The Herald (Harare)

12 August 2002

Zimbabwe: Land Reform to Take Centre-Stage At Summit

ZIMBABWE'S Land Reform Programme, expected to be emulated by most African countries as a means of ending poverty, will take centre-stage at the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa later this month.

The discussion of the issue at the world summit might become a springboard to ending the world's discontent over agrarian land reforms in Africa.

Over 100 world leaders have confirmed their attendance at the summit.

United Nations Development Programme director of communications Mr Djibril Diallo told The Herald last week that the land redistribution issue and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) would be high on the agenda at the World Summit.

The priority areas on Agenda 21, which were not deliberated fully during the last four United Nations preparatory committee meetings attended by ministers, would be debated at the highest level by more than 100 leaders in Johannesburg, South Africa, later this month.

In a draft plan of implementation for the summit, the Commission on Sustainable Development said Africans should be encouraged to invest in the land by giving them ownership and providing access to resources, financing and means to market their produce.

"Sustainable land use policies should encourage planning on a scale large enough to maintain healthy ecosystems. Advice and training is also needed in technologies and farming systems that conserve and rehabilitate land. Hunger is already a constant threat to many people and the world's long-term ability to meet the growing demand for food and other agricultural products is uncertain.

"Increasing human demand for land and its natural resources is creating competition and conflicts. If we are going to meet human requirements in a sustainable manner we must resolve these conflicts and find more effective ways of using land and its natural resources."

Mr Diallo said by doing so, Africa would manage land capably to achieve sustainable agriculture and rural development.

In Africa, the main tenets of UNDP's strategy for the summit preparatory process include assisting the countries to adequately prepare for global negotiations so that they could exploit opportunities offered by the summit and to form partnerships with governments, private sector, donors and central statistical offices for the implementation of key priority areas.

UNDP is also seeking global endorsement and a broad range of partners' support for Capacity 2015, a programme to promote sustainable development.

Agenda 21 is a blueprint for sustainable development adopted by heads of state who attended the historic United Nations conference on environment and development in 1992.

Zimbabwe is the first African country to embark on an aggressive land resettlement and agrarian reform exercise, which has benefited thousands of land hungry people.

Individual countries are expected to present their national plan or country reports on achievements in sustainable development during the last 10 years.

These include issues of health, education, poverty alleviation, the environment, agriculture, land distribution, water and other areas of priority, Mr Diallo said.

"Agriculture plays a crucial role in addressing the needs of a growing global population and is inextricably linked to poverty eradication, especially in developing countries. Sustainable agriculture and rural development are essential to the implementation of an integrated approach to increasing food production and enhancing food security and food safety in an environmentally sustainable way.

"The Johannesburg summit offers a historic opportunity to confront growing threats to human well-being. A third of the world's people live on an income less than a dollar a day, use of fossil fuels is rising rapidly, patterns of production and consumption continue to eat up natural resources faster than they are being replenished.

"The summit will call upon States to implement the comprehensive plan for sustainable development on Agenda 21, a resolution adopted at the Earth Summit in Rio. Each country is expected to present its plan on its achievement in sustainable development over the past 10 years," said Mr Diallo.

He was speaking at a world summit's preparatory meeting for African journalists.

The meeting aimed at ensuring multi-media coverage of the summit, an Africa media declaration on the Earth Summit and a strategy and plan of action on the media and sustainable development in Africa.

Mr Diallo said UNDP was committed to ensuring that the summit provided fresh impetus for the international sustainable development process.

UNDP Capacity 21 regional co-ordinator for Africa Ms Ndey-Isatou Njie said there were a number of processes that have created an ever-increasing demand for land. She urged journalists to push an African agenda and ensure that the summit adopted Africa's Millennium Development Goals.

The goals include promoting gender equality and empowerment of women, reduction of child mortality, improving maternal health, combating HIV/Aids, ensuring environmental sustainability and developing a global partnership for development.

Ms Njie said it was hoped that the summit would develop further an open, rule-based, predictable, non-discriminatory trading and financial system.

It should also deal comprehensively with the debt problems of developing countries through national and international measures in order to make debt sustainable in the long term.

Since 1990, 10 million people became poor annually in Africa.

In Zimbabwe about 25,1 percent of adults were HIV/Aids carriers and more than 900 000 children were orphaned by Aids, according to a UNAIDS study.

The director of environment in the Ministry of Environment, Youth and Public Health (Senegal) Mrs Fatima Dia Toure said her country was behind redistributing land to poor people.

"Although I may say land problem in Zimbabwe is a national issue, we believe the whole continent needs to empower the indigenous people by sharing natural resources to the people to improve lives. This issue needs to be tackled in a big way. In a big way, I mean the summit should support our need to distribute these natural resources to our people.

"Until our people have been empowered in such a manner, Africa will remain under developed. And as such we are going to the summit with all our eyes open to ensure we get practical on some of these issues," she said.

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