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Monday, January 30, 2023

Conference ends with establishment of multi-stakeholder platform for inclusive land governance in Ghana

It is almost a fortnight ago since President Nana Addo Danquah Akuffo Addo formerly opened the National Land Conference in Accra, with a reminder to Ghanaians that land remains the number one factor of the nation’s development.

Land governance in Ghana
President Akuffo Addo (third from right) in a pose with some of the dignitaries at the opening session

“We must all therefore work together to build an effective and efficient land administration to propel our development,” he said.

The President urged stakeholders “…to use this Conference to foster stronger alliances and networks that will provide opportunities for continuous sharing of ideas and experiences within the land sub-sector.” He wished participants fruitful discussions and promised he was looking forward to the outcome of the Conference.

Observers are of the view that with the package presented at the closing session, the organisers of and the stakeholders who participated in the four-day Conference, from Tuesday, December 6 to Friday, December 9, 2022, did not disappoint the President nor the nation.

Unlike the Regional and National Land Forums organised in 2007 (under the multi-donor funded Land Administration Project Phase 1), to mainly build stakeholder consensus on key land sector challenges; the National Land Conference 2022 has come out with precise prescriptions for immediate execution.

One key prescription is the immediate establishment of a National Land Sector Multi-Stakeholder Platform for inclusive land governance. It will periodically convene to review progress made in the implementation of the land, natural resources, and spatial planning laws in the country, in accordance with the recommendations of the National Land Conference 2022. The Platform is expected to hold its first meeting by January 31, 2023.

Another one is the institutionalisation of a biennial National Land Conference, first of all, to enable effective assessment of the work done by the Multi-stakeholder Platform; and secondly, to provide opportunity for national level dialogue to further improve the functioning of the land and other natural resources sectors.

These form part of the 24 prescriptions and recommendations for government’s consideration contained in a communique issued on the afternoon of Friday, December 9, during the formal closing session of the National Land Conference, 2022 – the first in the series of National Land Conferences to be held biennially in Ghana.

The recommendations and prescriptions are intended to support government to implement legal provisions aimed at improving the functioning of the land sub-sector. The sub-sector’s related legal provisions are mainly those mandated by the 1992 Constitution, the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925) and the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036). Referred to as the New Land Act, Act 1036 is a comprehensive legal instrument, who’s coming into being repeals 13 others including the Administration of Lands Act, 1962 (Act 123) and the Land Title Registration Act 1986, (PNDCL 152).

Several of the recommendations standout such as: the call on government to provide resources to review the 1999 National Land Policy and formulate a new one that takes on board the new challenges and emerging issues of the sub-sector.

Another is for government to comprehensively map the country at large, medium and small scales to facilitate land use planning and spatial development for rapid economic development as well as provide resources for a holistic and participatory approach to land tenure management and land use planning.

Also outlined is the need to prioritise the systematic surveying and mapping of customary and state land boundaries and the boundaries of Metropolitan, Municipal and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to reduce the numerous land ownership disputes in the country and set out a comprehensive programme for the registration of title in land as mandated by the 1992 constitution and the Land Act, 2020 (Act 1036).

The recommendations further urge government to provide adequate resources for the implementation and enforcement of the land laws, land use planning laws and spatial development laws; complete the digitalisation of the land administration system over a three-year period and provide resources for the establishment and strengthen of Customary Land Secretariats (CLS) to effectively support customary land administration.

A review of the formula for disbursing customary land revenue is also recommended to provide more resources to customary landowners for sustaining CLSs for customary land administration; while MMDAs are urged to recognise the existence and operations of CLS, and work with them as an extension of the land administration infrastructure in their respective areas.

Again, government is asked to develop land specific Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) mechanisms to facilitate dispute resolution in the land sector; promote an enabling environment for the private sector to play its role in housing delivery to persons of all income categories with relative ease; and improve the quality of housing for the poor.

There is also a recommendation for academic institutions to review their curriculum to address capacity gaps in existing knowledge, and on emerging land governance and land tenure issues to produce all round graduates, capable of improving governance of all types of lands in the country.

One particular prescription is designed to deal with the bothersome and overwhelming impacts of small scale mining on land and other natural resources. Government is called upon “…to immediately institute a comprehensive assessment of the local environmental impact of small scale mining, which is detrimental to water bodies, sustainable livelihoods and rural development with a view to imposing a moratorium on small scale mining noting that water cannot accommodate mining.”

Following the success of the National Land Conference 2022, government is also poised to deliver on its promise as indicated by President Akuffo Addo in his opening address: “Let me assure you of Government’s commitment to work with you to deliver a land administration system that is fit for purpose.”

The National Land Conference 2022 was 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.

Participants who numbered over 500 for each Day’s session, were drawn from the government, Parliamentary Select Committee on lands, land sector agencies, traditional authorities, Queen Mothers, civil society, NGOs, farmers and fishermen organisations, professional associations, religious groups, private sector, academia and development partners.

By Ama Kudom-Agyemang

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