The ANRC's volume on 'Rethinking Land Reforms in Africa: new ideas, opportunities and challenges' delivers what it promises: a diverse and stimulating compilation of perspectives over the relationship between land and the socio-economic conditions of people in Sub Saharan Africa. Its main merits are the reclamation of the political nature of land, the combination of academic and non-academic contributors who break with the monotone and hyper-specialized vocabulary that tend to monopolize conversations around land reforms, and the variety of topics and perspectives (including in disagreement).
In my view, land reform ideas, opportunities and challenges should be informed directly by people depending on land and fighting for different social relations: rural women, rural movements, farm workers, urban land occupiers, shack dwellers, and smallholder farmers. Without listening to them, land reform will not result in just societies.
Since the 1960s, land reform has been a key topic in Africa. Many land policies have been formulated and related programmes have been implemented - all in the name of improving agricultural investment and therefore, productivity, as well as bringing about general social and economic development. By doing so, many land policies and land reform interventions worked to do away with African landholding systems which were dubbed "static, rigid, insular, inflexible, incompatible, and insecure" due to the absence of clearly defined and enforceable property rights. It is these perceived weaknesses 'inherent' in African landholding system that prompted the need for land reform. Pauline E. Peters and many others have widely criticised these conventional premises of land policies and land reform interventions in Africa - and so she continues in the chapter The Significance of Descent- Based 'Customary' Land Management for Land Reform and Agricultural Futures in Africa of the edited volume Rethinking Land Reform in Africa: New Ideas, Opportunities and Challenges.
Developing a policy framework with a view to improving the governance of land within the continent must prioritize tenure reform by recognizing and mainstreaming communal/indigenous/customary land rights. This departure from the initial obtaining policy approach that focused on titling and conversion of customary to modern tenure is critical for sustainable land reform in Africa as argued by Lorenzo Cotulla and Clarke. Rethinking land reform in Africa new ideas, opportunities and challenges assesses the progress that has been made in land policy reform in the continent within the decade that the Framework and Guidelines have been in place. It also explores opportunities and challenges as well as new frontiers in the land reform discourse. Importantly, one of the themes explored in the book is communal land tenure.