Inequality in access to land is increasing across the African continent. Experts are calling for more rules and controls on the sale of land to counteract poverty.
A lucrative building boom for some people on Kenya's coastal regions is causing great suffering for many fisherfolk. In Tudor, the northern coastal strip in the Kenyan city of Mombasa, apartment buildings and hotels are going up at a dizzying rate.
"Big companies are building there and roads are being extended. All the landing sites for fisher boats have disappeared," said Phelix Lore, director of the human rights organization Haki Center."It affects livelihoods because, when fishermen are not able to land, they have no have a place to put their fish and even sell them." He said "Land grabbing has been a big problem in Kenya for years."
The example of the Kono District in the West African country of Sierra Leone shows that those responsible often do not care. Large mining companies there exploit the soil by seeking diamonds and gold. The Koidu Holdings mine was the first company to invest in the lucrative business after the end of the civil war in 2002. It is owned by Israeli Beny Steinmetz — currently on trial in Geneva on corruption charges in mining deals.
"The company and its boss have had a difficult relationship with the community in the mining area ever since they arrived," Berns Lebbie, coordinator at Initiative Land for Life Sierra Leone said.
The company has caused much hardship for the local population, who have to contend with dust haze, water shortages and economic deprivation.
"When an investment company takes over a piece of land and barricades the roads, so that farmers, fishermen and others lose access, people expect that alternative livelihood sources be provided," said Lebbie. "They want adequate wage labor for the young, or maybe microfinance support to the women or direct financial compensation. Without this kind of support, grievance and resentment will prevail, which can lead to violent reactions."
Ward Anseeuw, an analyst at ILC and co-author of the report, explained, "In many African countries land is state property. Communities only manage it. They do that with the help of land committees."
But oftentimes, the collective ideal does not work. For example, when a local leader has only his own interests in mind, or when there are no democratic structures to impose respect for the rules. According to Anseeuw, land collectives are to be welcomed, but it must be ensured that they represent all members.