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Malany Meyer, a community-based activist who works with PLAAS, is from one of Cape Town’s largest and most impoverished townships, Lavender Hill. In 2021, Malany was evicted from her home by police and Red Ants, who broke down her and others’ structures while they were in their homes. After the combative confrontation with eviction teams, Malany’s 13-year-old daughter started to look for her through the debris. Malany had initially thought her daughter was away from the vicinity and protected when the violent eviction happened.

“All I heard was ‘mummy’, and I saw a shadow in the dust. I don’t know where my heart was.”

Malany is one of many colleagues who directly benefited from PLAAS’s work in land governance, which has been supported by Strengthening Advisory Capacities for Land Governance in Africa (SLGA). As this programme approaches its conclusion in 2026, its incredible impact on people’s lives was illuminated during the SLGA/NELGA team’s visit to the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) in Cape Town, South Africa. NELGA is the Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa.

The visit included an intricate discussion about PLAAS’s sustainability strategies and comprehensive work plan for 2024, and provided detailed perspectives on its collaboration with GIZ and the African Land Policy Centre.

The significance of PLAAS’s role within NELGA as a technical node and its contributions to self-sustainability and regional development was driven home by another colleague.

Sandiso Kraai, a graduate of PLAAS’s unique Postgraduate Diploma in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, the only such course in Southern Africa, gave an impassioned rendition of his time in the programme. As a member of the government and on the opposing side of communities where he has to evict people and face those like Malany – often where his family members live – he said the teachings gave him the language to express himself and the complexity he deals with daily, which turned him into a more understanding public servant.

While the SLGA programme is coming to an end, the collaboration with PLAAS remains steadfast. PLAAS’s presentation of its strategy and shared lessons provided invaluable guidance in navigating the extrication process.

Excitement abounds about the potential collaboration areas with NELGA regional nodes , underscoring the commitment to a continued partnership in driving sustainable land governance initiatives across Africa. The SLGA team looks forward to leveraging this collaboration to make meaningful strides towards equitable and inclusive land governance practices in the region after the programme closes.

Professor Hall is a full professor and holds the DSI-NRF South African Research Chair (SARChI) in Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies. She is the editor of the Journal of Peasant Studies and has co-founded several regional and global research networks, such as the Network of Excellence on Land Governance in Africa and Land Deal Politics Initiative. She is currently the acting director of PLAAS.

Professor Isaacs is a full professor and the academic manager for postgraduate teaching, co-coordinator of accredited short-course training on the Political Economy of Land Governance in Africa and on Living Landscapes in Action: new thinking on integrating biodiversity and social justice in southern Africa.