Johannesburg, South Africa – In August 2014, AWEPA co-organised a regional seminar for the Southern African region committed to make agriculture investment work for Africa and to have a parliamentary response to the land rush.
In early August 2014, parliamentarians of the Southern African Development Community-Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) and the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) debated on strategies to ensure that foreign investment in agriculture brings benefits to local populations, including strengthening citizens’ land rights, food security and employment opportunities. The seminar was organized jointly by the PAP and SADC-PF in collaboration with AWEPA, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD), the African Union, the Land Policy Initiative (LPI), Africa Forum, OXFAM, International Land Coalition, Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD) and the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).
Mr. Henk Jan Ormel, Vice-president of AWEPA, who participated in the seminar, shared with us some experiences and reflections.
“The world population will grow within 20 years from 7 to 9 billion people and the highest growth rates will be seen in Sub-Saharan Africa. These people need their daily food. Another trend is urbanization. There will be fewer farmers to produce this food. Climate change will change agricultural systems dramatically and the highest impact of climate change will be seen in Sub-Saharan Africa. The pressure of all these trends on land, on culture, on livelihoods, is enormous and often devastating. If we look at the tragic developments of the Ebola outbreak, we can see the results of these changing landscapes.
Politicians and other decision makers have to take into account long-term effects of agriculture investment on the eco-system and on the cultural heredity of land in Africa. Investors request the state for land and the state identifies land under its control to provide for agricultural investments. But when the investors go to the area, they find local people, using that land. There is thus potential for people to be dispossessed of their lands, with their livelihoods and food security being placed in jeopardy.
Investment in land can have a positive impact on livelihoods, but there is need for a robust and sustainable policy framework.
During the 2 day seminar the participants discussed trends, investments, regional initiatives and concrete actions. AWEPA’s 30 years of involvement in Africa was recognised and showed the deep interest of African and European parliaments in possibilities to work together for sustainable agriculture investment. I was impressed by the commitment and professionalism of the participants on the issue of agriculture and land rush.
The development of sustainable agricultural investment with respect for livelihoods and the rich ecosystems of Africa is one of the biggest challenges of this century. Let Europe and Africa cooperate on this as neighbours and as friends. AWEPA facilitates the connection between African and European parliamentarians to make agriculture investment work for Africa.”
Since 2011, the PAP, in cooperation with regional parliaments, launched a campaign to raise awareness among parliamentarians about large-scale investment in land. The Southern Regional Meeting was the last of a series of regional meetings on the land rush issue and was jointly organised with the SADC-PF.
The seminar was officially opened by Hon. Amadi Bethel, President of the PAP and by Hon. Abdool Razack Peeroo, Chairman of the Parliament of SADC-PF.