Improving awareness and participation

August 12, 2016

The issue

Communities are often left in the dark about decisions regarding land and natural resources that will have profound effects on them. In some cases, the very process of decision-making is unclear, and there are few channels and opportunities for public participation.

What research is finding

Research has shown that many local communities affected by LSLAs are unaware of their rights and processes related to resource governance. In Uganda, this lack of awareness appears to undermine local people’s ability to organize and demand accountability from authorities.

A number of research teams observed a lack of transparency around public decision-making on land investments. Clear procedures, and the public’s right to participate in them, are often interrelated. Community members surveyed in Liberia were unaware of their rights under the country’s 2013 Land Policy. They felt that management of their land was opaque and that leaders were acting in secret. In both Senegal and Ghana, despite legal provisions to promote transparency, researchers encountered perceptions that land deals were shrouded in secrecy. Projects found that public consultation and information sharing on land investments in Kenya and Senegal are lacking, despite decentralization rules stating that rural councils should ensure land management processes are consultative.

In some research sites, women were largely absent from decision-making, with land transactions undertaken by chiefs, elders, or family heads who were invariably male. In Ghana, where research was carried out in five communities, only one transaction was reported to involve a female head of family.

The response

Projects in several countries are working with communities to improve accountability and increase public awareness and participation in governance processes. Paralegals and stakeholder consultations are helping communities protect local land rights. 

This is one of five cross-cutting issues that have emerged from early research findings on large-scale land acquisitions in Africa.  Read more about how researchers are working with communities to increase their ability to protect their rights.