A project of the German Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, co-funded by the EU and implemented through the Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH has been striving to ensure that investments in land are productive, contribute to sustainable land management, and respect the land access rights and needs of the local population, vulnerable groups and women. After continuous engagement in respective activities, the Responsible Governance of Investments in Land (RGIL) project will phase out by the end of 2023 and is handed over to the government of Ethiopia.
The project commenced to capitalize on the earlier achievements of the Support to Responsible Agricultural Investment (S2RAI) intervention launched in 2015. While the RGIL project has been launched in 2019 with additional funds from the European Union to enlarge the thematical and geographical focus of responsible investments in land.
Through the RGIL project, the Ministry of Agriculture, GIZ, Amhara, and Gambella regional land, investment and environment bureaus, civil society organizations (CSOs), universities and partners from the private sector, have joined hands to strengthen the capacities of key stakeholders including government, investors and local communities and exerted efforts in improving the regulatory framework for investments in land. The project has been supporting the government authorities to administer and guide land investments in line with current legislation and principles of responsible governance of investments. In addition, it enhanced the capacities of private agricultural investors to familiarize themselves with internationally recognized responsible investment principles for good land governance and raised the awareness of smallholders to defend their legitimate land use rights and advocate their needs in land investment processes.
With support of the RGIL project the capabilities of government agencies in the project regions have been strengthened to not only manage and steer agricultural investments in accordance with applicable national and regional laws but also in accordance to internationally recognized principles such as the Voluntary Guidelines for the Governance of Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries (VGGT) and the Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) principles, as promoted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Guidelines and manuals on rights and obligations in the context of responsible investments, agricultural investment extension service, conflict resolution and other related issues have been developed and laid the base for respective trainings for involved stakeholders throughout the project locations.
On November 23, 2023, international and national stakeholders gathered to mark the end of the project. While recognizing the achievements gained via the project, stakeholders have recaptured some of the challenges faced through the implementation of the project including, security issues in the project regions and low initial awareness of stakeholders on the importance of responsible land investments.
The weak capacity and action of regional governments to regulate and monitor land-based investments, in addition to low participation of women in the land governance and agricultural investment sector had to be improved.
Through the RGIL project, the capacities of close to 500 local land users especially smallholder farmers and marginalized groups, including a significant number of women, were strengthened to defend their legitimate rights on land and to advocate for their needs in land investment processes.
Interestingly, the establishment of mediation teams and the introduction of so-called Community-Investor-Government-Fora (CIGF) as a format for exchange and discussion in the project areas helped to resolve close to 300 land conflicts, thus improving the relation between agricultural investors and the adjacentcommunities. It was noted that advisory services for more than 300 private agricultural investors on the principles of international guidelines were provided and agricultural investors are strengthened within the framework of transparency initiatives for the implementation of a responsible land policy.
Over the years, about six regional and national Multi-Stakeholder Dialogues (MSDs) have brought together smallholders, agricultural investors, government representatives and other key stakeholders to discuss about responsible agricultural investments and to elaborate on ways forward to overcome the afore-mentioned challenges.
It was also recognized that the MSDs and CIGFs were crucial to address interests and needs of the community regarding responsible agricultural investments. It was also noted that the collaboration of all stakeholders working in land investments is pivotal for the implementation of a responsible land policy.
The Closing Workshop of the RGIL project urged the need to continuous and sustained awareness creation and capacity building for communities. The workshop also called the need for the project’s knowledge products to be further promoted through CSOs, investors’ associations and the government.