March 24, 2014 | By Roger Thurow

Commentary Series - This Land is Our Land

By Roger Thurow

This post is part of a series developed by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Landesa to highlight the importance of securing land rights for smallholder farmers. This series is running concurrently with the World Bank’s 2014 Land and Poverty Conference taking place in Washington, D.C. Follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #landrights 

A great worry had barged into the little house of Leonida and Peter Wanyama in western Kenya.  They had been called to the office of the local chief.  There was a demand that they turn over part of their land.

Leonida was fuming as she related to me what they had been told:  another woman in the area was claiming she had purchased the land years earlier.  Peter argued that he never sold the land – never would! – and he had the deed to prove it.  His signature wasn’t on any of the sale documents that were presented.  Peter suspected his identification card had been copied and then used to sell his land without him knowing it.

Leonida is one of four smallholder farmers in western Kenya I profiled in my new book, The Last Hunger Season.  I followed the farmers for a year, throughout 2011, and I came to appreciate their attachment and deep commitment to the land, which created a pride of place and a dedication to sustainable farming that would preserve the land for generations to come.

Land was very dear to all Kenyan farmers, particularly the smallholders.  It was uncertain land rights that had held back agricultural development in many African

About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Blogroll

1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA

Archive


| By Roger Thurow

Our New Gordian Knot

Fifty years ago Dr. Norman Borlaug recieved the Nobel Peace Prize for cutting the "Goridan knot" of population and food production. Now the planet faces another seemingly intractable problem: how to nourish the planet while preserving the planet. 










| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.