Illovo Sugar Group which owns Malawi Stock Exchange-listed Illovo Sugar Limited says to solve some of the land challenges that it faces it will ensure that there is due diligence on land-based investments.
The group has since secured funding from United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID) and technical land rights expertise from non-governmental organisation Landsa to implement the group’s Land Guidelines and Roadmap.
Access to land is vital for many agriculture investments but companies, such as Illovo looking to make land-based investments can run financial, project and reputational risks if land acquisition is not handled in a way that meets local legal requirements and also follows international guidelines for ensuring that land acquisitions respect the rights of local communities.
In a statement the company said that is why it will be supporting the operationalisation of private sector land rights.
The project will physically address land issues in Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania, although it will also incorporate advice and roadmap implementation experiences from Illovo’s land “champions”.
Through capacity building programmes, the project also aims to equip local organisations surrounding Illovo’s sugar cane estates to deal with land rights issues and further, looks to assisting the private sector with tools and problem solving aides in order to effectively tackle land challenges of its own.
The development comes 11 months after the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (Somo) in its December 2015 report accused Illovo Sugar (Malawi) of allegedly grabbing land from local communities.
The report titled Bittersweet—Sustainability Issues in the Sugarcane Supply Chain alleged that gaps in governance have allowed many individuals and companies to obtain title deeds and land leases from corrupt local chiefs with the help of government officials.
The report claimed that a local non-governmental organisation, Malawi Centre for Advice, Research and Education Rights, documented many cases of villagers from communities around Illovo Sugar plantations in Nchalo, Chikwawa, who claim to have been victims of land grabbing.
According to the report, in 2008, the sugar manufacturer staked a claim to the land with officials from the company and Chikwawa Land Department who notified villagers to vacate the land, claiming a local chief had agreed to Illovo Sugar (Malawi) Limited use of it as the legal title holder.
Illovo Sugar (Malawi) had, however, dismissed the accusations on land grabbing saying the company was not involved in any new business or other development requiring land acquisitions.
Commenting on the project, Larry Riddle, Illovo’s advocacy director said: “The project is based around approaches and tools aimed at solving some of the challenges we face at Illovo when dealing with our own land issues and implementing our road map”.
The project activities will focus on all related stakeholders—including, and particularly women—who stand to benefit or lose by virtue of land-related investments, and will also guide and assist Illovo, as well as other investors that may subsequently use the project outputs, to make good on the obligations set out in land commitments.