Women’s economic independence is threatened by land-grabs. Multinational ownership of large scale farmland has serious consequences on the economic independence of the majority of African women whose businesses are agricultural products through which they feed their families, pay for their children’s education and care for themselves.
It is irresponsible to take all of this wealth and hand it over to a few. To address such a problem there is redress to ‘advocacy’, because advocacy is about politics and change, about values and beliefs, about consciousness and knowledge. It is about influencing the powerful in regard to problems that concern ordinary people, especially those who are marginalized and excluded from the political process. It is about building strong democratic organizations to hold those in power accountable, expanding citizens’ skills and understanding about how power operates.
There are two types of advocacy:
(1) re-active advocacy: sometimes advocacy is ‘forced’ on us since the problem or issue is already there. We then use advocacy to respond, seeking to reduce the problem.
(2) pro-active advocacy: at other times it is possible to set plans for the future and, in this case, advocacy is used to prevent a problem before it happens. The main tools here are training and workshops to empower people.
In this perspective of pro-active advocacy, Africa Faith & Justice Network (AFJN) claimed a Victory against Land-Grab, for the workshops conducted from 3 – 8 September 2015, for Queen Mothers (women-chiefs) Association of Ghana’s Volta Region.
The approximately 100 participants expressed great appreciation for being ‘enlightened’ and ’empowered’ to act on behalf of the communities they represent. Mama Alori II, queen mother from the Dorfor area, after attending the seminar, announced that her cluster of towns and two other clusters will drop out of all land deals in process unless they benefit the people now and generations to come. In two town-hall meetings held in Pusupu and Bontibo, the women vowed not to lease their land to anyone including a Malaysian company that had asked for it.
On 18 and 24 September, letters were written to the traditional area council, and these clans of 5000 to 7000 people each vowed not to sign any lease unless it clearly guaranteed benefits to current and future generations.
Days after the conference, during the Fodome traditional area council meeting, Mama Vikpi, queen mother from the area, spoke about the conference, passed on the information she had learned and asked the chiefs to include women in decision-making about land-issues, arguing that the queen mothers always felt marginalized in this area by chiefs from the decision-making processes including land-related issues.
So the comments and action made by the conference participants confirmed the value of pro-active advocacy: the conference by AFJN enlightened and emboldened the people who went home equipped to champion land-grab awareness and the prevention campaign for the benefit of their communities.
Landowners are the ones leasing their land in Ghana’s Volta region, thus the priority is to bring the information to the villages before land-grabbers come in, so that when they come, whatever they say will be heard with informed ears. The most important thing therefore is to ensure that landowners and chiefs are part of the process, because chiefs and opinion-leaders are those who can organize public meetings and publicly deliver warnings against land-grabbing.
John Paul Pezzi, mccj
VIVAT International NGO
with consultative special status at UN