Whose land is it anyway? Land ownership’s influence on Africa’s climate resilience strategies.

It was two centuries ago when a conference in Berlin set precedence on authoritative power in Africa, and its influence in wealth distribution and practice in autonomy(or lack thereof).

Since the independence era, processes of decolonization such academic dialogue, political practice, foreign relations with the world and inter-continental relationships have been underway, even though past relations with former authoritative power breathed through the historic personalities that inform monopoly capital remain a constant challenge.

Sub-Saharan Africa, much like various areas of the Global South rely on land use for a pulsating economy. With agriculture and mining as pioneering industries, Africa’s land has become vulnerable to deforestation and desertification, and gross land activity informing climate change.

While governments create policies and pledge to climate action agreements, their implementation tends to fall by the wayside. This I shoulder, as a result of willingness from personalities such as mining industry capitals that hold the power of a country’s development through the business lens.

With understanding that at our essence, human bare biological creatures that depend on land use, the faces and intentions behind land ownership become a large determinant for environmental stability, climate adaptation implementation and holistic development. This is why, many Pan African theorists believe in the advocacy for indigenous communities to own land, and play a stronger role in a more diversified face towards environmental health.

The large percentile of land ownership is evidently based on its Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic activity. With Sub-Saharan Africa converting forest land to agriculture at hastening rates (an industry with employs 69% of the rural community, all the while being informed by foreign monopolized capital) and mining & energy industries seen as sectors that characterize a booming economy, the environment is vulnerable to scarring based on capitalistic interest.

According to a report by Rights and Resources, only 16 percent of local communities and indigenous people own land, with 84% controlled by private corporations and national government. This creates a skewed interest of environmental sustainability inclusive of green mining, irrigation farming and renewable energy – of which many nations in the continent still have not subscribed to.

The report further notes that out of 55 member states, only 19 countries have enacted laws that enable recognition of community owners – expressing a weak or non-existent implementation strategies that can create a reality of diversified land ownership.

The importance of indigenous communities in land reform doesn’t rely solely in diversified representation, but speaks to economic transformation that can conserves the environment. Including indigenous communities in spaces of leadership and authoritative asset control (being land) allows for indigenous knowledge to infiltrate spaces of education, economic activity, health and governance – in turn harnessing a knowledge based economy alleviating the  weight of environmental-based economic activity in the continent, as argued in the World Banks report on Building Knowledge Economies: Advanced Strategies for Development 

In essence, a large identity of land ownership in Africa has historic colonial ties which continuously prove a larger interest on land profitability over sustainability and resilience, which affect a major stakeholder who requires more visibility, a stronger voice in economic reform and environmental welfare. If governments were to focus more on land reform – linking it to climate adaptation strategies, it could create a more holistic process towards climate resilience. The need is to appreciate that long term interests that serve indigenous communities are long term interests that serve the private sector.