Following the Limuru-Nairobi, Continental African Conference on land grabbing in November 2015, AEFJN co-organised a follow-up Conference for the Francophone countries of Africa in Abidjan, Côte D’Ivoire, from November 21-23, 2017. You may recall that similar follow-up conferences have taken place in Mozambique for the Lusophone (Portuguese-speaking) countries and in a number of Anglophone countries namely: Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania focusing on more specific faces of land grabbing. AEFJN co-organised and/or participated in some of these follow-up conferenceThe Conferences were geared towards bringing the Church, Civil Society and Social Movement actors in Africa to work together in responding to the phenomenon of Land Grabbing. We have witnessed in these two years a gradual but progressive willingness of Church actors to collaborate with the others.

A distinctive feature of the just concluded Conference is the practical demonstration of that willingness by the huge presence of the Church’s hierarchy with 11 Catholic archbishops/bishops from different countries and episcopal conferences of West Africa, including the Papal Nuncio to Côte D’Ivoire, at the opening ceremony.  Eight of them participated in all the sessions, and one of them delivered the Conference Declaration. The decision of some of the bishops to work with the Social Movements on the carnival of “Global convergence of land and water struggle” in West Africa was very supportive of the Movements. The easy-to-read, Green book  of Convergence is found through this link. It is an essential introduction to the issues of land, water, natural resource grabbing, and poverty in Africa. There was also major shift in perspective towards seeking indigenous solutions to land grabbing.

There is a great awareness of the phenomenon and menace of Land Grabbing. This was evident in the address of the President of the JPIC commission for Regional Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA). Please follow this link to read his address (The bishop’s speech). The thought of the Nuncio to Côte d’Ivoire is that Land grabbing is increasing in Africa because leaders give the world the impression that land is wasted in Africa. Click here to read the Nuncio’s address (le dicours du Nonce).

A common denominator in all the case studies presented during the conference is “an intentional conspiracy” between the corrupt African national/regional governments and the global/regional financial institutions of America and EU and other industrialised economies to facilitate the grabbing of African land, water and natural resources for their corporations. This is mediated through the changing of African land laws, land tenure and value systems without considering the socio-economic consequences for Africa.

In this vein, the conference developed and adopted common strategies towards responding to this situation. The AEFJN Secretariat, in collaboration with other stakeholders in OUR LAND IS OUR LIFE platform, will continue to monitor the implementation of these strategies in the coming year.

Meanwhile, there was a strong presence of AEFJN African members and partners in this conference. It was an occasion to meet and seek ways of supporting and strengthening AEFJN antennae in Africa. It was a very productive meeting.