Corruption, biofuel leading to unequal access to land: FAO/Transparency International

Corruption and the use of biofuels are said to be hindering access to land and development of countries, according to a new paper jointly prepared and released December 12, 2011 by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and global corruption watchdog, Transparency International (TI).

The two bodies say the working paper found corruption in the land sector varied from small-scale bribes and fraud to high-level abuses of government power and political positions.

According to the working paper, the rush to invest in biofuels as a way to mitigate climate change is one of the pressures affecting land use in many countries, especially since “many countries with governance and corruption challenges are considered the most attractive destinations for biofuel investment.”

The paper states; “Unprecedented pressures on land have been created as new areas are cultivated, taken over by expanding urban centres or abandoned due to degradation, climate change and conflict.”

“These developments have strained the rules, processes and institutions that determine which land resources are used, by whom, for how long, and under what conditions,” it adds.

Hitting at one of the core issues affecting agriculture and food security worldwide, the paper reveals that weak governance has increased the likelihood of corruption in land tenure and administration, and is intensifying the impact of pressures on land use in more than 61 countries.

Commenting on the findings of the paper, Mr Alexander Mueller, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Natural Resources, said “The findings of the paper reflect what we have been hearing for years from farmers, herders, investors, governments and NGOs in many developing countries — that where land governance is deficient, a high risk of corruption exists.”

“Secure access to land and protection of natural resources from unbridled use is one of the keys to ensuring food security, social stability, investment, broad-based economic growth and sustainable development,” Mueller added.

Rueben Lifuka, President of Transparency International Zambia and a TI Board Member, observed that “Transparency and accountability contribute to a positive cycle of governance, ensuring that land resources benefit everyone and not only the powerful.”

However, Lifuka added, “When transparency and accountability are absent, the risk of corruption rises and threatens to turn land into a tool of alienation of ordinary people. As a result of corruption, people lose the cultural and economic benefits of their own land resources.”

Albania, Azerbaijan, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Liberia, Nepal and Russia were countries linked with corruption in the land sector as the paper says “Implied by this list of countries is that political corruption tends to be particularly salient in the land sector where nations are undergoing economic and political transitions. This may be the result of moving from a centrally-planned economy towards one that is based on markets and individual property rights.”

FAO and TI say they are planning further research and meetings on corruption in land tenure and called for improved governance in the land system.

By Ekow Quandzie

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