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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

Forum set to chart course for review of Ghana’s 1999 National Land Policy

If you are a land expert or concern about efficient delivery of land administration services characterised by transparency and accountability, then this is your moment. You can be a part of the convocation of experts on land related matters that is taking place at the Accra International Conference Centre from Tuesday, December 6 to Friday, December 9, 2022.

President Nana Akufo-Addo
President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana will formally open the conference

Among other things, the Conference “is providing a unique opportunity to chart the path for the long overdue process of reviewing the 1999 National Land Policy.” And, according to a source from the organising institutions “this development is crucial, as the Land Policy has to be reviewed taking into consideration new developments such as community-based mining and climate change that are impacting the nation’s land.”

The source said in considering a review of the 1999 Land Policy, another thing that will be worthy of note during deliberations at the Conference, “is the impact on land of existing situations including forest and land tenure issues as well as migration that have assumed new dimensions with implications for efficient land administration.”

Dubbed the “National Land Conference 2022,” this forum is being organised by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources in collaboration with the Lands Commission, Department of Land Economy of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, and Colandef, a civil society organisation focused on Land and Property Rights.

On Wednesday December 7, 2022, Ghana’s President, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, will formally open the Conference on the theme: “Leveraging National Land Policy, Legislation, and Institutional Capacity towards Sustainable Socio-Economic Development.”

The Conference objectives include: to provide a multi-stakeholder platform for policy dialogue on land issues and challenges and propose recommendations to government for addressing them.

Other objectives are: to increase public awareness and potential benefits of the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036) and the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925); provide opportunity for discussion and adoption of innovative approaches and enabling technologies, for improving the country’s land governance and land administration; and to establish a multi-stakeholder platform to monitor the implementation of the recommendations of the Conference, and promote good land governance and land administration.

So, in line with these, the Conference is first of all, setting the scene for an in-depth reflection on the current state of Ghana’s land sector. Secondly, it is creating the needed space to discuss policy options, present new research and scalable innovations, foster high level support and ownership of interventions to tackle land governance, and to empower and develop the capacities of the land sector stakeholders.

Again, the Conference presents an opportunity to promote the adoption of sustainable practices for reclaiming land degraded by mining and create awareness on the economic potentials of rehabilitated abandoned mined out sites. Thus, time will be assigned for deliberations on efforts being made to reclaim lands degraded through small scale and sometimes illegal mining – an activity at the heart of the Ghana Landscape Restoration and Small-Scale Mining Project (GLRSSMP).

The Project is testing its reclamation and rehabilitation framework procedures on abandoned mined out lands, through a combination of environmental, social, technological and economic techniques. The goal is to reclaim up to 2,000 hectares of degraded lands occasioned by illegal artisanal and small-scale mining activities. The Project is also expected to prevent forest loss due to mining, thereby avoiding climate change vulnerabilities.

The specific thematic areas to be discussed are: The political economy for land policy and land governance reforms; Land administration and innovative methodologies; Surveying and mapping – innovative and cost-effective techniques; Land use planning and spatial development, including land reclamation processes of degraded lands; Land management systems (Customary, State and Vested Lands); and Gender and social inclusion in the land sector.

Over the years, successive governments have sought, through numerous initiatives to improve Ghana’s land administration regime. The major interventions being the multi-donor funded Land Administration Project (LAP) – phases 1 and 2, which sought to lay the foundation and consolidate urban and rural land administration and management systems for efficient and transparent land service delivery.

The 2022 National Land Conference can be considered as a necessary follow-up to the series of regional and national land forums held in 2007 under LAP 1 implemented from 2003 to 2010. It addressed some key land administration challenges, identified in the 1999 National Land Policy.

Key challenges outlined in the Policy include: weak land administration and management systems; multiple land sales; compulsory acquisition by government of large tracts of land unutilized and compensation unpaid; land market indiscipline; and unauthorised occupation and use of state lands by encroachers. Others are: haphazard spatial developments; lack of adequate functional and coordinated geographic information systems and networks; indeterminate boundaries of customary owned lands; lack of modern and up-to-date maps and plans; and use of unapproved development schemes.

Under LAP 1, resolving these challenges, were considered fundamental to realizing an efficient and effective land tenure regime in Ghana. Several gains were made such as: establishing the “new” Lands Commission in 2008 (through the passage of the Lands Commission Act, 2008 (Act 767); enacting the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925) that established the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority, and development of a Geospatial Policy for Ghana.

Other LAP 1 gains are: decentralizing deed registration to all the regional capitals, supporting the Judiciary by funding the establishment of a number of specialized Land Courts and improving the operations of the Courts through automation; establishing 87 Customary Land Secretariats nationwide; piloting customary boundary demarcation of selected customary areas – one in each of the then ten regions of Ghana; mapping 15,000 km2 of growth corridors of major urban areas in the country; and ensuring participation of non-state actors such as the Civil Society Coalition on Land (CICOL) in the land sector.

Civil society members have welcomed the forthcoming National Land Conference as timely, especially as it comes after the enactment of the new Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036). At a recent informal gathering in Accra, some members of Forest Watch Ghana were hopeful that the Conference will also address the issue of the lack of a Land Use Plan “to guide development at the district, regional and national levels.”

They were of the view that the absence of a Land Use Plan accounts for “the massive indiscipline in land use evidenced by buildings in water ways and filling up of wetlands, which are reservoirs for excess run-offs, leading to the regular flooding of cities and towns that we have become accustomed to.”

The organisers are hopeful that the National Land Conference 2022, will provide clear direction for the country to satisfy the 13 land related indicators of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1, 2, 5, 10, 11 and 15. Therefore, stakeholders will also be interested in measures that the Conference will prescribe towards attaining for instance indicator 1.4 of SDG 1: “By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance.”

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

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