Opinion – NUST and its role in land governance for societal development
Around the world, visionary universities are stepping up their efforts to have local impact and shape global development agendas by contributing directly to the development of society. Societal development involves progress in the well-being of people in societies. Generating and using appropriate knowledge on decisions and procedures, governance of access to land (land governance) is mandatory for achieving development results. And universities with land-focused departments have a special responsibility in land governance through their teaching, research, networking and community services. The Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST), through its Department of Land and Property Studies (DLPS), has earned its reputation in this field.
Recently, I discussed with a professor in land governance the importance of land in the development of African societies. She said to me, “African universities struggling to have local impact or shape the global agenda on earth should ask themselves, what would NUST do? When I asked why she said that. His response was: “…because NUST always does it right in land governance education?” His use of “constantly” is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration. Yet it accurately captures NUST’s emerging leadership in land governance education. It is essential that everyone knows more about the role of NUST in land governance – nationally, continentally and globally – as NUST (through its DLPS) has become a key player in the education and research on land governance.
NUST’s DLPS offers programs in land administration and land studies. Land administration involves the generation and safeguarding of land data and information, land records and communications, and decision-making networks in the public and private sectors for the development of society. Land studies revolve around the evaluation and socio-economic and financial management of land, buildings and equipment. Land administration and land studies are at the heart of national land reforms, policies and development.
In addition to its learning and teaching responsibilities, NUST has an Integrated Land Management Institute which coordinates and promotes awareness of land, livelihoods and housing issues in Namibia. In addition, DLPS coordinates a research group where new graduates are mentored (through gainful employment) to kick-start their academic/research careers. This mentorship involves developing skills in coordinating research, writing publications and networking within the global land governance community.
NUST is recognized by the African Union – through its Network of Excellence on Land Governance or NELGA initiative – as the center of excellence in land governance education in Southern Africa and one of only six NELGA centers in Africa. NELGA is a partnership of leading African universities and research institutes with a proven track record in land governance education, training and research. NUST, as the center of NELGA, was officially launched in 2018. Since then, NUST has engaged in various academic collaborative works that impact the development of land governance education in Africa. It has supported curriculum review activities in other universities in Southern Africa. It has also facilitated academic exchanges between partner institutions in Africa and Europe. Its DLPS has developed a research strategy for its internal operations and a research and capacity development strategy for Southern Africa. He is currently working on a gender strategy for land governance in Southern Africa. NUST is the only African university in the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN). The GLTN is a dynamic, multi-sector alliance of over 80 international partners committed to increasing access to land and tenure security for all. NUST co-leads (with the University of East London) the research and training section of the GLTN. He uses his membership and leadership within the GLTN to positively influence global land-related agendas. In 2021 alone, NUST has shaped the international discourse on land by producing two globally endorsed guidelines to improve the lives of people in all developing countries around the world. NUST designed and produced respectively a framework on urban-rural land linkages (in collaboration with the International Federation of Surveyors and UN-Habitat) and a practical guide for land use planning (in partnership with UN-Habitat).
The International Federation of Surveyors, established in 1878, is a worldwide organization for surveying and related land disciplines. It is made up of 106 member associations from 88 countries. UN-Habitat was established in 1978 to promote socially and environmentally sustainable cities to provide adequate housing for everyone around the world. FIG and UN-Habitat are just two of more than 80 key partner institutions that NUST works with to shape the state of land governance around the world through the GLTN.
People need to be critical about what they read or hear about university rankings. No university is the best in all departments. Being recognized or being one of the best is not what makes a university great. It is only part of a whole. As my professor friend alluded to in the aforementioned conversation, “having local impacts and shaping the global agenda…” is what should matter. NUST, in Namibia and beyond, functions as an arena for society-focused land governance education. It is a recognized hub for land governance by the African Union. The land tenure-aware land use planning framework co-produced by NUST land specialists is broadly endorsed by UN-Habitat and the German Development Agency. The concept is being tested in communities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Laos, Namibia, the Philippines and Uganda. This is part of what makes NUST the leader in land governance education. Its activities go beyond teaching and research to contribute to the societal development of communities around the world. At NUST, knowledge that cannot have social impact is not knowledge.