Fifteen bright young minds from Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe came together late last year to brainstorm innovative solutions to combat land corruption.
Across Africa, one in every two people needing access to land-related services is affected by corruption. This could be a politician issuing title deeds to a select community to cement power ahead of local elections, a business deal between land developers and governments that displace local farmers, or traditional authorities abusing their power to sanction land grabs.
For young people, land-related corruption in rural areas can sap entrepreneurial spirit and restrict access to employment, encouraging migration to overcrowded urban centres where competition for jobs is even greater.
At the three-day workshop our young change makers were mentored by leading social entrepreneurs in order to develop solutions to boost integrity in the land sector. Participants from different countries were encouraged to work together to ensure a wider reach for each solution.
The four best projects to come out of this initiative have been awarded seed grants so they can be developed further.
Here’s a glimpse of what they are about:
From Namibia: Hilda Liswani, aged 24 and Ray Mwareya aged 33
Ray and Hilda want to find a way to stop “foreign companies coming into rural areas in Zimbabwe and Namibia, and grabbing land for development without consulting local communities.”
Their solution is to work with an existing community-based digital media organisation in Namibia thatHilda currently runs and develop an online platform that uses open data and reports from whistleblowers to expose land invasions.
The idea is to equip community members with low-cost mobile camera phones with GPS technology to take photos of land grabs in their areas and send them to the platform. Ray and Hilda will use this information to draw up heat maps of suspicious activity and publish them online.
As an experienced investigative reporter, Ray is planning to train community members on how to use the phones in a way that doesn’t compromise their safety. The team eventually hopes to share information they gather with authorities and push for action to be taken against the perpetrators.
“Despite being the custodians of their own land for thousands of years, the communities of the rural Eastern Cape have very little power over its ownership … they need better tools to protect their most valuable asset.”– Ariel Lashansky, young social entrepreneur.
Eastern Cape, South Africa: Ariel Lashansky, aged 28
“Despite being the custodians of their own land for thousands of years, the communities of the rural Eastern Cape have very little power over its ownership. Earlier this year, I founded an NGO and tried to set up a football field for the community,” said Ariel.
“A government department intervened and claimed ownership of the land allocated for the field. I later found out that officials had sold this land to a local businessman so he could develop it for his own commercial interests. This is not an isolated incident and these vulnerable communities need better tools to protect their most valuable asset. The problem is the lack of a proper land registry and transparency around local land ownership.”
Ariel’s idea is to work with a Ghanaian tech start up with experience in building decentralised tamper-proof ledgers to record land title deeds. As part of the partnership, the Ghanaian team will travel to rural Eastern Cape in 2017 with specialised equipment, including drones, to help the local community survey their land.
This will be the first step in Ariel’s mission to collect property ownership details and land usage rights in a secure, easily-accessible electronic format. He’s hoping this could then be used as a model to be used in other areas in South Africa as well.
From Cape Town and Mpumalanga, South Africa: Nokubonga Ndima (aged 25) and Omari Christophe Koza (aged 30)
Nokubonga and Christophe’s project will tackle the effects of corruption in South Africa’s land reform process, particularly cases of village tribal authorities unlawfully trading farmland that has been returned to local communities affected by apartheid-era land dispossession. “We’ve also noticed that land returned to villagers often does not come with a title deed, therefore it still officially belongs to the state,” says Christophe.
“This has intensified poverty and unemployment in rural areas and bred feelings of poor self-worth among local farming communities,” he adds. Their solution is to work with land redistribution beneficiaries and tribal authorities in Makokeni village in rural Mpumalanga province – where Christophe is currently based – to provide training on organic farming techniques and leadership mentoring for village youth. The team hopes this will promote a culture of responsibility and accountability for the land the community is cultivating, alleviate joblessness and empower the community to hold their leaders to account.
“We will also work with the department of rural development and land reform to ensure beneficiaries receive the title deeds to their land,” says Christophe.
From Zimbabwe and Malawi: Tswarelo Mothobe (aged 34) and Ceaser Chembezi (aged 26)
This team believes land corruption thrives when communities are left in the dark about their rights.
Living in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, and Blantyre, Malawi, respectively Tswarelo and Ceaser have experienced this first-hand. “In both our cities, there’s a lack of public information about how to acquire land, what one’s land rights are, how to spot corruption and where to report it. When information is shared, it’s often clouded in jargon or disseminated during high-level government meetings which the public can’t access.”
The two hope to turn this around by using their seed grant to design attention-grabbing banners with vital land-related information and contact details that will be put up in public spaces like market places, taxi ranks and bus terminals.
They’re also looking at putting large stickers on the sides of taxis and buses, designing food takeaway packaging with anti-corruption messaging and hosting public poetry and drama sessions to spread the word.
“We’ve got good design skills within our team and are going to speak to taxi associations, packaging companies, local government authorities and arts and culture collectives to partner with us,” Tswarelo says.
“Our primary target is young people between the ages of 16 and 35 who are routinely excluded from critical conversations with our governments. Ultimately, we’re hoping our project will inspire a culture of participation so that young people will demand fair inclusion in decision-making processes.”
The ChangemakerXchange was a joint project between Transparency International and Ashoka, a global network for social entrepreneurs. The initiative is part of our Land and Corruption in Africa Programme, which strives to curb land corruption and achieve fair and equitable access to land for men and women in sub-Saharan Africa. For more information contact Programme Coordinator Annette Jaitner: firstname.lastname@example.org