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Insecure Property Rights in Africa 2

 PROPERTY RIGHTS AND OUR MISSION:  

Our mission is to be the best in the world in micro hydro electric and water resource management: by evolving innovative damless hydroelectric and water transfer technology. We create Today’s Tall Tree Nurseries to support Micro Finance for women farmers and their families using the Carbon Tax Fund, a new form of foreign aid. We export Mechanization into Africa for more productive agriculture. We insist on Property Rights in Africa.

According to a recent article in the Economist, property rights are still miserably insecure in Africa. Legally recognizing land ownership has boosted farmers’ income and productivity in Latin America and Asia. But this is not the case yet in Africa. More than two-thirds of Africa’s land is still under customary tenure, with rights to land rooted in communities and typically neither written down nor legally recognized. In 31 of Africa’s 54 countries, less than 5% of rural land is privately owned. So giving peasants title to their land seems like an obvious first step towards easing African rural poverty.

In Rwanda, 81% of plots had been issued with titles since 2013, at relatively low cost; investment and women’s access to land have both improved. But even a relatively well-organised place like Rwanda has had problems keeping records up to date when land is sold or inherited.

Your Property Rights? Prove it!

In some African countries, less than 10% of households have any documents proving their land ownership. Being able to prove you own your land may be a necessary condition for using it as collateral.

In Kenya a large-scale titling programme was carried out in colonial times and carried over to independence. Most Kenyans cannot afford to update titles, and the government has not maintained the registry.

In Ethiopia, all land is still officially state-owned. The government has successfully registered customary rights in some regions: about 30% of Ethiopian households now have such documents. But it has also leased large tracts of land to foreign investors.

Legal property rights offer less protection in countries where big men can flout the law with impunity—a particular problem in Africa. Traditional chiefs have also sold communal land to private firms, leaving many peasants destitute. In Ghana chiefs have used their right to administer communal land to sell large tracts without their community’s permission. Property rights are even less respected in Zimbabwe. In recent years land grabs have sometimes made a mockery of customary ownership. Over the past decade and a half, Robert Mugabe’s government has seized most of the country’s commercial farms with little or no compensation.

In several places custom dictates that only men can inherit land. In Uganda stories abound of widows being ejected their marital land by in-laws. One woman was thrown out of her home a week after her husband died in an accident; she had refused to marry any of his five brothers, and her children were taken away to a sister-in-law.

A land survey in Africa among farmers revealed that it was the chief who owned all the lands. When the surveyors told the chief that he owned a lot of land, he explained them: This is not my land; we got it from our ancestors and have to duty to maintain it in a good state and hand it over to our children and grandchildren.

The ideal should be on clear transparent contracts on land use that cover a life span sufficiently long enough to harvest the benefits of investments done and in which the rights of use can be inherited.

Land today is more valuable than ever: how do you make the land equally available to all citizens?

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