Among the issues that the meeting covered were regional, continental and other policy frameworks and guidelines on land rights and ongoing policy processes; land policies and on-going processes in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe and large-scale land acquisitions.
Delegates heard about the existence of several regional and continental frameworks and guidelines on land rights.
Their domestication at country level however proves to be a challenge, and national interest over common regional and/or continental interest could be contributing to this. Relatedly, the four countries represented at the meeting are at various stages in terms of land policy issues.
Land policies exist in Malawi and Mozambique but not in Zambia and Zimbabwe. This is a rather surprising situation in a region where the majority of the population derives their livelihoods from working the land. Traditional leaders were said to have a lot of power over land governance although this varies from country to country. In some instances, decisions on land issues are often taken without community consultations.
The scale of large-scale land acquisition was also put under the spotlight. Most investments are in Africa, with 422 deals, followed by Asia and Latin America with 305 and 146 deals respectively. Eastern Europe has 96 deals. Malaysia, USA, UK, Singapore and Saudi Arabia are the top five investor countries.
Investments are mainly in palm oil cultivation, jatropha and sugar cane. The meeting agreed on the establishment of a regional land network. Initially, this will involve the countries that participated in the meeting and later expanded.
The primary focus in 2019 will be the development of a strategic plan which will guide the activities of the network. This will be discussed at a regional meeting which is tentatively scheduled for the first half of the year.