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Karol Boudreaux presented on emerging land tenure and land governance issues in Africa and focused on large-scale land acquisitions, private-sector investment and the opportunity presented by the adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT) to address conflict related to competing land uses and how USAID is thinking about these issues and challenges.

The VGGT offers land and resource managers fundamental guidelines on land use planning and administration. Adoption of the VGGT provides an important window of opportunity to tackle issues including protecting customary rights, integrating gender concerns, recognizing secondary and tertiary rights (most typically to natural resources) and supporting responsible investing by private sector actors. Boudreaux highlighted how some community-based natural resource management (CBNRM) best practices can be applied to work with communities, farmers associations, etc. to build more collaborative contracting models that empower communities.

Governance is a systemic process that relates to the rule of law, political concerns and local power structures. Land tenure professionals would benefit from incorporating more comprehensive, integrated approaches to their practices so as to incorporate not only institutions allocating and enforcing laws, but also informal sector institutions, traditional leaders and customary practices.

Demand for land in Africa is high but tenure rights on the ground are often weak. Locals need assurances that their rights are realized and honored thus promoting a sense of ownership and resource stewardship. For example, empowering local communities to transfer rights between their own people and to engage directly with investors can be mutually beneficial and reduce some risks associated with land acquisitions.