Various multilateral organisations, for instance the World Bank, the Food and Agricultural Organisation have been at the forefront of the different programmes designed to enhance tenure security of landholders as the basis for long-term agricultural development. This has been the case especially in parts of the world where customary systems of tenure are predominant. Wily argues that ‘so little of sub-Saharan Africa is subject to formal entitlements as legally recognised private properties’. Further, ‘the indigenous (or “customary”) system of land ownership, use and regulation in fact embraces three-quarters of sub-Saharan Africa excluding water bodies. Even when several million hectares of terrestrial protected areas (deemed to be state assets) are subtracted, this still amounts to 1.7 billion hectares’. The insecure nature of customary rights to land has a long history, from land expropriations during colonial times often based on the justification that customary rights to land to not constitute full property rights. Efforts to introduce formalisation of property rights as part of modernising indigenous forms of ownership and agriculture in general have not yielded the desired results. In most instances, formalisation of property rights has resulted in the obliteration of overlapping and multiple rights to land characteristic of customary forms of tenure.
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Phuhlisani began as a consultancy started by a group of people who wanted to support emerging farmers who obtained access to land through land reform programmes in South Africa. In 2015, after 12 years in operation as a Closed Corporation, the members of the company decided to convert Phuhlisani to a Non-Profit Company which took place in October 2015.
Phuhlisani NPC provides comprehensive services and support for sustainable land reform and rural development including: