Illovo Sugar Africa has announced a partnership with the United States-based Landesa Rural Development Institute to assist the group to implement its land rights programme in Africa.

A recipient of the Hilton Humanitarian Prize in 2015, Landesa was founded in the late 1960s by Washington University’s Professor Roy Prosterman to create pro-poor land laws and programmes at that time in Vietnam. The NGO was designed specifically as a partnership with governments and the private sector to provide land rights to the world’s poorest and has since extended its work into 50 countries.

The project, which will support the implementation of Illovo’s overall land programme in the African countries where it has a presence is supported by the UK Department for International Development Legend Challenge Fund.

The project is called “From Commitment to Practice: Supporting the Operationalisation of Private Sector Land Rights Commitments through a Pilot of the New Alliance’s Due Diligence Tool”, with the working title “Commitment to Practice”.


In a press statement published on their website, Illovo Sugar Africa said the partnership with Landesa was about enabling the group to implement its land policy and to support local organisations neighbouring the sugar estates while developing practical and problem solving tools to allow the private sector deal with land rights.

The project is underway in Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania and includes “land champions” from another three countries where the group operates to assist with the roll out of assessments.

Illovo Sugar Africa is funding its own contribution to the programme while the UK funding will cover the costs of the Landesa technical support and the input from the Community Support Organisations (CSO) who are responsible for education on the land issue.

“This will enable Illovo to implement the roadmap in a much more comprehensive and inclusive manner and will have significant improved outputs and sustainability due primarily to the improved capacity of the local CSOs and communities at each site,” the group said.


Since the project got underway at a workshop in Durban late last year the “land champions” have documented potential challenges linked to land ownership at each site along with the current grievance mechanisms and revised grievance mechanisms.

The first assessment phase began earlier this year at Illovo’s Dwangwa operation in Malawi. Training  during this phase included land rights, gender in the context of land rights, grievance mechanisms and communication, and the use of a modified analytical assessment tool to assess the land situation at Dwangwa and identify high risk areas and areas under dispute.

The team then moved to Illovo’s sugar operation at Nchalo and followed a similar process using the participatory boundary assessment undertaken in 2014 as a baseline document.

Landesa will produce a country report to be used as the basis of the assessment document for publication however the assessment phase marks only the start of the engagement and land program.  The Landesa and Illovo team will now revisit the tool and process to improve it before rolling it out to Mozambique and Tanzania.

Further the sugar group has also secured support from the USAID for a Responsible Land Based Investment Project which focuses on community land rights in the Illovo supply chain in Maragra, Mozambique.

As result a partnership has been established with Indufor North America, the Moringa Partnership (an equity investor) and a local partner TerraFirma to implement a pilot project to test the Analytical Framework for LandBased Investments in African Agriculture.

The aim is to train communities around the estate, both growers and nongrowers, to understand their land rights and to map and document their rights to allow the legalisation of their tenure and to help with improved land use mapping and understanding of the supply chain for Illovo.

Mapping and registration started in April.

“This project effectively takes the implementation of the roadmap one step further to ensure that community partners understand their land rights and have formal land tenure which will assist Illovo to enforce their commitment to zero tolerance for land grabs,” the group said.


  • A basemap of the 8 000 ha of existing and new out grower lands and areas protected by project infrastructure
  • Establishment of a local platform for the coordination and sharing of lessons learned
  • Established representative entities at the community level for land, equipped with appropriate tools and information
  • Community land use plans, identifying Illovo plantations, community areas, household plots, etc.
  • A grievance mechanism, including its goals, resolution approaches, structure, and functions
  • Documented land rights to a minimum of 3 000 ha of out grower lands
  • So far 700 households are now informed on their land rights and the project is progressing to registering participation. USAID have commissioned an initial baseline study that is currently underway. In Mozambique, the Maragra Smallholder Sugarcane Development Project (MSSDP) has comprehensively mapped and engaged with local and regional stakeholders to address land and has formed a ‘land working group’ to address land and grower registration on the project. The project has also engaged with local organisations working to provide legal documentation to local land owners in line with national government targets. A basic registration of land and ownership with the project/company has been completed for the areas currently under development and continues as the project expands, although this is not legal documentation it will feed into the USAID Responsible LandBased Investment Project.


Illovo Sugar Africa is also investigating the possibility of localised land rights programmes at other sites with a view to testing:

  • the appetite for formal land rights with growers
  • whether access to formal land rights could be used to drive change
  • whether the development of the information platform for land right information could be built upon for our grower management purposes
  • tools to manage dynamic change within land ownership in partnership with local government formal systems


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