Grow Africa and Landesa work to strengthen standards for responsible land-based investments

With support from UK development agency DFID, Grow Africa and its partners, The Africa Union Commission and the Land Policy Institute are working with Landesa, an NGO that partners with governments and corporations to secure land rights for the world’s poorest women and men, on developing guidance on non-state-sponsored grievance processes for land-based investments in African agriculture.

A core tenet of Grow Africa’s remit is that the investments it supports must respect and protect land rights in the twelve countries in which Grow Africa operates. Land-based investments can be fraught with risks for investors, communities and governments, even when due diligence procedures are conducted to global Environmental Social and Governance (ESG) standards. Through its work with Landesa, Grow Africa seeks to strengthen its ability to provide guidance to companies making land-based agricultural investments, as well as have recourse to a grievance procedure developed by independent experts and endorsed by its founders, WEF, AUC and NEPAD.

The project builds on the Analytical Framework for Land-Based Investments, a document that provides a concrete check-list and best practice framework for investors on how to responsibly invest in land. Grow Africa has supported and promoted the production of the Analytical Framework.

Non-state-sponsored grievance fielding, assessment, adjudication, and resolution processes for use during land-related investments in African agriculture must be able to signal whether an investor has failed to comply with adopted standards or practices, and then provide guidance on how to remedy a wrongful act or omission. However, if a concrete standard is not in place or recognized, it may be difficult or impossible to respond to a grievance in a principled and meaningful way. Therefore, the grievance process must be contextualized to the elemental performance standards for responsible investment, such as those described in the Analytical Framework and AU Guidelines. Typical elements include such investment steps as notice, initial community sensitization, ongoing consultation, description of the options for the proposed investment, land and livelihoods impact assessments, benefit sharing analysis, project reconfiguration and mitigation and negotiations. Remedies must either bring the investment into alignment with the standards or serve to trigger an end to the investment, which in either case would include putting the aggrieved party into positions that are equal to or better than they were before the investment began.

Landesa will conduct primary and secondary research in order to develop a concrete approach for Grow Africa, and the companies and governments it supports, for dealing with grievance procedures relating to land rights disputes. The framework will also support Grow Africa in assessing the potential risks of new land-based investments, in order to determine whether such investments meet Grow Africa’s responsible investment remit for support. It will also provide investors and communities with an understanding of: investment standards and practices; how to lodge and field grievances; how to analyze grievances against standards to determine legitimacy; and how to identify remedies. The document will further provide governments, including investment authorities and sponsors, with guidance on how to play an effective supporting role in non-state-sponsored grievance processes.

“Guidance on Grievance Processes for Land-Based Investments in African Agriculture” will be published during the first quarter of 2017.