Category: Success stories

NELGA Publishes Three New Good Practises to Empower Young Land Governance Researchers

The Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa (NELGA) is committed to furthering transparent, efficient, and equitable land governance practices across the continent. One of the ways in which we can achieve this is by supporting young academics and researchers through a variety of programmes and initiatives. Today, we are pleased to share three additional best practices that we have developed to increase the efficacy of our work in this area.

The NELGA Summer School Programme
Through our Summer School Programme, which is designed to provide them with this opportunity, young researchers will have the chance to extend their knowledge and skills in land governance and related subjects. Participants will have access to a variety of classes and seminars designed to equip them with the knowledge and skills required to conduct high-level research and analysis. This programme has already supported the education of hundreds of young researchers, and we look forward to continuing to assist the next generation of experts in land governance. (Link)

The Utilisation of Digital Tools in Educational Settings
Prospective young researchers must have access to the most advanced tools and technology to aid them in their academic studies in this day and age. As a result, we have established a collection of digital tools and services that can aid researchers in conducting research, analysing data, and disseminating their findings. (Link)

Assistance options for Upcoming Researchers.
At NELGA, we understand that each young researcher confronts a unique set of requirements and challenges. As a result, we offer researchers a vast array of support services to assist them in overcoming obstacles and attaining their goals. These programmes provide access to research facilities and resources, mentoring and guidance opportunities, funding opportunities, and networking events. (Link)

We are ecstatic to share these innovative best practices with our network. We sincerely hope that they will inspire many younger scholars to pursue academic and professional careers in land governance and related fields in Africa.

From NELGA Scholarship to a GIZ Advisor – Anthony’s Success Story

Working with GIZ allows me to give back to the organisation by using the skills and techniques I learned through the GIZ-assisted scholarship programme – Anthony Sarfo

One of the best things that happened to me in 2018 after finishing my undergraduate studies in Human Settlement Planning was being a part of the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) In-country programme under the Strengthening Land Governance in Africa (SLGA) through the Network of Excellence in Land Governance in Africa (NELGA). The scholarship enabled me to research the contextualization of sustainable land use planning with incorporated geospatial technology tenets as input and precursor for land governance in small and intermediate urban areas.

This cumulated in a master’s degree and a position at The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ).

The NELGA Programme is adaptable and provides opportunities for professional and academic growth. A series of training and networking events were held to improve co-learning and scholar capacity in research approaches and methodologies, data collection, and science communication. I also attended a summer school at the Goethe-Universitat Frankfurt am Main Training programme on the theme of Environmental and remote sensing data analyses via geospatial technologies in research and teaching. This enhanced my capacity in geospatial technologies, academic communication, support and guidance, and higher education didactics. I was able to enrol in two additional courses: digital image acquisition and processing at the geomatic department and spatial documentation of land rights at the land economy department at KNUST.

With the skills acquired, my initial publication during the scholarship programme was on corruption in the land governance in Ghana, titled “Towards Elimination of Corruption in the Land Sector: Incorporation of Geospatial Technologies in Land Governance at the Local Level” published in the African Journal on Land Policy and Geospatial Sciences. The paper advances a course for the incorporation of technology in land management as an indispensable endeavour to eliminate the bottlenecks and contribute to the fight against corruption in the land sector. Read More Here. Two other publications from my M.Phil. studies on the conceptualization of sustainable land use planning for land governance and the assessment of unsustainable spatial development of two intermediate towns through earth observation are in press. Further skills attained enabled me to undertake consultancy works on land use planning and adjunct lecturing roles at a prestigious university in Ghana.

I seek to contribute to methodologies for effective planning practices in Ghana in the purview of sustainability, earth observation, land governance, climate change, and gender. Presently, I am with the GIZ on the Resilient Against Climate Change (REACH) Project as a Technical Advisor (GIS and Remote Sensing). The project, being implemented in the Northern part of Ghana, works towards promoting inclusive and sustainable economic growth and increasing agricultural outcomes in rural communities of the Joint Programme Area (JPA). Additionally, envisage a point where planning at the community level is enhanced through participatory Community Action Plans (CAPS) and Community Land Use Plans (CLUP) in at least 200 communities in the JPA. I deem this an opportunity to use the skills and techniques acquired during my studies with GIZ assisted scholarship programme.

Fatima-Ezzarah’s Success Story – NELGA Alumni

It was the ultimate opportunity to discuss Africa’s challenges and how to address them – Fatima-Ezzarah Mohtich, NELGA Scholarship holder at IAV

I loved school as a child, and school loved me back. School allowed me to express myself, learn, make mistakes, succeed, and choose my path to excellence. I was receptive to discovering new things and very inquisitive. My parents regarded me favourably. Even though they only had a primary education and limited resources, my parents were willing to do anything to provide a better education for their three children. My grandparents gave me special treatment because I was their favourite granddaughter. My teachers encouraged me to pursue my goals, and I earned my baccalaureate degree with an honours in mathematical sciences, which led me to pursue engineering at the prestigious Hassan II Institute of Agronomy & Veterinary Medicine Rabat-Morocco.

When I enrolled in the preparatory year for agricultural studies at the institute, I lived away from my family for the first time and took my first steps towards independence. I wanted to demonstrate to those around me that a woman can perform miracles if given a chance. I qualified in the top thirty, securing my spot in the institute’s well ranked programme of study in geomatic sciences and surveying engineering. My education was multidisciplinary, combining legal, technical, and innovative aspects without excluding communication and management skills. Concurrently with my studies, I managed the training and cultural activities of the Moroccan association of surveying students. It was an opportunity to leave my comfort zone and take the initiative by developing solutions for the community through multiple projects related to real estate, precision agriculture and mobility.

The Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa, funded by the German Development Cooperation, awarded me a scholarship of excellence to finance my senior thesis through the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). Thanks to the scholarship, I completed my final study project, which was especially helpful during the COVID-19 outbreak. Throughout this period, I acquired the necessary materials for the project, made frequent trips to the study site, took part in different seminars and met my daily housing and food needs. NELGA connected me to a global community that amplified my voice and ensured I count and matter. The Excellence in Africa (EXAF) pole of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne selected the project as the best master’s project dedicated to Digital technology for the urban environment in Africa. It was the best opportunity to discuss Africa’s challenges and how to address them, view my work through a diverse and global lens, network with professionals, and seek opportunities.

Today, I am a shareholder and manager of a surveying company in Tiflet – Morocco and a part-time PhD student at Hassan II Institute of Agronomy & Veterinary Medicine Rabat-Morocco. Through both career pathways, I support and mentor other young women. I show them that with courage and determination, the sky is the limit.

Johannes’s Sucess Story – NELGA Intern

It was such an exciting opportunity to be part of a culturally diverse organization while gaining experience in land governance in Africa – Lineekelomwene Johannes, Former Intern with NELGA Southern Africa Node at NUST

In February 2023, I completed all requirements towards my achieving a Bachelor of Business Management degree from the prestigious  Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST). NUST is the leading hub for the Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa, an African Union network managed by the African Land Policy Centre through the support of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit GmbH (GIZ).

Part of the requirements for graduation was to embark on an internship through Work-integrated Learning (WIL). This is an integral aspect of our curriculum and must be completed by all students for graduation. Lucky for me, I met Mr. Theodor Muduva, the advisor for NELGA at NUST and  I was given the opportunity to gain experience as an administrative assistant intern for the network in southern Africa.

Simply put, it altered the playing field and was a game-changing experience. I was putting theory into practice and exchanging real-world experience. It was a thrill to work with people from various walks of life and learn from their experiences and perspectives. Before I joined NELGA, I had never thought of being interested in land issues, but through NELGA, I became knowledgeable about them. Mentors at the NELGA hub at NUST, especially Mr. Muduva, were extremely rewarding; and cumulatively inspired me to do my best in all my endeavours as I contributed my bit to my country’s development, region and the continent and, of course, come out with a better-than-average grade in my WIL course.

During my internship, a highlight of my time was participating in a planning and review meeting for NELGA with delegates from across Africa speaking as one voice. It was a tremendous pleasure for me to interact with NUST faculty, NELGA partner universities, African Land Policy Centre, GIZ as the implementing partner and many others. I was learning about land governance outside of my original academic interest; however, I could see the business management intersections and alignment with land and how this impacts the continent. It was a thrilling experience.

I am incredibly grateful for the invaluable insight into the workings of the business world that I gained due to my time spent in NELGA in these early professional years. Being a part of the NELGA team was an incredible opportunity to gain significant experience and intellectual resources to guide my future career goals.

NELGA is Delighted to Unveil its New Website

NELGA is pleased to announce the launch of its new website,, which boasts an enhanced user experience and cutting-edge functionality. NELGA has wholly revamped its old website into a new, fully functional, responsive, and dynamic website with expanded functionality and accessibility, resulting in a more comprehensive and dynamic user experience.

The new platform is designed with the support of the German Development Cooperation and has the user in mind, boasting a sleek, contemporary appearance and intuitive navigation. With a focus on providing valuable information and resources, the website provides NELGA members and land stakeholders with a wealth of knowledge about the network’s activities, opportunities, research, engagement, and networking spaces.

In addition, the website’s functionality has been enhanced with a responsive design that optimises the user experience across all devices, improved search capabilities, and a streamlined subscription process that ensures visitors are always informed of the latest NELGA news.

Jennifer Aghaji, NELGA’s Communication Specialist, said, “Our objective was to design a visually appealing and user-friendly platform. We believe the new website achieves both goals. We have integrated various platforms into a single website and incorporated a knowledge management repository for land-related subject areas.”

The new website will enhance communication and accessibility with Africa’s land stakeholders and the general public.

NELGA Researchers in Southern Africa Master the Art of Scientific Writing

Scientific writing is important in the development of academia and academic institutions. It is a challenge for postgraduate students and lecturers (supervisors) to write scientific papers, especially for publication in high impact scientific journals. Academics and postgraduate students have found it difficult to develop their scientific writing skills to meet the publication requirements of high impact journals. Lecturers who supervise postgraduate candidates face the daunting task of transferring quality scientific writing skills to the students since writing at postgraduate level is complex. Therefore, strengthening the capacity of lecturers to transfer scientific writing skills effectively improves graduation rates and academic publications.

In an attempt to a Scientific Writers’ workshop was held back in October 2022 at Chaminuka Lodge and Nature Reserves in Lusaka, Zambia. The objectives of the workshop are as follows; i) Improve the quality of scientific writing skills. ii) Assist early researchers working on scientific papers to produce publishable papers. iii) Increase research collaboration among NELGA member Universities and iv) Strengthen research supervision and mentorship skills of academic staff supervising postgraduate students.

The Workshop was a collaboration among Namibian University of Science and Technology (NUST), Network for Land Governance in Africa (NELGA), University of Zambia, and sponsored by GIZ. The University of Zambia hosted the workshop, facilitated by four consultants: Professor Chigbu (Namibia), Professor Chakwizira (South Africa), Dr Pamela Duran Diaz (Germany), and Dr Chavunduka (Zimbabwe).  The consultants led each of the sessions that focused on a specific aspect of scientific writing. The areas covered included: H-index and Social Impact factors in scientific academic publication; Strategies of scientific writing skills; Comparing different styles of scientific writing; Conducting effective literature review; Writing scientific articles; Publishing articles in high-ranking journals; Strategies of scientific writing skills; Comparing different styles of scientific writing; Tips on PhD Discourse.

Ten (10) PhD students and one (1) Masters Student registered at various universities also presented summaries of their research papers. Supervisors gave feedback to the students and identified areas of improvement. The main outputs of the workshop included the identification of the members of team to spearhead the development of a scientific writer’/supervisors’ manual. Secondly, the submission of abstracts from each of the participants as a contribution as a chapter a book that will be edited and published.

Jimmy’s Success Story- NELGA Alumni

“Attending the NELGA course on the Political Economy of Land Governance in Africa has shaped my career” – Jimmy Ochom, a land rights advocate, shared his experience in the NELGA program.

Three significant actions have influenced me in my career.

As a child who grew up in Ntinda, Uganda, my career path was first influenced by my secondary school, Busoga College, which taught me to live independently and think outside the box for innovative solutions to the country’s problems. This is solely attributed to the school culture and enabling environment it provides.

The second influence was my father, the late David Onyoin Okalebo. He believed that education was the key to my success. By the time he died, he was the CEO of the Teso Private Sector Foundation. He took his time to teach me how NGOs operate. From that background, when I realised NGOs could support my human rights interests, I ensured that for every internship and clerkship, it was from organisations that supported my areas of interest. 

The third influence was my passion for land rights. My first job as a Legal Officer at the Uganda Land Alliance shaped my career; the organisation advocated for the realisation of land rights for the vulnerable. I loved what I did. I saw the impact of my work through access to land justice in beneficiaries’ lives. This passion led me to explore opportunities to foster land rights, including attaining a Master’s in Laws (LLM-Laws).

These three influences impacted my knowledge and opened doors for me, including being selected for the 2018 NELGA short Course on the Political Economy of Land Governance in Africa organised by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies. This was a turning point in my career as a land rights expert. The course enabled me to understand several things that drive land governance. I learned the intersection between land rights, climate change, food systems, agriculture, legal empowerment, and politics and how these influence the growth of countries’ economies. I have used and grown this knowledge, and I have taken younger lawyers whom I am also empowering and steering their careers toward land governance. Attending the NELGA course on the Political Economy of Land Governance in Africa has shaped my career. It has exposed me to all regional, national, and global platforms where I have been able to champion the fight for land rights in my country and globally. I could appreciate the intersection between law, legal empowerment, land rights, food security, climate justice, and agriculture and how these challenges need to be understood to support the growth of economies. The course gave me a grasp on the analysis of land policies, food systems policies, agriculture policies, legal empowerment policies, etc.

The training has influenced my work. I do advocacy and influencing, especially in government, and my learnings have made me more confident in the land space.

The training boosted my confidence that I remain on the right path on land rights. Many people always associate lawyers with private and corporate spaces with little to no support for community rights for something as simple as simplifying legal interpretations for the community. I currently provide legal interpretation for laws associated with communal land rights and equip citizens with knowledge about land laws and policies, to stand up for any injustices, especially for women, youth and the vulnerable.

Exclusion in planning perpetrates poverty in informal settlements

We should recognise that people in informal settlements have the same right to share the city with the same dignity and equality as other residents. Without the active participation of informal settlement residents in upgrading projects, any upgrading plans proposed are destined to flop. Post the pandemic, we (Namibian planning practitioners, donors and private sector) should look towards the inclusion of people in informal settlements communities in planning and upgrading of the informal settlements. 

Some people are of the opinion that speaking about problems or challenges will not bring about change. There is some truth to that line of thought. However, understanding the problem and origins can be of great assistance in identifying solutions that are desired by those affected. While some parts of the world are discussing smart cities, Namibian towns are challenged with providing secure land rights to most of the urban poor. Fortunately, the urban land reform debate finally came to the forefront on the national development agenda, after the focus has been on rural areas for the past 20 years. The focus on urban land reform could influence the emergence of innovative solutions; however, there is a risk of excluding communities affected from actively participating. 

The problems faced by the poor and low income who make up 40% of the urban population living in informal settlements are relevant for discussion, mainly as the poor are also important residents of the city as they contribute to vital services of the urban economy. In Namibia, like many developing countries, the poor are found at the periphery of cities, living in uncomfortable conditions with no tenure security and high anxiety caused by possibilities of eviction. Despite their challenging living environment, there is persistent exclusion of the poor in planning for upgrading. When local authorities plan, the informal settlement residents are seldom part of the discussion. 

The Urban and Regional Planning Act, 5 of 2018, passed by parliament, is yet to be implemented. The Act has some promising sections for informal settlement upgrading and key among these is the provision for participation and access to land. The Act clearly states that “spatial planning must be aimed at redressing past imbalances in respect of access to land ownership and land allocation. Plus it promotes access to relevant information for the public. However, public participation methods are left to the onus of the relevant minister. This would undoubtedly create bureaucratic challenges that may perpetuate exclusion of informal settlement residents from participating in the upgrading of their communities. 

It is vital for leaders in policy implementation to understand that the exclusion of residents in decisionmaking increases insecurity and prevents residents from seeking justice and legal remedy when those in positions of influence violate their rights. Rapid expansion of informal settlements and lack of service delivery in these areas is indicative of poor or no participation of residents affected in the development processes affecting their communities. 

There are solutions galore from various case studies on how we can improve informal settlements at scale and at a faster pace, yet implementation becomes a challenge. The introduction and revision of planning laws to reflect the needs of the people is a step to improving land delivery and citizen participation in planning. What remains, as a bottleneck for active participation of residents in informal settlements, is a lack of political will and buy-in from planning specialists. 

Lack of participatory planning delays the successful implementation of informal settlement upgrading projects. This creates a blockage to solutions that are sustainable and may lead to high social cost during implementation. The norm in planning is consultants are at the foreground during design, while residents are only consulted during the phase of construction or removal of shacks for roads and services. This may be due to how informal settlement residents are perceived; some planning practitioners see informal settlement residents as land invaders and not as people with the same rights to the city as those in formal areas. The exclusion of residents in the planning for their own settlements perpetuates discrimination and enforces powerlessness faced by the poor. 

Participatory planning is not a stress-free process that takes a few months – it is a process that requires incessant community engagement, trust, and relationship building. In this process, it is vital that the possibility of development fatigue and expectation management is tackled by planning teams with residents. Moreover, it is important that those in planning and community members can find a compromise to form partnerships that be a catalyst for sustainable solutions at a low cost.During normal operations, the right to assemble and demonstrate has given residents an opportunity to have their voices heard. However, this should not be the norm. For a population of 2.5 million, understanding the issues of residents at town level should not be a challenge. One major impediment to implementing scalable solutions for informal settlements is the limited availability of dedicated professionals in local authorities dealing with informal settlements. Rather, as important as the role of community development officers are, they are “jack-of-all-trades’’, which can lead to overload. It is important for implementation of upgrading for local authorities to establish dedicated departments on informal settlements upgrading.

Every local authority embarking on the upgrading of informal settlements ought to consider the inhabitants as primary partners, who can share their local knowledge that could affect the speed and cost of projects. For successful project implementation, the residents of informal settlements need to have access to relevant information on how the public process for budgeting, planning and decisions concerning housing provision are made within the government. The time for using facilitators that understand the importance of participation and have patience for communities is now more vital than before. Participatory upgrading is not an easy process at the start; it requires patience, good communication skills and knowledge of the local context. 

To empower communities, it is vital that information sharing, and participation is encouraged. This should not only happen during elections, but throughout the whole process of urban policy development. People in informal settlements may be poor due to their economic status; however, many do have a wealth of ideas on how they can improve their communities. Every town planning office should find means to harness this wealth, and participatory planning is the starting point. 

Ms. Menare Royal Mabakeng is a junior lecturer in the Land and Property Sciences Department at the Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), with a main research interest in fit for purpose land administration. She writes in her personal capacity.