The partner states of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development have started the process of formulating good practices on land access and utilisation.
Lands ministers from the region, which has the largest number of refugees and internally displaced persons on the continent due to conflicts related to land and other resources, met in Nairobi to share policies on land governance and promote better access to land.
Igad Executive Secretary Mahboub Maalim said while they recognise that partner states have different policies in relation to land, national boundaries are increasingly becoming obsolete because of cross-border trade.
“We are simply looking for common good practices but the ultimate aim is to ally our countries to the African Union Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy established in 2009 which requires countries to enact land laws that ensure equitable access to land and related resources including by the youth, the endless and other vulnerable groups such as women,” said Mr Maalim.
The Igad Land Governance Project launched in 2015 is the political and administrative structures and processes through which decisions concerning access to and use of land resources are made and implemented.
Virtually all the partner states — Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Somalia, the Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda — have been experiencing intra and inter country conflicts related to land.
The best examples are the conflict in Darfur in western Sudan that has been raging since 2003, the just-ended 20 year standoff between Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the ongoing conflict in South Sudan related to states boundaries.
In East Africa, pastoralist occupy the biggest lands are owing to the limited amount of arable land. South Sudan has the highest proportion of potentially arable land at 75 per cent followed by Uganda at 70 per cent but only 34 per cent has been put in agricultural use.
Tanzania has over 44 million hectares of arable land but only 33 per cent of this under cultivation. In Rwanda, Burundi and Kenya 46 per cent, 48 and 17 per cent respectively of land is arable.
Despite South Sudan having the highest percentage of arable land, vast lands remain virgin either because of conflict related to boundary disputes or politics.
According to the latest report by Save the Children humanitarian origination, more than six million people out of the total 12 million South Sudan population need urgent food assistance.