30 August 2017

Ethiopia: Land Certification - Will It Bring Tenure Security?

Photo: Addis Fortune
(File photo).

The government strongly believes that issuing land certificate to farmers is the only way to bring land tenure security and empower farmers across the country. Nevertheless, some argue that providing land certificate has nothing to do with such kind of security.

"Before the issuance of the land certificate, the territories per plot had not been clearly defined, as a result,there were a number of land disputes among farmers. They as well used to waste their precious time at court in a bid to end the litigation," says Tigistu Gebremeskel , Directorate Director of Land Management and Utilization at the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

He further says divorced women used to suffer a lot as they had no defined territory to claim in the past.

"Due to spontaneous land redistribution, farmers had uncertain future and they were also so reluctant to invest in farming, but now, the provision of land certificate has already addressed the aforementioned challenges."

However, Former Member of Parliament Temesgen Zewdie totally discredited the director's views saying: "Farmers have only farmland use rights in the constitution and so the land certification does not go beyond ensuring the rights to use .It also inhibits farmers from long term investing as there is clear land tenure insecurity in this country."

In fact, many say land as economic component such as labor and capital needs to be transacted. Their point of contention is that land ownership is inalienable right as citizens. Moreover, they often say: "The land issue has to be left to the farmers and land certification won't serve them as guarantee."

But , Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources in its website stated that land certification has the potential to significantly increase investments in agriculture by all producers, improve rural livelihoods, reduce (in the mid- to long-term) conflicts over land, reduce land degradation, and improve resource use.

Furthermore, along with other interventions, improved tenure security is vital to creating an environment in which the rural population is able to survive and adapt to environmental and other shocks.

The Senior Land Researcher Desalegn Rahmato who work for Forum for Social. In his study text published in 2009, he stated that owing to demographic danger,peasants in the densely populated areas of Southern Nation and Nationalities state are less enthusiastic about land certification than other less densely populated areas and among other things.

According to him, the most pressing issues for them are population pressure and land shortage on the one hand and soil fertility decline on the other are paramount.

For Desalegn , the real and full tenure security is affirmed when a land holder has a right to have an incentive to improve or to invest in it. "The land holder feels assured that his/her rights are not arbitrarily overridden by others including the state,the holder has the right to use, dispose or transfer."

A Senior Researcher at the Ethiopian Economic Association,Dr Nuru Seid says the farmers' land size is shrinking from time to time. In 1960s, land to farmers' ratio was 1.2 hectare but currently it is 0.35 hectare.

However, he doesn't agree with the view of privatizing rural land. "The double digit economic growth that has been witnessing for over decades won't be materialized without the big role of small scale farming."

Nuru further says though farmers have only farmland use rights in this country, they are currently producing 22 quintals per hectare on average using various agricultural inputs.

He also says if the sale of rural land is allowed, whenever farmers face economic problems will sell the land and migrate to urban centers in search of jobs.

According to the national study on unemployment in 2013, the rate of unemployment in urban centers is 17 percent while in rural part is 2 percent. This implies that despite being landless farmers, they can survive without going to urban centers.

And to curb unwanted rural urban migration, expanding education in rural part can be taken as a way out. This is because after completion of education, the youth can engaged in self employment in their locality.

As to Nuru, land certificate issuance inspires farmers to invest more in farming through building sense of ownership.

For his part ,The Initiative Africa Director Kibur Gena says most developing countries has failed to advance their economy because they are unable to transform their natural resources including land into used capital.

"For instance, if they have water sources unless they use it to power generation for energy or irrigation farm, the resource is categorized as a dead capital."

According to him, currently due to population growth, a given farmer's plot contains excess labor, the land return is diminishing from time to time and to address the problem shifting the rural labor from farm to non farming such as manufacturing or service sectors is vital. Unlike land, these sectors have increasing returns, he adds

Whether issuing land certificate to farmers bring tenure security and empowerment or not, Kibur says it depends on the content and the objectives of the certificate.

The Ethiopian constitution unequivocally asserts that "Land is not a private property. Article 40 No. 3 articulates that the right to own rural and urban land as well as natural resources belongs to the state and the people.

Land is also an inalienable common property of the nations, nationalities and peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of transfer.


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