Morning Session, 25 November 2003
Chairperson: Dr Belay Demissie, USAID
THE CHAIRPERSON INVITED PARTICIPANTS FOR ANY COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS THEY MAY HAVE REGARDING THE MORNING SESSION. The first question related to measures taken by the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) of Ethiopia (at Federal level) in formulating policies and overcoming the existing environmental problems related to natural resource management in Ethiopia.
The EPA representative, Ato Yigzaw, explained that it took policy development nearly ten years to develop the conservation strategy for Ethiopia. It was participatory and had to pass through a consultation process before it was finally adopted by the Government. Implementation is the main problem facing the country, though it is common problem in Ethiopia. Conservation strategy is not only EPA's mandate, but it is everyone's responsibility and EPA is working with all the regions. Further explanation was requested by participants on land use and land management policy of the Amhara Region, specifically the implementation process of this policy.
The representative of the Environmental Protection, Land Use and Land Administration provided a brief presentation for the Amhara Region. He highlighted that policy, proclamation, directives have been developed in the region, and appeals and arbitration committees have now been formed. An information and documentation system is being instituted where data will be collected and compiled at Kebele level, while digital formats will be used at the regional level.
Land certification is seen as a priority of the Region. All lands in Kebele will be registered including marginal lands. The Region's commitment to issue land certification as a means of addressing tenure security was confirmed, but the problem is that issuing 4 million certificates is a huge task and requires a budget equal to that of the whole Region. This process needs resources, capacity development and technical support, which is currently lacking. The right of the owner to use the land as collateral is also allowed by the Region. Compensation and estimating the actual value of land is a very important aspect of land tenure security, but procedures and implementation on valuation of properties has proved difficult.
The other issue under discussion was on the commonly referred figure of 66 percent of available cultivable land (based on the Ethiopian Highland Reclamation Study) of which only 12 percent is utilized, which has been used over 20 years without looking into the actual truth on the ground now. Participants pointed out that the Central Statistics Office (CSO) has been continuously using these statistics, which are different from reality. The 66 percent figure includes the Ogaden, which is a lowland and arid area. It also includes grazing lands. The opinion of Ato Desalegn that there is not a single land left uncultivated (observed while traveling by plane from Addis to Bahir Dar) is a very important point and could be relevant to other parts of the country.
Other participants put forward a counter argument that the 66 percent cultivable land may not be an exaggeration. A grazing land could be cultivable. Degraded mountains could be used for income generation such as tree cultivation. How to make the mountain areas more productive is not a question of figures alone, it is also a matter of choosing the best option.
Participants pointed out that there is an urgent need to verify the land situation as the supporting evidence of 66 percent arable land seems thin. Based on this figure, the Government and even the Prime Minister have indicated that land in Ethiopia is plentiful. This could be misleading in terms of policy formulation as this is also the basis for a resettlement policy.
The discussion on resettlement attracted a great deal of attention among participants. The experience of resettlement under the previous military government (the Dergue) was considered a disaster. The current Government's resettlement plan has many pitfalls as well. Resettlement faces many constraints. Infrastructure is one major bottleneck. Disease is another problem. The current ethnic-based regional governments could result in a serious ethnic conflict to resettle people from the famine-affected areas of the north where land is scarce to the south and western parts of Ethiopia (where good lands are available). The Government is now looking for US$250 million donors support for resettlement and some suggested that these resources are better spent in creating more jobs and more development if utilized properly. Concerns were also raised by the massive nature of the resettlement programme. From the little information, we have at the moment, the average land given to a settler is one or less than one hectare and the issue of sustainability of production is also a factor. There are also healths risks as many of the resettlement areas are affected by malaria.
Dr Alemneh made a concluding remark that we need to be cautious about what type of resettlement is being considered and promoted. He neither opposes nor supports resettlement on a wholesale basis. Movement of people from one region of Ethiopia to another without any Government intervention has happened in the last century and has worked well. The problem is when resettlement becomes a Government-led campaign enforced on the population often with coercion. The Government's role should be only in creating the essential conditions to facilitate and induce the movement of people into less densely populated and remote areas through the provision of roads, clinics, schools and freeing land markets.
Other comments, questions and suggestions forwarded by participants included:
There is an obscure understanding that food security is equated with food production in Ethiopia. The slogan often used "food self-sufficiency through food production" is not a good concept. There is the need to look into the economics and social dimensions of access to food instead of securing food through increased productivity.
Production alone is not the only solution. It should be linked to value added and marketing. How to synergize processing and marketing issues is one of the main challenges, which have been overlooked. This project development should address the optimal link of value adding, marketing and food security.
Developing the local capacities at grassroots levels such as farmers' groups and women's group, including private entrepreneurship is essential.
Land legislations ensuring citizens ownership rights to property should not be revoked except under due process of the law is crucial. Participants cited that there have been experiences of peasants being deprived of their properties without due process of law, mostly motivated by political decisions. The Amhara legislation, for example, makes the statement that land redistribution could be carried out if it proves necessary. Does this imply that someone could lose his land in this process?
Eviction of farmers from their land is another important issue affecting land security. The Amhara legislation points out that if some have not used their land properly he is likely to lose it. Ato Dessalegn pointed out that who decides whether the land is used properly, is a major issue. Government officials and local bureaucrats should not decide this. It was also noted that lower level officials and even some members of parliament did not know of the land legislations until a copy was given to them by donor agencies working in the area. Hence, it is likely that most farmers are not aware of land legislation and their own rights.
Augmenting alternative rural energy supply is an important policy option for arresting deforestation and conserving natural resources. Fuelwood demand can be cut by half by doubling cooking efficiency and introducing bioenergy and other sources of energy at the household and community level.
Concerns were also raised by some participants on the current Government policy that focuses on agriculture led development and the need to urban development and industrialization. Urbanization is seen as being equally important in addressing pressures on land in rural areas. Developing industrial and service potentials is a good solution in meeting part of rural development challenges.
Food-for-work and the rural Employment Generation Scheme could have a role, but there is a need to avoid dependency.