The Centre for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD), a prominent trade policy and development think tank, has issued a call to the government for the inclusion of Community Development Agreements (CDAs) in the legal frameworks. This move aims to address the environmental and social implications that accompany investments in various economic sectors and ensure equitable benefit sharing with local communities.
With the government encouraging investments in sectors such as mining and agriculture, there is a growing concern about the adverse effects on the environment and the livelihoods of communities living in the project areas. Large-Scale Land Investments (LSLBIs) have witnessed a surge in recent times, leading to issues like human rights violations, environmental degradation, and land alienation without adequate compensation.
In light of the ongoing policy and legal framework reforms across the economy, the CTPD sees an opportunity to safeguard the interests of local communities affected by such investments. The organization stresses that CDAs can play a pivotal role in mitigating risks and enhancing the well-being of these communities.
A Community Development Agreement (CDA) is a legal commitment between an investment license holder and the affected community or communities, approved pursuant to regulations. At present, several legal frameworks concerning LSLBIs lack clear mechanisms for community engagement or consensus-building. Companies often engage with impacted communities on a case-by-case basis, leading to inconsistent and non-binding arrangements that fail to provide adequate protection to local communities.
The CTPD urges the government to establish appropriate measures and mechanisms to ensure consistency, accountability, and responsibility in company practices. CDAs offer an avenue for equitable revenue-sharing arrangements and provide a legal basis for communities to solidify their agreements with mineral rightsholders in the mining sector.
Moreover, CDAs foster effective community engagement and participation before any investment activities commence. By encouraging access to information and enabling community-defined development outcomes, CDAs empower local communities to have a say in the distribution of royalty payments, infrastructure development, and other social benefits contributed by investors.
Solomon Mwampikita, a researcher specializing in Climate Change and Environment at CTPD, highlighted the importance of CDAs in enhancing community welfare and promoting sustainable development. The implementation of CDAs, he noted, would enable communities to shape their own future and hold investors accountable for their commitments.