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Land Watch Asia

We are posting this news shared by Solidarity Towards Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (KAISAHAN).

photo by KAISAHAN Photo by KAISAHAN.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Office of Leyte announced postponement of land installations in Barangays Valencia and Sumanga in Ormoc, Leyte on 9 February 2016 affecting around 30 agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs).

DAR recalled its own writ of installation allegedly due to a filed case of cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership and Acquisition (CLOA) over the land by other farmers. Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer (PARPO) II Renato Badilla sent orders stating that previous landowners, Tan Landholdings and the Potenciano & Anecita Larrazabal Enterprises Corporation (PALEC) opposed the installations in the 30 and 35 hectares of land in the two barangays due to the alleged erroneous coverage of the subject landholdings.

Together with the farmers, KAISAHAN expressed their frustration to the non-installment. Atty. Claire Demaisip of KAISAHAN pointed out that…

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By Caitlin Pierce

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SOURCE: Kapaeeng Foundation

The government has decided to develop five Special Economic Zones (SEZ) across the country under its Economic Zones Development Project to attract both foreign and domestic investments. One of the SEZs, that has been proposed to be established in Chandpur area of Chunarughat upazila in Habiganj district, has threatened the livelihood of nearly 16,000 tea garden workers belonging to different indigenous and marginalised peoples who are dependent on that land.

The Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) has decided to build an economic zone on around 512 acres of land in Chunarughat, which was earlier leased out to Chandpur Tea Estate operated by a British company named Duncan Brothers. Recently the lease has been cancelled for the establishment of the economic zone.

Following that thousands of tea workers have been facing fear of eviction from the land. It is learn that 951 acres of land out of 3951 acres are agricultural land which was used for cultivation of rice by tea workers for the last 150 years. This tract of land has been made cultivable by clearing jungles by the ancestors of the tea garden workers which now belongs to BEZA. If the government finally acquires the land of the 1,6000 tea garden workers belonging to different indigenous and dalit peoples of Chandpur Tea Garden, Begum Khan Tea Garden, Jual Bhanga Tea Garden and Ram Ganga Tea Garden, their livelihood will be seriously threatened given they have been traditionally dependent on cultivation of rice on this land.

Most tea workers are very poor and their daily income is as low as BDT 69, which is one of the least wage-rate in the country. Due to poor wages most of the time they are unable to meet their need for food, let alone meeting other needs. So they need to cultivate the land for growing rice. But now the government is considering acquiring the land without commensurate compensation for the workers because they do not have legal title over the land.

Tea workers have been protesting against the decision claiming that their livelihood would be at stake once SEZ is built. They also are saying that they will not get any compensation. Government as reportedly made commitments to give jobs, houses and five decimal lands to cultivate food, and build skill development centre to develop their skills. But the tea workers could not trust the government anymore as one of the previous governments had also made same commitment when they built mobile operator tower in the area, which remained unimplemented.

It was reported that, political parties, right activists and tea garden workers have been protesting since early December 2015. On 28 December 2015 tea workers submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister of Government of Bangladesh and staged a human chain to cancel the establishment of Economic Zone. On 9 January 2016 they organized a mass rally to press their home demand. In this rally, the tea workers threatened to go for an indefinite strike at all tea gardens in Sylhet region if their demand for cancelation of economic zone was not met by January 2015. Different organizations and eminent personalities including Fazle Hossain Badsha MP, Pankaj Bhattacharya, Hossain Zillur Rahman, Hameeda Hossain, Khushi Kabir, Prof. Anu Mohammad, Syed Abu Jafar Ahmed, Rabindranath Soren, Professor Mesbah Kamal and Lucky Akter expressed their solidarity with the protesters.

Despite widespread protest and criticism from different quarters, BEZA is still determined to establish an economic zone. BEZA chairman Paban Chowdhury rejected outright the fear of tea workers at the cost of claimed economic ‘opportunities’ from SEZ. He also said that the establishment of economic zone would ensure empowerment and opportunities for tea workers to come out of their life of deprivation, which they have been going through. Paban Chowdhury also wondered why people are always against the ‘development activities’. Paban claimed that the authorities had a series of meeting with tea workers, in addition to the meetings with trade representative of British High Commission, Duncan Brothers, and local lawmakers on the proposed economic zone.

However, the tea garden workers are claiming that no one went to discuss with them about the proposed SEZ. Without the consent and consultation of tea workers, the BEZA had finalized the plan. The international human rights laws and standards, including the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), require the States and other non-state actors to seek free, prior and informed consent prior to initiation of any development activities in indigenous territories. However, the process of initiation of SEZs in the land of tea garden workers is an outright denial of this right.

Although it is learnt that the government is in the final phase of acquiring the arable land at several tea estates, the tea workers hope that announcement of cancelation of SPZ in Habiganj will come up if Honorable Prime Minister intervenes in the matter.

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SOURCE: The Star

Dec. 12, 2015, 12:00 am

Kenya’s new constitution provides for ‘community lands’. Group ranches and trust lands will be vested in communities. But why, some ponder, would modern citizens want to own land as communities? Is the constitution protecting old ways instead of leading us into the future?

This week I will answer these questions through a global lens. Next week I will zero in on constitutional directives and how far the proposed Community Land Bill delivers.

First, let’s be clear what community lands are. These are lands which communities own in common and then allocate rights to members. Lands for homesteads are usually allocated to families.

Off-farm lands are held by members collectively. Rules apply. Many are tried and tested ‘customs’. Others are new, introduced to meet new conditions. Rules get tougher as populations, land shortage, and threats rise. Boundaries become more precise.

Each generation is stricter than the last about who can use what and how, less tolerant of leaders who make deals behind their back, and more demanding to be consulted.

Customs that don’t fit citizen rights diminish, such as denying widows the right to remain on the land. Those who break the rules are not beaten but set to work clearing the road or cleaning the water tank.

In short, these are community based land governance systems, or what is known as customary tenure in Africa. Globally, between two and three billion people acquire and uphold rights through these regimes.

Over half the world’s land mass is subject to such norms. Formal recognition has soared in recent decades, but still covering only one fifth of community lands [http://www.rightsandresources.org/publications/whoownstheland/].

These operate in all regions. One million villages in China and another one million in India govern both farms and common properties. Vast tracts of Latin America have been transferred to communities, most to those who define themselves as Indigenous Peoples.

Seventy four per cent of the landmass of Australia, 40 per cent of Canada, significant proportions of forests in Eastern Europe, Sweden, Italy and Switzerland are also legally community property.

Cast your eye over national level data at http://www.landmarkmap.org to see multiple other examples.

The status of community lands is a vibrant issue in Africa. Millions still suffer the legacy of colonial denial that these are owned or that families and communities can be legal owners.

Post-Independence administrations invested millions to extinguish customary tenure through compulsory conversion of family farms into individually titled properties.

Formally titled lands cover only 10 per cent of the continent today. Only in South Africa and Rwanda is more than 50 per cent of the country area under formal title. In Kenya, the official figure is 19 per cent, more likely nearer 30 per cent.

Community lands cover between 50-67 per cent of Kenya. Figures are similar elsewhere (for example Tanzania, Botswana, Malawi and Benin), much higher in Congo Basin and Sahelian states.

Altogether 79 per cent of the continent is de facto community property. Not all jurisdictions recognise this – Ghana and Botswana were ahead of the game, and in a weaker way, Nigeria.

Others followed from 1990 (for example Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Burkina Faso, Lesotho, Benin and South Sudan). The land provisions of new constitutions set the ball rolling in most cases. Procedural community land laws follow.

Like Kenya, Liberia is currently debating such a law. Malawi, Senegal and Chad are not far behind. Others, like Equatorial Guinea, DRC and Sierra Leone, are working on new policies.

All aim to enable families and communities to be recognised as legal owners of their traditional properties – and as quickly as possible.

Reaching there is not easy. Governments get cold feet when they realise this will shift millions of hectares out of their control to their citizens: state landlordism and easy routes to benefit connected elites die hard.

However, derailing the outcome entirely is no longer an option. Those affected are more worldly-wise and less compliant. The digital era helps, alerting millions to legal transformations elsewhere.

Nor is it so easy to renege on constitutional reforms that quietly establish tenure security as a basic human right in land-dependent societies.

Especially as these rights already exist. The time it has taken post-colonial administrations to do away with the myth that whole continents were “empty of owners” before Europeans arrived has become an embarrassment.

Remedy can be swift. Progressive jurisdictions turn community lands into property overnight by conferring on customary rights full protection as property, and encouraging owners to double-lock this in formal entitlements.

The less adventurous stick with old norms, withholding protection to lands without title, which can take decades to secure. As only one community secured title after 15 years, Ivory Coast is among states revisiting requirements.

So why would communities want to retain collective rights? Or retain community-based regulation? The answers lie in the nature of their lands and the logic of retaining control over their property. Both have become more, not less, important in the 21st century.

Settlements and farms absorb little land. Farms cover only 13 per cent of the global land mass. Off-farm lands make up 90 per cent of untitled lands in Africa, most within community lands.

It makes sense to entrench these as common properties: forests and rangelands don’t serve so well when broken into small parcels. Intact, their role in livelihood is too great to sacrifice.

Collective tenure also helps keep the hands of elites off these shared lands, a need felt more urgently each year.

Retaining community-based governance is also practical. It survives and thrives precisely because it is so localised; accessible, relevant, and virtually cost-free to manage.

Disputes can take as long as needed to be resolved. Norms can alter as needs dictate. Instead of dying, such systems seem to remake themselves with each challenge.

In ways, this system has stolen a march on the modern state; as working devolution, right to the grassroots, flexible, owned by those it serves, and durable.

A number of jurisdictions now build on the spatial construct of community lands. In Africa, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Benin and Senegal come most to mind.

Economists are also rethinking growth paths that once seemed immutable. Despite 300 years of industrialisation, 80 per cent of economies are land-based in 2015, cover two-thirds of the world landmass, and support 87 per cent of the world’s population.

While urbanisation will continue, towns and cities take up only three per cent of the world’s land area (one per cent in Africa). Industries and wage-dependence will grow, they say, but not to the extent, or with the urban-rural divorce of society, once presumed.

Much more inclusive paths to growth are needed, and which corporatised rural ownership cannot provide.

And as UN agencies remind us, despite 84 per cent of permanently farmed lands being taken into large estates, smallholders disproportionately feed the world. Most sustain their lands through community-based assurance. Investing in these systems seems sensible.

Naysayers are also changing their tune. The World Bank, for decades the lead advocate of individualisation as a foundation for growth, now promotes collective and family ownership as more practical in many cases.

Tired of funding and legitimising remote and unaccountable centralisation, lawmakers look more keenly to devolution, and find that communities already have the basis in place.

Environmentalists are also getting nervous. The giant carbon banks of the Amazon and Congo Basin and several billion other hectares of natural resources fall within de facto community lands.

Lessons learned since Rio 1992 suggest governments have not proved the safe pair of hands promised when they took prime community resources into their custody. Communities often do a better job – and for free.

They do best when custodianship is founded on acknowledged ownership. These matters came up in the climate talks in Paris last week (http://www.landscapes.org/glf-2015/agenda-item/day-1-saturday-5-december-2/6-parallel-discussion-forums-2/commons-tenure-for-a-common-future/). Governments that invest in community lands could be on to a winner.

Next week’s question is whether Kenya’s new laws are going in this direction.

Liz Alden Wily (PhD) is an international tenure specialist, an Honorary Fellow of Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), an Affiliated Fellow of Van Vollenhoven Institute of Law at Leiden University, and an Expert Associate for Katiba Institute.

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SOURCE: Kapaeeng Foundation

Kapaeeng Foundation (KF) organized a youth training titled “Capacity Building Training of Youth on ILO Convention 107, 169, 111 and International Human Rights Mechanisms”, from 1-3 November at Royal Hotel in Bandarban district with support from International Labour Organization (ILO). The objective of the training was to enhance understanding of indigenous youths on ILO convention 107, 169 and making them aware about international human rights mechanisms. A total of 29 indigenous youth from diverse ethnic groups from Chittagong Hill Tracts participated in the training, most of who are studying at different colleges and universities.

On the first day of the training there was an opening session; where Honorable member of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regional Council (CHTRC) Mr. Sadhuram Tripura; Chairman of Rowangchari Upazila Parishad Mr. Kyawba Mong Marma and President of the Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples Forum-Chittagong region Mr. Sharat Jyoti Chakma were present as guests. The opening session was chaired by Executive Director of KF Mr. Pallab Chakma while Mr. Hiran Mitra Chakma of KF delivered welcome speech.

In his speech Mr. Sadhuram Tripura said that to work further and carry the legacy of the elders, youth are needed to be equipped with multiple skills and be specific while acquiring the knowledge for the goal to achieve a complete knowledge. Mentioning about ILO Convention No. 107 and 169, he said that these international instruments for the rights of indigenous peoples should be popularised widely. He also emphasized on the practice of these knowledge and to divert into an asset to the indigenous community for the overall development. Other speakers of this session expressed that this training would help to build a strong network among the youth and that would lead youths to move together for the development of the society.

The training has covered many issues, including the basic understanding on human rights and UN human rights mechanisms, the basic understanding on gender and related issues, UN mechanisms on the rights of indigenous peoples, basic understanding on ILO Conventions 107, 169, and 111, ILO Convention and indigenous peoples’ engagement into this tools, leadership development and responsibilities of indigenous youth, national laws and policies related to indigenous peoples’ rights, media advocacy and digital security.

On the second day of the training the participants have paid a field visit at a Mro village named Mrolong, to see Mro indigenous people’s life and livelihood practically.  On third day, an experience sharing session was conducted by Mr. Lelung Khumi, which describes his life and the struggle in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Again, with the participation of the participants “Youth Forum: a panel discussion session” was held. Ms. Ramree Bawm moderated the discussion where with a panel of six participants, who have shared their personal experiences on different issues.

On the closing session, Ms. Wyching Prue Marma, vice chairman of Bandarban Sadar Upazila Parishad was present as guest of honour and distributed certificate to the participants. In her speech Ms. Wyching Prue Marma said that it is wonderful to be a part of an event where a group of young people apart from studies and work, participating into trainings on ILO and International Human Rights mechanisms. She requested the youngsters to be aware about the rights and to practice for the betterment of the society.

In their experience sharing session participant thanked ILO and KF for organising this important and exclusive training for them. They emphasized to organise this type of capacity building training for youth. Finally, with the closing remark of Pallab Chakma the training has came to an end.

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Posted by Ariel Halpern Monday, November 23, 2015

Four women groups from Mohalbari, Surail and Damoir villages in Northern Bangladesh participated in a two-day leadership and mobilization training in Dinajpur to spread the initiative of successful women-led cooperatives improving the livelihood of the rural poor. Among the 51 participants, most were landless women coming from Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities.

The training, organized by ALRD in partnership with SUSTAIN, is part of the project’s innovation plan that received ROUTASIA’s award of 25,000 USD last year.

ALRD’s Innovation Plan entitled “Strengthening Women’s Empowerment and Livelihood through Access to Land and Market” was launched in July 2015, as a result of ROUTASIA’s Learning Route on women’s empowerment in Nepal’s Chitwan and Kapilvastu districts, in December 2014. With the financial award and technical assistance of IFAD-PROCASUR’s ROUTASIA programme, ALRD and SUSTAIN, its local partner in Dinajpur, are now implementing the plan in the northern region of Bangladesh, where the existing farmer groups are located.ALRD’s plan aims to secure equitable land access and control for marginalized landless communities, including farmers, indigenous peoples, religious minorities and women in particular, and to improve their livelihood through effective management of natural resources.

Using local resources, local technology and indigenous knowledge, ALRD’s action plan integrated the People’s Initiative or “Gonoprochesta” model. This initiative promotes sustainable, small scale, family-based organic farming and rural enterprises, and provides direct access to land and market for disadvantaged communities, which in turn contribute to the country’s food security. The Gonoprochesta model empowers women by advocating their recognition at policy making level, and by enabling access to public land and to supporting services such as bank credits, agricultural inputs and technology, information and knowledge, and policy dialogue with government institutions. During the process, women are encouraged to create their own capital collectively, and to invest it in agricultural production of food and organic fertilizers.


By transforming into People’s Cooperatives, the initiative sets a unique example to improve quality of life without external financial assistance. It also creates an alternative market for the products of small farmers and entrepreneurs united by cooperative groups, creating a wide range of employment opportunities in rural Bangladesh, particularly for women. In terms of diversification, cooperative farmers use different types of production, including agricultural cultivation (rice, vegetables, fish) and fertilizer production (earthworm compost).

To analyze the socio-economic context in Bangladesh, the path of change and the participants’ respective roles in it, ALRD used a participatory discussion method. All participants agreed to the new vision of the People’s Initiative process promoting social and economic changes to improve their life and to protect their children’s future. They selected a name and a leader for each of their group, and they set up a work plan for the next three months. To create their initial capital, participants decided to save a handful of rice twice a day and to organize their weekly meeting on Fridays, where the saved rice is put on sale to generate financial resources for each group to be used for income generation activities. This collective way of farming enables them to use their small land as a homestead. It was also agreed that all activities would be monitored and guided by SUSTAIN, ALRD’s local partner organization.

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From the International Land Coalition and ILC Asia members, congratulations!

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