The Multi-Actor Partnership (MAP) on land governance in Ethiopia is composed of actors from different constituencies: representatives of relevant government offices, civil society organizations, the private sector, and academia. Following the launch of the Land for Life Initiative in 2018, hosted by the Forum for Social Studies (FSS), some committed and passionate stakeholders undertook a series of coffee meetings. During these meetings, the problems and injustices affecting smallholder farmers and pastoralists were the main topic of exchange. Usually, the identified challenges are resulting from weak land governance.
Since then, a group of committed actors has emerged, jointly assessing the land governance context, reaching out to further actors, and co-creating an environment for multi-actor dialogue and collaboration. By increasing the stakeholder mix, the so called “Core Group” established itself. The Core Group aims to increase information sharing, to strengthen synergies between programs and initiatives in the land sector, and to jointly address key land governance challenges.
At the first Large Stakeholders meeting held in Bishoftu (Oromia, Ethiopia) in early November 2019, a Steering Committee was elected and inaugurated. At a General Assembly meeting in September 2020, the Land for Life Ethiopia Steering Committee members selected their Board of Directors to lead the process and to realize the institutional independence of Land for Life Ethiopia. The new organization was officially registered in November 2020.
The institutional independence of the MAP on land governance in Ethiopia was achieved through a complex process. We experienced challenges and difficulties, such as, for example: engaging policy makers, maintaining the continuous engagement of MAP actors, and the absence of established systems or procedures. Throughout the evolution of the new organization, land governance challenges were analyzed and there was ongoing support, inter alia facilitated by the Civil Society Academy, to strengthen the MAP platform. At some point, however, questions relating to the identity of this new, very divers organization emerged: Who are we? What kind of group do we want to be? The journey we have taken together, the obstacles we had to overcome, and the common commitment to promoting land tenure security for the most vulnerable created unity among us and helped us to establish Land for Life Ethiopia. We have the joint ambition that this new organization will increasingly facilitate the space for meaningful and transparent policy dialogue among all land governance actors in Ethiopia: together for people-centered land governance. The organization is the first of its kind in Ethiopia and has the ambition of become an inclusive voice on land governance in the country – including particularly the voices of smallholding farmers and pastoralists into relevant policy debates.