Strengthened land commissions lay foundation for resolving land conflict in Mali and building sustainable peace
Conflict over land and resources in Mali is rooted in the country’s colonial past. Before colonization by the French, communities enjoy codified rights under vast and powerful empires. After Mali falls to French colonial rule in 1892, the French declare all “unproductive lands” to be under the control of the state, under the pretence of increasing productivity. Communities are dispossessed of their land. State ownership continues in postcolonial Mali, fuelling conflict over communities’ customary claims. In 1990, Mali begins a process of decentralization to allow communities to assert their tenure rights and in 2006 passes the Land Reform Act to accelerate resolution of conflicting land claims. Despite these efforts, Mali has problems with conflict over land. Disputes over community lands undermine Mali’s stability and impede efforts to build peace in the aftermath of conflict between Tuareg rebels in the north and the central government in Bamako. Recognizing the urgent need to address land-related conflict in the aftermath of the country’s armed conflict, the National Coordinating Body of Peasant Organizations in Mali (CNOP) and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation work with government, communities, and civil society to build the capacity of land commissions as a mechanism for resolving conflicts over land and securing the land rights of local communities.
Mali’s first emperor Soundiata Keita announces the “Charte du Mandé” or “Manden Charter,” a declaration of human rights and code of conduct
France colonizes the area that is modern-day Mali and declares that all unproductive lands are the property of the state—dispossessing communities and pastoralists
Mali becomes a sovereign nation under President Modibo Keita and continues to assert state ownership of communal lands
Amadou Toumani Toure ousts Traore in a popular uprising and leads a transition to democracy
Mali passes the Land and Tenure Law which largely recognizes customary rights but fails to establish steps to implement them
Tuareg rebels take control of the north following a military coup in Bamako
The United Nations establishes a peacekeeping mission to stabilize Mali
The National Association of Peasant Organizations (CNOP) and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation engage with the Tenure Facility
The Tenure Facility funded project ‘Land and forest tenure support project benefiting local communities in Mali’ pioneers, tests and demonstrates scalable approaches and tools that rural municipalities and local communities can use to resolve conflicts among themselves and with government, investors, immigrants and settlers. This work positions local communities as agents who can protect land, forest, and water, and improve livelihoods, thereby contributing to global climate change and development goals. It builds trusting and collaborative relationships between communities, government, civil society and private sector that show the way forward in a post-conflict environment. The project is the Tenure Facility’s first in an arid environment. It set the stage for scaling land commissions across the country, equipped with tools for implementing practical solutions to conflict on the ground. The project conceives and demonstrates a new approach to foster collaboration between communities, NGOs, and mining companies to reduce conflict and foster development. CNOP is an association of 13 federations of small rural producers. HELVETAS is a Swiss international NGO that has been working on rural development in West Africa for over 30 years.
Land commissions overcome bureaucratic hurdles to resolving conflicts about land and resources in rural communities, restoring social peace
“This pilot showed it was absolutely necessary to equip land commissions so that communities and people will believe in them. The government is now convinced this is how things will be done.”
– Boubacar Diarra, Tenure Facility pilot project coordinator
Recognizing the urgent need to address land-related conflict in the aftermath of the country’s armed conflict, CNOP and HELVETAS work with government, communities and civil society build the capacity of land commissions as a mechanism for resolving conflicts over land and securing the land rights of local communities. In 22 months the project reduces by 35% land conflicts in participating villages and by 25% in participating municipalities.
“The formalization of land transactions goes beyond the two parties concerned. It provides the opportunity to promote intra-community dialogue in order to put in place general rules that will take into account the rights of marginalized groups and protect all community members.”
– Moussa Djire, Tenure Facility Focal Point
In Sikasso region, 80% of the people live off the land. Faced with pressure on their lands from climate change and land grabbers, three communities collaborate to develop Mali’s first-ever inter-community forest. The communities manage the 4,220-hectare forest together to strengthen its productivity.
“Of every 100 land conflicts in the Region of Sikassso, 70 come from Ganadougou, an area of Sikasso composed of 10 municipalities, including the municipality of Nièna. These conflicts are often brought before the courts in Bamako. The land commissions are helping to end this situation. There have been recommendations to send back the cases that are pending before the courts, given that the land commissions can help resolve these conflicts in a more permanent way.”
Mohamed Barry, Secretary General of the Mayor, Nièna Municipality
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