The Youth Learning Lab is a space to share innovative experiences to inspire and inform action on youth access to land. The second of three roundtable discussions focused on access to land by redistributive policies and pro-youth quota.
Youth access to land, its use, effective control and subsequent tenure security are fundamental for strengthening their livelihoods, yet they face numerous challenges, such as inadequate access to land, credit, extension services and markets. The multidimensional nature of these challenges requires redistributive policies and responsible investments to attract and ensure youth access to land.
Tizai Mauto, Land Tenure & Youth Specialist at Landesa, moderated the roundtable discussion, focusing on youth empowerment and youth employment in agriculture. The discussants explored policy options used in Italy, the Philippines and Malawi to ensure youth access to land.
Using the Land Bank to reclaim and rehabilitate abandoned land in Italy
The SIBaTer Project of the Lands Bank (Institutional Support for the Implementation of the Banca delle Terre) is managed by the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) on behalf of the Italian government; it is co-financed by European Structural and Investment Funds (ESI). SIBaTER supports southern Italian municipalities by mapping abandoned lands in their territories forrecovery and rehabilitation and allocating them to young people through public tenders. SIBaTER also activates its vast network of Italian actors championing socio-economic partnerships in agriculture and representatives of confederations of cooperatives such as Cooperativa Coraggio to support the youth to access the land. These joint actions are instrumental in matching land supply by local administrations to land demand by young people capable of valorising public assets, creating employment opportunities, and championing youth's socio-economic rights.
(photo credits: Cooperativa Coraggio)
The success story of Cooperativa Agricola Coraggio
The youth agricultural cooperative located in the North of Rome was born in 2011 following a wave of a broader social mobilisation aiming to recover and revitalise abandoned public land for youth economic and social inclusion. Cooperativa Agricola Coraggio’s activities ranged from organic farming, tree planting, free training on sustainable farming practices for start-up agricultural business, to advocacy and activism around youth access to land in a world where land is increasingly unaffordable to young people. The 2013 awareness campaign held under the #publiclandtoyoungfarmers slogan yielded results as Rome’s municipality published the first open tender to access abandoned public lands. The municipality availed 400 hectares of land, of which 22 hectares were awarded to Cooperativa Agricola Coraggio.
Good practices used by Cooperativa Agricola Coraggio to secure land for the youth include advocacy work and dialogues with municipal governments, and negotiations for public financial support. The cooperative accommodates young members of different socio-economic, professional and educational backgrounds, provides agricultural services to the Borghetto San Carlo community and connects the local youth with a broader network of social farming cooperatives.
Youth exclusion: The Politics of customary land governance in Malawi
Moses Nkhana is the Executive Director of Mzimba Youth Organization in Malawi.
In 2016, Malawi passed ten land-related laws, including the Customary Land Act and the Management of Customary Land Act. However, both Acts are silent on youth access to land, despite that 46% of Malawi’s population is below 15. Women are in an equally precarious situation as neither Acts mandate men to register their wives or children as owners or co-owners of customary land. Further, Malawi has an agriculture-based economy accounting for 80% of the national export earnings, 30% of the GDP, and employs 64% of its workforce. However, national laws and policies do not reflect the country’s demography nor empower the youth and women to own land.
(photo credits: Mzimba Youth Organization)
Building public and political will through Advocacy and Lobbying
The Mzimba Youth Organization is part of the NES Malawi platform, a national network of land rights organisations. Mzimba Youth Network uses the United Nations Economic Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) data to conduct evidence-based advocacy for the dual registration of customary land in Malawi. Specifically, the Mzimba Youth Organisation uses the National Decentralisation Policy that mandates youth representation in decision-making to advocate for the inclusion of youth in Customary Land Management Committees, which do not meet the required youth quota. Further, the Mzimba Youth Organisation is lobbying the Malawi government for amendment of the Acts to include a clause requiring men to register portions of land in favour of their children and wives.
“You can’t even find the word ‘youth’ in Malawi’s Customary Land Act of 2016. The main challenge faced by youth in Malawi is the lack of political will towards youth development”
A Magna Carta of Young Farmers: recognising the aspirations of young family farmers
Melissa Alamo is the youth focal point at PAKISAMA - The National Confederation of Family Farmers Organization of the Philippines.
In the Philippines, the youth are not interested in farming due to meagre incomes and the lack of tenure security experienced by family farmers. Most farmers do not own the lands they cultivate. Youth disinterest threatens the generational sustainability of farming in the Philippines, as the average age of a farmer is 59. To remedy the situation, PAKISAMA, a confederation of family farmers’ organisations, indigenous peoples, fisherfolk, and youth, proposes legislation to protect young family farmers’ land rights and benefits in the Philippines. They propose a framework called the Magna Carta of Young Farmers, a Bill that seeks to protect the rights of young farmers aged between 15 and 40 years; and establish programs for young farmers such as agriculture-sensitive educational curricula and broader scholarships for all agri-related courses. Since the Philippines has no youth policy, the Bill seeks to institutionalise young farmers’ representation in all agricultural policy-making bodies.
(photo credits: Gillian Cruz, Kaisahan Inc.)
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, PAKISAMA actively attended congressional hearings relating to the Magna Carta of Young Farmersand consulted with policymakers. However, Government priorities have changed, and the hearings are online, presenting a challenge to dialogue with policymakers. Members of the Magna Carta of Young Farmers can organise themselves and advocate for inclusion in decision-making, access to farming technology, credit and agriculture extension services.
“At the moment, there is no specific policy which caters to the youth; that is why we are lobbying for the implementation of the Magna Carta of Young Farmers”
From monologue to dialogue: Comments from the audience
James Yarsiah (Liberia) – Liberia, like the Philippines, has an ageing farmer population, yet the youth prefer urban centres and mining areas where they make more money quicker. It is a challenge to encourage youths to remain in farming. However, there is hope because Liberian land law requires one-third of all Customary Land Management Committees to be youth, thus ensuring their participation in land-related decision-making.
Molatelo Mohale (South Africa) - In South Africa, women face challenges in accessing land, especially in rural areas. Young and single women are not allowed to own or occupy land parcels for residential and agricultural purposes because the traditional chiefs and village headmen deem them immature and irresponsible compared to adults. Land deprivation is a bad practice under the pretext of customary norms. No law mandates the traditional chiefs to ensure that poor and vulnerable young women have access to land and are adequately supported.
(photo credit: Israel Bionyi Nyoh)
Looking forward: the role of land tenure reforms in redistributive policies
Whilst youth representation in agriculture-related policies is a universal challenge, today’s discussants demonstrated alternative mechanisms for increasing youth access to land where there is insufficient policy protection. SiBaTER and Cooperativa Agricola Coraggio’s experience shows the power of government and youth dialogue for the recovery of abandoned land. The Mzimba Youth Organization continues to advocate for policy reform in the customary context, while PAKISAMA continues to lobby the government to adopt the Magna Carta of Young Farmers.
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