Fomi dam: catalysing land tenure reform in Guinea
Representatives from Guinea's ministries of Energy and Water, Agriculture and Urban and Rural Planning will meet in Conakry on 4-5 March to discuss reforms to the way land is expropriated for large public interest infrastructure projects and how displaced smallholder farmers should be compensated.
The two-day workshop, organised by the Ministry of Energy and Water with the support of the Global Water Initiative's West Africa programme, will look at legislative and administrative reforms in the context of the planned construction of Fomi dam in the Upper Niger River basin. Representatives from local government, civil society and donor organisations will also take part in the workshop discussions.
Ensuring local as well as national development
An estimated 48,000 people will be displaced by the construction of Fomi dam. A further 70,000 people in host communities will have to share their resources with the newcomers.
The stakes are high for Guinea to learn lessons from the past: across West Africa, local communities living near dams such as Kainji in Nigeria and Akossombo in Ghana continue to experience inter-generational frustrations amid demands for improved living conditions.
Any reforms undertaken as a result of the Conakry workshop will not only consider the immediate impacts on those people displaced by the Fomi dam, but also how land expropriation and compensation processes are managed across the country.
Experience with other large dams in the region has shown repeatedly that communities must be consulted throughout the development process and that they must not only be compensated for their lost land and livelihoods, but also benefit directly from the dams in the long-term.
Gaps in the legal framework
Since 2013, GWI and the Directorate General for the Fomi dam project have been working with a multi-disciplinary team of experts to identify legislative and administrative obstacles to relocating and compensating communities affected by the dam.
A review of the legal system has identified several weaknesses, including a lack of clarity and consistency in the land code on how to proceed with expropriations for public purposes and few formal procedures for standardised implementation of expropriations. There is also a lack of clarity around approaches to determine the customary rights which need to be compensated and the local land use commissions, which are responsible for overseeing expropriation processes at a local level, have been suspended due to a lack of resources.
The expropriations planned at Fomi are not yet on a sufficiently firm legal footing to guarantee their success. Good compensation and secure land tenure in resettlement areas is vital for the effective re-establishment of livelihoods.
Expectations and hopes of local communities in Fomi
Local communities who will be affected by the dam were consulted at a meeting in Kankan in July 2014. They were broadly in favour of the dam project, but concerned about leaving their lands and the uncertainty that lies ahead.
According to Jean-Édouard Sagno, president of the Guinean National Coordination of Users of the Niger Basin (CNU-Guinée): "Land tenure security can't just be carried out on paper, trust needs to be established between the different parties and the process has to be based on the long-term needs of the local population."
Working towards a roadmap for land expropriation and compensation
Addressing these legislative and administrative gaps in an inclusive and participatory way will help avoid social conflict – while securing local livelihoods and local development. The workshop organisers expect the Conakry discussions will result in a roadmap for the respective ministries to develop a clear and robust process for expropriation and compensation in the context of large infrastructure projects.
The director general of Fomi (Niandan) Dam confirms his support for the process: "We are delighted that the ministries of Urban and Rural Planning and of Agriculture, who are those most closely involved in managing both urban and rural land tenure, are taking part in these discussions. The ministry of Energy and Water looks forward to working with them to strengthen the legal framework, with the ultimate aim of securing the land rights of people affected by infrastructure which has a high impact on our communities."
Related reading: Dams in Guinea: proposals for achieving local development