Farmers in Africa hold thousands of hectares of land but stay poor because they lack legal property titles recognized by banks and insurances, which would allow them to get loans to be able to better cultivate and exploit their lands.
There is, however, a way to change this, according to Mamadou Sangafowa, agriculture minister of the Ivory Coast, who spoke at a recent high-level conference hosted by the European Parliament to address insecurity of land tenure and absence of property rights prevalent in developing countries.
“By changing the laws on land property, the ‘dead capital’ could be reactivated and would inject a huge amount of money in the country, that could significantly reduce poverty,” Sangafowa said in a video interview with Devex Manager for Global Alliances and Partnerships Alexandre Cabaret on the sidelines of the conference.
The minister explained that rather than ask for more aid, developing countries need to find a way to optimize the aid received, and become more and more independent.
“We have an inactive capital in rural areas, constituted by our land holdings or assets. To stop dependence on foreign aid, what we need is to reactivate the dead capital of the land holdings.”
Sangafowa shared the experience of the Ivory Coast, which like many other former colonies inherited (and kept for a long time) a vision for property rights vision that was “inappropriate to the country’s reality.”
“Property rights need large consensus, they have to reflect the will of the rural masses and the soul of the country, not to cause problems,” Sangafowa asserted. “But in order to apply the property law in our country, what we need is financial resources.”
Asked about current investments in the field of agriculture in Ivory Coast, the minister said the National Investment Program for Agriculture is focusing on infrastructure — in particular in water management and road infrastructure — and on stocking food supplies in a better way so that they can last longer.
Property rights are often on the books but remain hard to enforce. What can be done to improve that?
The High-Level Conference on Property Rights, the first of its kind to be jointly organized by the European Parliament and the European Commission, took place on April 9th, 2014 at the European Parliament in Brussels. Devex was a proud media partner.