Collective and/or community rights to land, seeds and natural resources for agroecology in East Africa – Workshop

In News by Agroecology Now

Secure access to and control over land, seeds and other natural resources is key to agroecology. If properly recognized and implemented, collective and/or community rights over these resources represent a powerful and viable alternative to private ownership. Community rights can contribute to the sustainable management of natural resources, and protect them against land grabbing. Yet, there is a lack of research on how community rights are recognized in legal and policy frameworks; how they are realized in practice; how actors currently engage in collective action to defend their land, seeds and natural resources; which measures can effectively address marginalization of specific groups within community rights regimes; and how to limit and manage conflicts between various users with legitimate tenure rights.

This two and a half day workshop was organized by the Center for Agroecology, Water and Resilience (CAWR) in collaboration with the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa (AFSA). The workshop was funded by The 11th Hour Project of the Schmidt Family Foundation within a larger project called How to govern natural resources for food sovereignty? It took place in Entebbe, Uganda, from March 25-27 with 25 participants from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Ethiopia. It was officially opened by Mariann Bassey in her capacity as Chairwoman of AFSA, and Million Bellay, Coordinator of AFSA. The 25 participants for this workshop were carefully selected with a view to ensure balance of region (between the 4 East African countries), gender, and constituencies (pastoralists, small-scale farmers, fisherfolk, Indigenous Peoples, feminist/women’s rights’ organizations, NGOs, academics and lawyers). Innovative and dynamic methodologies were used to maximize the participation and contributions of all participants.

This workshop builds on a previous workshop that was conducted in June 2018 in Bamako, Mali, in collaboration with Mamadou Goïta from IRPAD, with representatives from seven countries in West Africa. The objective of these two workshops was to jointly elaborate a three-year participatory action research (PAR) project on the governance of natural resources for food sovereignty and setting the ground for its implementation, including by identifying local partners and key research gaps, and developing joint activities.

The workshop was extremely fruitful and helped identify emerging issues in relation to the governance of land, seeds and other natural resources for food sovereignty. Together, participants were able to map and analyze ongoing struggles to protect and defend these resources against grabbing and appropriations, and discuss the role of researchers and lawyers in these struggles. The workshop gave participants an improved understanding of how customary or collective rights regimes operate in practice, and of the roles of women, youth and other marginalized groups within these. Strategies to enhance the effective legal protection of community rights to resources were also discussed, as well as ways to address conflicts between different users of the land.

Participants praised the format, participatory methodology and horizontal and respectful dialogue that took place between all the actors involved, and noted that they don’t often have the opportunity to learn from other sectors or constituencies, including representatives of pastoralist, fisherfolk and small-scale farming organizations, but also NGOs, academics and lawyers.

In the coming months, we will consolidate the outcomes of the West African and East African workshops and further develop ideas for action research collaborations.

For more details, contact: or