We gather beneath the tree. On the spot where the SVGF – the land management commission on village level – usually enters into dialogue with the inhabitants. Our visit to their lands just now was followed with great attention.
People gladly assemble around the Mayor and his Yovo guests to know what they are here for. The Projet Foncier Local (PFL) has been running for nearly 3 years and the Embassy pays us a visit to learn about the results we have been able to achieve to date. But notably, to engage with ordinary citizens. What has the project brought to them? In a mixture of French and the local language Adja, we converse. While in great number, bringing along their young children not to miss out on anything, the women sit together and spectate, hesitant to speak up. Until a question is directed at them. How they value their land rights? With accelerating enthusiasm and conviction a young woman replies. Through the project, local civil society organisations have informed the women in the village of their rights, of which they were not aware before. At the request of the women, the CSOs supported them to assert their rights before their husbands and the community. Now women dare to express their ownership, no longer as fearful to lose their lands as a consequent. Moreover, women start to buy and even inherent land. Her ending words are met with some nods, but predominantly a loud applause: “It starts with the women themselves. Knowing their rights in order to claim the rights that are rightfully hers.”
Projet Foncier Local (2015-2018) aims to experiment with the application of the new land code in and with the two municipalities of Dogbo and Klouékanmè in Benin. A matter we approach from all angles, technical when realising land registration, institutional by putting in place the land management organs on a local level and lobbying for a realistic national framework as well as socio-economic with special attention to secure the access to land for women and youth.
Anouk Lodder, Project Manager