Kigali, Rwanda, 26 April. An inter-parliamentary workshop, “Making Agricultural Investment work for Africa: a Parliamentarian Response to the Land Rush,” was organized in Kigali, Rwanda. This two-day workshop raised awareness among Parliamentarians on the scale and impact of recent Foreign Direct Investment (FDIs) in East African land and water, and adopted a declaration on this sensitive issue to guide future action on land policy and governance in the East Africa region. The workshop was co-organised by), the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), the East African Legislative Assembly(EALA), the International Institute for Sustainable Development(ISD), the African Union and the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa (AWEPA).
In attendance were parliamentarians from PAP, EALA, theParliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Parliament of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEMAC), the national Parliaments of Rwanda, South Africa and Mozambique. Hon. Margaret Zziwa, Speaker of EALA, noted that FDI in agriculture is key to achieving food security on the continent; however that it is paramount that this investment is done in a responsible way, which is the responsibility of parliamentarians. Currently, trends have been negative, failing to resolve contentious issues and in fact creating or exacerbating existing tensions around natural resource management and access to critical inputs.
Hon. Zziwa encouraged national and regional parliaments to address the negative effects of the current land rush through better governance, and adhere to the Maputo commitment of national investment in agriculture to reach 10% of GDP, financing greater mechanization, technology transfers and extension services for the poorest farmers.
Echoing her words, Holger Gustafsson, political coordinator of AWEPA’s Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) programme, reiterated the key role of Parliaments in ensuring that agricultural investments in Africa also produce gainful returns on the continent, and benefit the poor.
According to the IMF, from 1961 to 2007, 4.1 million hectares of land were opened to international speculation per year, with 1.8 million hectares in Africa. In 2009 alone, 56.6 million hectares were sold globally, with 39.7 million hectares in Africa. In the last decade, the amount of land at play would be sufficient to feed one billion people, which is also the same number of people who go to bed hungry every night. Given Africa’s struggle with food security and hunger, this issue touches a nerve for development actors, governments, civil society and farming communities across the continent.
The workshop explored model laws and policies on responsible investment in agriculture from Liberia, Rwanda and Uganda and participants worked in focus groups to define actions and a way forward in their respective committees and parliaments. The seminar produced a joint declaration, which was adopted through participatory debate in a final plenary session.