When development projects are announced in rural Africa, the elites and politically influential rush to acquire land in the space earmarked for development at cheaper rates
They later use them to claim huge compensations from the government or to sell to investors at exorbitant figures. Investors in turn promise jobs, economic growth and prosperity in exchange for local lands, yet struggle to keep their word.
In July 2019, the government of Madagascar started consulting rural stakeholders on community land rights. At the backdrop of this action rests the idea to protect citizens from cheating international and domestic investors, while ensuring fair and equitable development. The problem of corruption in the land sector is one that Transparency International reckons affects all citizens of Africa.
Land corruption is a concern that stakeholders have been rallying efforts over the years to combat. At ILC, members use open data to fight land grabbing and corruption. Between 2016 and 2018, in collaboration with Land Matrix, the International Land Coalition (ILC) launched national land observatories in Cameroon, Senegal and Uganda. These platforms plug on already existing multiple stakeholder networks led by members and non-members of ILC in the country to report corruption in land by sharing information about known land deals in an open platform, which can be accessed by the public.
One big strength of such platforms is journalists and activists, who dig into development deals to find instances of corruption. But journalists and activists sometimes are not well tooled to lead proper investigations on land. To enable them to develop better skills to fight land corruption, ILC launched an initiative in 2018 that trained journalists and frontline land activists on how to lead investigative reporting on land. The training driven by African Centre of Media Excellence (ACME), an ILC member, made use of tools and toolkits developed by ILC members on fighting land corruption to tool activists on how to go about investigations.
It also drilled stakeholders on how to use openly available sources to get information on land corruption and how to interpret land deals. The outcome of this has been the breaking of stories that has held leaders accountable in Nigeria and Liberia, increased engagement between local media and civil society activists in Senegal and South Africa and improved participation of citizens in debates on land.
ILC members also use tools like participatory mapping and land use planning in villages to end corruption in the land sector. It has been particularly successful in bringing peace in conflict-ridden villages of Kenya and Tanzania. Under the leadership of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), ILC members have used these approaches to promote land governance in rangelands and to improve the livelihoods of cattle keepers.
One lesson to draw from all these examples is that it is people-centred and have a high level of community buy-in. Data-driven approaches work better when they are participatory, and community-led.