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Improving accountability in agricultural investments: Reflections from legal empowerment initiatives in West Africa

A recent surge in agribusiness plantation deals has increased pressures on land in many low- and middle-income countries. Rural people have mobilised to protect their rights, seek better terms or oppose the deals altogether. Since 2014, an initiative 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 distil lessons learned and write them up for wider dissemination. This report presents the results of that work. It summarises insights from first-hand experiences with helping rural people exercise their rights and, ultimately, claim their own future.

This project has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.

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Cotula, L. and Berger, T. (eds) with Di Giovanni, A., Fall, M., Kakraba-Ampeh, M., Nguiffo, S., Nkuintchua, T., and Yeboah, E. (2017) Improving accountability in agricultural investments: Reflections from legal empowerment initiatives in West Africa. IIED, London.
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Investments in agriculture and extractive industries can create new opportunities for local communities. But they also come with risks – including reduced access to vital land and natural resources.

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Helping communities push back by making better use of the law