The World Resources Institute (WRI) and the Rural Development Institute (RDI) are launching a new initiative that will improve the livelihoods of farmers by creating a system of Web-based multimedia tools to illustrate and communicate complex property rights issues in Africa. The initiative is funded with a grant to WRI from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
In many parts of Africa, there is a great divide between property rights granted under formal law and customary land rights from traditional authorities, such as village chiefs. These differences and contradictions often lead to insecure property rights and can result in conflicts, poor agricultural productivity, and poverty. “In the absence, people lack incentives to invest in their land, and poor communities are vulnerable to losing their land altogether,” said Peter Veit, a WRI senior fellow and director of the project.
Using interactive maps, charts and other attention-grabbing media tools, the WRI-RDI project will share country experiences and lessons learned in compelling ways designed to educate and engage the development assistance community, including government officials, land tenure experts and agricultural specialists.
The Web-based project will provide this audience with a thorough understanding of tenure issues in six target countries-Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Ghana and Mali. Users, who currently lack access to the information they need to strengthen tenure and improve agricultural production, will be able to download the project material and tailor it to their specific educational needs.
“Development initiatives that fail to understand the importance and complexities of land rights can risk threatening local livelihoods and unintentionally inflict harm,” said Tim Hanstad, president and CEO of RDI. “Addressing the knowledge deficit can help ensure that governments and development agencies are well-informed and have a stronger understanding of land tenure issues before they design new initiatives and projects.”
“Having access to clear, accurate and easy-to-understand information on land tenure and property rights in Africa is important to help stakeholders design projects and policies that support the needs of small farmers,” said Diana Grusczynski, associate program officer in the Agricultural Development initiative at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. “We are pleased to support this project, which we hope will ultimately play a role in helping small farmers lift themselves out of hunger and poverty.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant totals $485,000 and the project will be implemented over the next 18 months. The grant is part of the foundation’s Agricultural Development initiative, which is working with a wide range of partners to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families.
The foundation is working to strengthen the entire agricultural value chain-from seeds and soil to farm management and market access-so that progress against hunger and poverty is sustainable over the long term.