ACHIEVING GENDER EQUALITY AND SOCIAL INCLUSION IN LAND BASED INVESTMENT IN GHANA
Due to cultural, traditional and sometimes religious reasons, some categories of land rights holders are excluded from decision making on land. They are not involved even when the land they occupy is the subject for commercial investments. Women, the youth, migrants, and the aged and many other categories have increased vulnerability and risk dispossession without due recognition for their land rights and their consent to the investment decision. As a result of this, there is the need to manage the land acquisition process for investments in a way that recognizes and involves all the potentially excluded group in each particular context. In the same way, this calls for a dis-aggregated attention to the differential impacts of land based investments as not all the local land rights holders are impacted in the same way and therefore mitigation measure should also be tailored to the different categories.
Under our project “Achieving Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in Land Based Investments in Ghana” we aim at putting gender equality and social inclusion at the center of national interventions in managing and/or mitigating the impacts of land based investments to achieve responsible investments.
In recent years, private investors and government have shown a growing interest in the acquisition of large portions of arable land in Ghana to undertake various investment activities. However, based on our historical and cultural context, traditional authorities who manage the lands are familiar with acquisitions that are done on a small scale. Similarly, the legislative framework and institutional arrangements for land governance in Ghana are all structured to support land acquisitions on a small scale and not for commercial investments. This notwithstanding, incidents of large scale land acquisition for commercial investments in Ghana are on the increase.
To introduce the needed checks and balances in large scale land acquisitions, the Lands Commission of Ghana prepared the Guidelines on Large Scale Land Acquisition. The guidelines however focuses mainly on checks and balances that the Lands Commission must perform on any application for land registration of size more than 50 acres. While it was a good initiative, it failed to address the core issues at the preregistration stage where the investor engages directly with traditional authorities to agree on the land deal, at which point the issues affecting local land rights holders will need to be addressed.
In addition, the use of the Lands Commission Guidelines is limited mainly to the Lands Commission. Yet, to achieve socially responsible investment, there are roles to be played by other related institutions, including the private sector actors themselves.
Noting these gaps in the Lands Commission Guidelines, Landesa, in partnership with COLANDEF and with funding from DFID UK, has been working on developing comprehensive guidelines tailored to the Ghanaian context that would address the gaps found in the earlier work in achieving responsible investments. The Landesa/COLANDEF project is set to deliver guidebooks for the private sector, public sector and community actors to provide practical guides for all to work together in bringing about responsible land based investments.
While this will be a significant improvement on what has been done by the Lands Commission and other similar initiatives, there is also the need to pay some attention to Gender Equality and Social Inclusion (GESI) towards making land based investments responsible. This is important because in the Ghanaian cultural setting, women, migrants, and other vulnerable groups are considered as “outliers” and as a result, do not have an equal standing when it comes to decision making on the land.
With funding support from STAR GHANA, COLANDEF is on the implementation of the “Achieving Gender Equality and Social Inclusion in Land Based Investments in Ghana” project. This project will seek to unpack the impacts of land based investments on vulnerable groups, document the evidence of the differential impacts and raise awareness on these differential impacts. In the end, the project is expected to help all actors to review their strategies for land based investments to give attention to Gender Equality and Social Inclusion.