Responsible and innovative land administration in Ethiopia (REILA)
Opening remarks by Minister Heidi Hautala at the launching ceremony.
I am honoured to deliver the opening remarks at such an important event. I have spent the last three days immersed in the realities of Ethiopia, comprised of informative meetings here in the capital. Unfortunately I had to cancel my intended trip to Amhar due to practical problems.
Finland has over 40 years of history in development cooperation with your country. Ethiopia is one of our eight long-term partner countries, where our engagement is founded on the belief that long-term commitments are a better way to sustained results. In terms of bilateral cooperation, Finland is currently a partner in three key sectors – Water, Education and Rural Economic Development – and contributes some 17 MEUR annually. We also support the work of both the local and international civil society in Ethiopia; we finance humanitarian efforts as well as various regional multilateral institutions whose work also supports Ethiopia.
In Ethiopia-Finland cooperation our main point of entry is the human pillar. The main resource to develop is the human resource, and the major part of our cooperation supports such human development. Without securing the freedom and rights of all individuals, including marginalized groups, women and youth, we will not achieve sustained development.
REILA programme is unique since, by way of ensuring security of land tenure in the rural areas, it indeed makes a fundamental contribution to human rights. This guarantee to land, transferable to one’s children directly empowers the rural households, giving them confidence in the future and an incentive to invest and plan ahead.
When land tenure rights are secured with land registration and a green book to mark the land use right, people start to invest in land leading to healthier land and increased production. It is in the interest of the land holder to plant trees and protect her land. This is naturally in the interests of the environment.
Healthy land and long-term planning incentivizes investments and facilitates increased production. This leads away from rain-fed subsistence agriculture towards more commercialized production, improved market linkages, value-adding processes and increased incomes. Importantly, continued increases in agricultural productivity will improve Ethiopia’s food security. Such improvements, if made in a sustainable way, will also lead to greater climate resilience.
In Ethiopia, massive investments are taking place, tremendous programs happening in different parts of the country. Transformation is doubtless required in Ethiopia, improvements needed. However, we must make sure the people do not get left on the sidelines. The government has embarked on a villagization programme in four regions of the country. The objectives of ensuring access to basic services and infrastructure, increased productivity and food production are commendable. Nevertheless, the processes behind such large interventions need to be solid to negate some obvious social risks. Securing people’s right to their land requires necessary supporting systems – such as consultations, dispute resolution mechanisms and compensation schemes.
Commercial farming encompass national, but largely foreign investors; much of this production targets the export markets. While the foreign investments can be very beneficial, we must not forget the question of the social and environmental accountability of foreign investors.
REILA is currently Ethiopia’s single largest land administration programme. Over the next five years, this cooperation will aim to support a rural land administration system that is just, transparent, consultative and fair for all members of the Ethiopian society on an equal basis. Ensuring, respecting and protecting the individuals’ rights to their land is fundamental, even in the broader framework of human rights. Indeed, this constitutes some of the very foundations for democratic development.
Let me reiterate the importance I hold for REILA and all that it promotes. On behalf of the Government of Finland, I wish to express our firm commitment to work tirelessly together with your government towards better livelihood and prosperity of the Ethiopian citizens.
Looking forward to a fruitful and constructive cooperation in the coming years.