Hilmelda Tenkeu of Daystar University Athi River, Kenya, completed her internship at the communications unit of ILC Africa in mid-March 2022. In this blog post she shares what she has learnt about the involvement of youth in land rights on the continent
I am finishing my internship in Communications at ILC Africa at a time when ILC is boosting youth voices on land rights. As part of this initiative, ILC will be sponsoring 100 Youth Fellows (of which 12 from Africa) to the Global Land Forum in Jordan, for the inaugural Global Land Forum Youth.
As a young woman, I think that attracting youth to land rights is a tedious task because of cultural and historical struggles. Still, I’m convinced that involving youth in the quest for land rights can be better realized in Africa if the following four points are considered:
1. Partnering with university environmental clubs
Clubs are spaces for young people to express themselves in ways outside classrooms. Most young people express themselves better in informal gatherings. Some universities in Kenya (where I currently live and work), have active and visible environmental clubs, such as the Kenyatta University Environmental Club, Chiromo Environmental Awareness Club, Daystar University Environmental Club, to mention but these. It will be a good idea to partner with these universities and organize peer-to-peer discussions. This could be done by taking advantage of international environmental days such as Earth Day, International Women’s Day, International Forest Day, World Water Week, etc. These global days will provide an opportunity to engage with the youth on land rights. Initiatives could include sessions on land mapping, innovative contests on developing land data, land and technology, tree planting, but also speaking opportunities for young environmentalists/land rights activists, etc.
2. Involving land, environment, or agriculture influencers and elevating their voice
Using the voice of a young influencer can give urgency to land rights because young people relate better to each other. There are social media influencers in Kenya, for instance, who are visible in the land-related sector (such as agriculture and the environment) and who have a large youth following: Akothee, a musician, is also a farmer and is outrightly pushing for young girls to go into agriculture. Eli Mwenda, a podcaster, is involved in agriculture and influences young people on how to create multiple sources of income. Ivy, a member of the popular Over 25 influencer group, has a particular interest in the process of acquiring land in Kenya; she has produced several videos in which she discusses with experts in the land sector. It will be interesting to bring such voices and platforms together to create a common awareness around youth and land rights. I would like to see a combination of these leading, for example, to a youthful narrative of #youngandalandowner (I am young and a landowner).
3. Organizing multi-stakeholder events
ILC hosts many land events in partnerships with other organizations and its members. The Global Land Forum 2022 will innovate (by starting with) the Global Land Forum Youth (GLFY). That is a commendable initiative. However, 3 years is a lot of waiting time to convene the youth from all around the world, to discuss land issues, learn from, listen to and support them. And not every youth will get the opportunity to travel to the Global Land Forum Youth. I suggest that the youth who are sponsored to the GLF be charged with organizing regional gatherings for young people on land rights. The youth delegates can work closely with the National Land Coalitions to host national and regional youth forums on people-centered land governance—as a continuation of the GLFY.
4. Youth-led community land development activities
With my internship at ILC, I have had the opportunity of interacting with young actors working in land rights. I have seen that young people in rural communities are more vulnerable to land injustice because land is their primary source of income and livelihood. My interaction with the ILC Youth Fellows introduced me to their work in the ILC network:
Mamadou Diop, an ILC fellow from Senegal, has been supporting the youth “college” of his organization (Conseil National de Concertation et de Coopération des Ruraux) to insert young people into the different land-related activities such as agri-silvicultural and fishing value chains. With projects such as Terre et Paix (bringing together 30 young people), as well as the LSGT (Les Savoirs des Gens de la Terre) project (currently 642 families), Mamadou and his team have been able to accompany many young people in their quest for access and security to the land.
Shimron Kiptoo, one of ILC Africa’s fellows, is a volunteer with the Chepkitale Indigenous Peoples Development Projects, Kenya. He plans to mainstream youth concerns into land rights, natural resource management, and leadership. Shimron’s immediate goal is to empower and insert at least 10 other youth into decision-making circles, to begin with, and further increase the number with additional initiatives such as having youth departments in as many organizations.
Another example is Moses Nkhana , an ILC fellow from Malawi. Through his organization, Mzimba Youth Organization, Nkhana works with grassroots structures to support education and awareness-raising activities for the youth to know their land rights, and strengthen youth access to legal services to recognize and defend their land rights. So far, Nkhana and his organization have directly reached 75,000 people with activism and over 250,000 people indirectly.
These youth, and other similar initiatives, can become national champions, scaling their initiatives at the national and regional levels.
My internship has given me an insight into youth’s struggles in accessing and controlling land. Africa is the youngest and fastest-growing continent in the world. By 2030, it is estimated that there will be 375 million young people in the job market in Africa. Land rights can create opportunities for this future pool of job searchers. The time to attract, prepare, equip and empower the youth is now.
Hilmelda Tenkeu of Daystar University Athi River, Kenya, produced this blogpost as part of her internship in the Communications unit of ILC Africa, under the supervision of Kevin Eze.