyzing the interests that shape the governance dimensions from local to international to generate policy recommendations and engage with civil society and policy makers in Malawi to promote good land governance in relation to large-scale land acquisitions. This includes but not limited to the FAO Voluntary Guidelines for Governance of Land and Natural Resources and the AU Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa.
Compiling a factsheet on land commercialization in Malawi.
The three research activities have, inevitably, caused LandNet to operate as “watch-dog” on perceived landgrabs on the poor rural smallholder farmers in Malawi. A video documentary is under production featuring perceived land-grabs.
In partnership with the Coalition of Women Farmers in Malawi (COWFA) and with funding from Actionaid under the project “Social Empowerment on the Rights of the Vulnerable and Excluded” (SERVE), LandNet implemented awareness raising activities on the provisions of the Malawi National Land Policy with reference to women and smallholder farmers land rights and tenure security in eight districts of the Country (Nsanje, Chiradzulu, Mwanza, Salima, Dowa, Mzimba, Rumphi and Chitipa) from 2006 to 2008. The project targeted leaders of women farmers groups, group leaders of women living with HIVAIDS, and traditional leaders (Chiefs).
With financial support from Actionaid, LandNet implemented from 2009 to 2011 a “Women’s Land Rights” (WOLAR) project titled “District Women Access to Land Awareness Campaign”. The project covered eight districts of the country and it aimed at strengthening the capacity of grassroots women to effectively participate in the Malawi land policy reform and implementation processes in an effort to promote their land tenure security, access, control and ownership of land and proceeds thereof. In the same districts the project also targeted Traditional Authorities, District Assembly officers including magistrates and victim support unit of the Police Service and Area Development Committees. Further, in partnership with a LandNet member (Justice Link), the project conducted capacity building activities at district level for Chiefs Land Tribunals and women leaders on “Land conflict resolution and dispute management” – a comparison of the provisions and practices under the prevailing legislation and those in the new legislation under formulation.
LandNet raises community and investor awareness on Guiding Principles of Responsible Tenure Governance, Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment and provisions of the new land legislation which is still under formulation hoping to be debated by parliament in their February 2015 sitting. These principles are enshrined in the international land policy frameworks such as the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) voluntary guidelines on responsible governance of tenure of land and other natural resources; the World Bank’s principles for responsible agricultural investment; and the Africa Union’s (AU) framework and guidelines on land policy.
Advocacy and Influence
When Government circulated a land amendment bill in the 2006 June sitting of Parliament, LandNet held consultations with its stakeholders and managed to convince Government to withdraw the circulated Bill and replace it with a totally new pro-poor land Bill that takes into account issues raised by the grassroots.
LandNet was, thereafter, appointed a member of a “Special Law Commission on the Review of Land-related Laws”. The main task of the commission was to translate the findings and recommendations of the National Land Policy and any further submissions received into a “New Land Law”. This gave opportunity to LandNet to influence the incorporation of grassroots input into the new land law. Such input is included and acknowledged in the Law Commission Report No.15 – “Report of the Law Commission on the Review of the Land Related Laws” dated 9th April, 2010.
The National Land Policy 2002, which is to date not supported by a relevant legal framework, advances the spirit of the UN FAO Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) in respect to recognizing, protecting and respecting customary land rights. Therefore, with funding from Oxfam in 2012 to date, under a project titled “Enhancing Civil Society Voice on the Land Policy Reform Process in Malawi”, LandNet enhanced advocacy for the review of the land laws. The advocacy together with the work of the Special Law Commission culminated in the repeal of at least four Acts and the publication of eleven land related Bills presented to and approved by parliament in the June 2013 sitting. However, presidential assent was not granted due to some divergent Civil Society views. LandNet has since then taken an active role to consolidate the divergent Civil Society views and has, in September 2014, submitted to the government a unified voice of the civil society. LandNet’s advocacy included several awareness workshops with select Parliamentary Committees, especially Parliamentary Committee on Land, Agriculture and natural Resources, the Legal Affairs Committee and the Women’s lobby.
LandNet has been active in several interventions, dialogues and debates and in making submissions to processes coordinated by ILC. For example, LandNet Malawi made submissions, through ILC, towards the development of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT).
As an ILC member, LandNet takes an active role to follow-up Malawi’s adoption of ILC’s Tirana Declaration of May 2011 which urges States to take advantage of the historic opportunity of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests and pursue people-centered land governance. LandNet also seeks to popularize and influence the domestication of the “Africa Land Policy Framework and Guidelines (ALPFG)” approved and adopted by the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in July 2009 which act as a basis for commitment by African member states to the formulation and operationalisation of sound land policies as a basis for sustainable human development that includes assuring and alleviating poverty and protecting natural resources from degradation and pollution.
Apart from promoting the World Bank’s principles for responsible agricultural investment, LandNet actively promotes the implementation of the April 25th, 2013 Antigua (Guatemala) Declaration made by ILC Assembly of Members, which seeks to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for women and men who live in poverty.
LandNet is also playing an active role in Oxfam’s “Right to Food Initiative” (RFI), the domestication of SADC Protocols on mining especially from the perspective of land expropriation and compensation, Corporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Impacts Management.
With support from Joint Oxfam Program in Malawi, LandNet organized, in August 2003, the first National Civil Society workshop on the land policy reform to agree on a strategy to engage government on the participation of civil society organizations in the land policy and law formulation process.
LandNet is a paid-up member of the International Land Coalition (ILC) which is a global alliance of 116 member organization’s in more than fifty countries, including Malawi. In this capacity, LandNet Malawi hosted the 2011 annual conference for ILCAfrica Region whose theme was “Building Joint Action for Pro-poor Land Policy.”
Funding Partners. Current funding partners are the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Oxfam GB through Oxfam Malawi, the UN FAO, International Land Coalition (ILC) and the University of Western Cape‘s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS). Previous donors included Actionaid, World Bank.