The increasing number of conflicts over land and other natural resources show the urgency of elaborating concrete proposals on how to go about these issues. Consolidated methodology platforms have been developed recently by FAO Land Tenure Management Unit (NRLA), mainly based on field interventions carried out in several African countries.
The approach followed by FAO tends first to support the empowerment of rural populations, in order for them to be in a position to negotiate (and claim) their land rights. Complementary to that is the need to get governmental institutions better acquainted of the richness and flexibility of customary institutions and their ways of dealing with land and natural resources. When such a mutual understanding is reached, and better equipped weak actors are able to claim for their rights, then a platform of dialogue is proposed in order to get both security of tenure and initial scenarios for local development, through partnership between private and public sector. FAO intervention in Angola dates back to 1999 when at the request of the Government of Angola, the FAO Land Tenure Service began a series of activities in close collaboration with the National Directorate of Rural Organization of the Ministry of Agriculture. The objectives of these activities were (i) to solve a land conflict problem in the Luanda area and (ii) to initiate a reflection on the land issue in the country.
The following article deals with the specificity of an ethnic minority in the Huila Province of Angola. Through an intensive and demanding inclusive dialogue, it has been possible to create conditions for carrying out land delimitation cum titling exercise for a first San Community, whose official delivery has been carried out in April 2007.
The negotiated and participatory land delimitation exercise
The reason for using the negotiated and participatory land delimitation methodology was based on the need to involve several social actors with multiple interests in order to achieve a lasting solution for such a complex situation. Indeed, a large part of the challenge was to include those that had previously been excluded from decision-making processes.
The Angolan San live in a situation of "triple" historical disadvantages such as social, demographic and economical. Their cultural still faces the consequences of invasion, dominance, occupation of their land by Bantu, since the precolonial era. By the Portuguese colonisation they were discriminated against, excluded from development and killed in post independence times. They were drawn into the military as highly qualified trackers, had been killed by the war, but never had a chance to participate in public, political and legislative occasions. Today the San populations in Angola survive by collaborating with the Bantu people though often working in conditions of discrimination and disrespect of their human rights – particularly women.
FAO, in partnership with others actors, such as Christian Organisation Supporting Community Development (OCADEC) and the government of Huila province, with founds from the Italian Government and the European Union, has supported Angolan San communities. In particular, the project OSRO/ANG/404/ITA, in 2005, supported the participatory delimitation of the San community of Mupenbati in the municipality of Quipongo. This process involved neighbouring communities and local land administrations. As a result of this process, an area of 1,389 ha was recognized as San customary land according to the legal framework established by Law n°9 of 2004.
The methodology followed for land delimitation process is the participatory rural appraisal. The application of the methodology allows the real understanding of the territory through three moments:
- Historical: Duration of the land occupation period;
- Social organization: Definition of the different actors’ rules through the comprehension of social hierarchy;
- Boundaries identification: Land delimitation through consensus with community neighbours.
On April 27, 2007 the Angolan representatives of the San ethnic group gathered in Lubango, Angola, for the First National Conference for Angolan San Communities, which included delegates from other countries within the region (Botswana, Namibia, South Africa). The main objective of the meeting was to strengthen the groups’ institutional capacities and enhance the visibility of the living conditions of approximately 75.000 people who live in this area of the world. Several indigenous minorities exist in Angola, and there are approximately 5,000 San people spread throughout three Angolan provinces
OCADEC coordinated this international event, with the support of the Provincial governments of Kunene, Huila and Kuando Kubango. The overall purpose was to inform and reflect upon the situation of the San communities in these three provinces.
The Conference presented an opportunity to exchange experiences and share knowledge between San people coming from different states. FAO, in cooperation with the government of Angola and the government of Huila province, has sustained this process. The land title of the San customary land area was officially delivered to the community during the Conference by the Agriculture Department in Huila Province . This represents the dawn of a new day for the Angolan Bushmen. Better recognized as an ethnic minority by the State they can start developing more effective mechanisms for their representation vis-à-vis the Angolan decision-makers.
Lessons Learned on community land delimitation in Angola
This initial experience has shown in concrete terms that land rights can be recognized even for ethnic minorities whose “human rights” in general had proved not to be too respected so far in the country.
Further initiatives are actually being prepared and will be carried out by the GCP/ANG/035/EC project in Huila province during next year, following the same approach and promoting the same (GOA-NGO-FAO) partnership. The importance of this partnership brought together by FAO, has been highlighted by the Provincial Director of Agriculture during his speech on behalf of the Provincial Governor, when delivering the San land title. As per his words: “it is essential to continue and encourage this internal dialogue regarding land issues, whether in government or civil society, encouraging discussion forums and opening new means of communication with the hope that someday soon we will be able to write of even more encouraging results” .
This land has a history of war and of abuse that is difficult to forget, but there are initial positive signals to make one hope that something is changing and that there is local “human capital,” is becoming a reality, to write a new page in which the desire to change, to have an open, tolerant society is stronger than its sad past. the overall experience h as shown that through joint efforts by communities, local institutions, and international partners, thinking to effective and impressive changes and improvement in people’s livelihood.