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Improving Accountability in Agricultural Investments: Reflections from Legal Empowerment Initiatives in West Africa

By: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED)

A recent surge in agribusiness plantation deals has increased pressures on land in many low- and middle-income countries. Rural people have mobilized to protect their rights, seek better terms or oppose the deals altogether. Since 2014, a set of initiatives in Cameroon, Ghana and Senegal has worked to help people harness the law in order to have greater control over decisions that affect them – a process commonly referred to as legal empowerment.

In the three countries, the initiative developed diverse approaches, responding to different local contexts and theories of change. Each approach embodied a distinctive combination of grassroots action, public advocacy, and private sector engagement – through supporting junior lawyers in Cameroon, grassroots committees in Ghana and locally negotiated “land charters” in Senegal.

In the final year of project implementation, the project teams met at a writeshop to distill lessons learned and write them up for wider dissemination. This report presents the results of that work. It summarizes insights from first-hand experiences of helping rural people exercise their rights and, ultimately, claim their own future.