Researcher calls for new search for
"Despite the new initiatives underway, in particular user right
documentation, tenure insecurity still remains the overriding problem of
the land system in Ethiopia and if the country is to address the complex
problems of rural development and natural resource management a sustained
and informed debate on the land issue, based on research and the views of
the stakeholders, is necessary," says a leading
researcher in the field.
new discussion paper, Searching for Tenure Security, by Dessalegn Rahmato,
manager of Forum for Social Studies (FSS), says user right documentation
has currently helped minimize some problems and these
developments are to be welcomed since they are an improvement on existing
conditions and a step in the right direction. But
existing initiative of user rights documentation should
be continued using modern techniques of mapping, surveying, and land
registration, unless otherwise new problems could arise in the
future, Dessalegn advises.
The current land policy promotes insecurity of tenure
because it allows, among others, periodic distribution which is
inefficient given that it constrains land transactions and inhibits the
emergence of a dynamic land market, while promoting fragmentation of land
and mounting pressure on land resources, he says adding that it also
discourages rural people from leaving their farms for other employment
According to the researcher, tenure insecurity
has been aggravated not just because of the threat of periodic
redistribution, but also due to increasing rural poverty, growing
population pressure and increasing land scarcity; government officials
interferences; lack of knowledge on the part of rights holders of their
rights and inability to defend their rights; lack of a proper and
accessible juridical body responsible for land disputes.
The study which examines the Federal land policy
framework as well as legislations of the recent four killils;
Amhara, Tigrai, Oromia and Southern, argues that land legislation should
not promise each adult citizen in the rural areas.
While the three Killils promise land to all
rural adults in their respective jurisdictions, the Southern Killil
makes rights to land a right of all the country’s citizens. With the
country's rural population growing from an estimated 15 million in the
early 1950s, to 34 million in 1980 and 54 million in 2000, in addition to
shrinking land resources, such promise is dangerous, underlines Dessalegn.
In addition, he says, the available evidence suggests
that average per capita holdings have been diminishing over the last four
decades due to population pressure and the increasing inability of the
non-farm sector to provide employment to the excess rural population.
In his opinion, the conditionalities described
in the Tigrai but more importantly the Amhara legislation which has a wide
range of conditionalities, among others, soil and water conservation, but
care for the vegetation on farm plots, "proper" farming practices,
weeding, flood control, etc. are unfair and counter-productive that could
lead to conflict in the long run.
Moreover, the encouragement given to individual citizens to report to the
authorities about cases of abuse of land in the Amhara draft policy
document will, in the long run, inflame anger and set neighbor against
neighbor, and peasant against peasant, he cautions. The restrictions
placed on residence by the Tigrai legislation put women at a disadvantage
because on marriage they may move from the kebelle of their
parents, he says.
the first step in promoting
tenure security must begin with a formal decision by the government at the
Federal and Killil level to remove the threat of future
redistribution of land. Such a categorical decision has been made by
Oromia Killil's legislation only, he adds.
Besides, the researcher says, tenure security can be promoted by extending
the scope of the land market and giving it legal support by restricting
the intervention of government agencies to extension work, adding, no
decision on land should be binding on rights holders unless it is made
through the legal process and is the decision of legitimate courts.
A sound and practical judicial framework for land
disputes as well as for rights holders to protect their rights in the
event that government authorities violate them or threaten to violate them
is absent from current policy or poorly provided, Dessalegn underlines.
Any informed debate on tenure security will have to
take into account the country's agrarian history of the last half century
on the one hand, and on the other the relevant experiences of other
countries in Africa and elsewhere, he suggests.
However, he says, the quality of the current debate on land issue is
quite uneven and leaves a lot to be desired. Some of the debate reflects a
singular concern over the subject of ownership, leading to a polarized
argument around the issue of state versus private ownership, he says.
Since this has not served a useful purpose, Dessalegn argues, it is
important to move away from such sterile discussion,
and the search for tenure security should be the central objective
that should inform the debate.
the other hand, the recent stand of the Prime Minister, announcing that as
far the governing party and his government are concerned, the land issue
is a dead issue and a debate on it is not welcome, is ill advised, he
comments. Despite government's objections, the study concludes by
stressing the need for a fresh public debate on the land question,
because, the subject is too important to be ignored.
In his final remark, Dessalegn emphasizes that a
government which has the welfare of the rural population at heart and
which is keen to promote a dynamic land system will enable rights holders
to have access to all relevant legal and policy documents so that they are
able to defend their rights in court or in other appropriate forums; this
will empower farming people and peasant communities.