Teaming up on agrarian reform
From Bolivia to Zambia, IFAD and the International Land Coalition are making progress in improving access to land
The International Land Coalition ended its Global Assembly in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, in March 2005 with a declaration on collective action for agrarian reform. The declaration is an important indicator of progress towards achievement of the strategic objectives set at the previous assembly in Rome in 2003. The declaration signals the growing solidarity and joint efforts of all members of the Land Coalition.
Representatives of more than 80 grass-roots groups, intergovernmental organizations and government representatives from 30 countries renewed their commitment to empower rural poor people through land reform and other measures.
"Secure access to land and related assets is key to reducing poverty and that can only be done by joining together with all partners," said Jim Carruthers, Assistant President of IFAD's Programme Management Department. "Through our partnership with the Land Coalition, IFAD participates in dialogue with a broad range of civil society groups, governments and other intergovernmental organizations."
Since its founding in 1995, the Land Coalition has provided opportunities for diverse partners from civil society, intergovernmental and governmental organizations to participate in dialogue on issues of land reform. Together, they help amplify the voices of rural poor people, and ensure that they participate in decision-making that will improve their access to and productive use of land, water and other essential assets to increase their incomes and overall living standards. The Land Coalition benefits from being located at IFAD and from the opportunity this provides for working together.
In Zambia in 2004, support from the Land Coalition and IFAD helped partner organizations to ensure that the views of poor and marginalized communities were considered in the review of a national land reform policy. Over nine months, the NGO Zambia Land Alliance visited rural communities, using television and radio documentaries, booklets and a website to raise awareness about land issues and collect the opinions of village members. This work was made possible by the Land Coalition's Community Empowerment Facility (CEF), which funds innovative approaches to strengthening the capacity of civil society organizations. The CEF receives support from IFAD, the World Bank and other donors.
The Land Coalition and IFAD also share lessons learned with partners and the development community. In 2004, they published The Cost of Land, a case study on the use of land funds, which support land redistribution by providing credit to people to purchase land.
"Setting up a land fund doesn't guarantee success," says Bruce Moore, Director of the International Land Coalition. "Many land funds have failed, for instance, because they caused land prices to rise, adding to the debt and not to the income of poor households. We documented a positive experience in Ecuador to see which elements contributed to success."
The case study examines the efforts of an NGO in Ecuador, the Fondo Ecuatoriano Populorum Progressio (FEPP). With support from the Land Coalition, FEPP worked with the Government to ensure that rural poor people had the technical assistance and capacity to gain land titles, negotiate fair prices, access credit and increase the profitability of their land.
As development banks and other partners consider the use of land funds, this experience may hold valuable lessons. A presentation on the FEPP experience was part of the World Bank's Rural Week in 2005.