Unpacking global land trends

By Marie-Lara Hubert Chartier and Elisabeth Steinmayr
Ethiopian farmers Mulgeta Amas (left) and his wife Tesfar Kasin (right) show their land certificate for their 0.75
hector landholding. Listing his wife in the land certificate entitles her to inherit the land and be acknowledged
as a joint owner for their plot. ©IFAD/Wairimu Mburathi

Rome, 29 March – Land is fundamental to the lives of poor rural people. There is a growing recognition that secure access to land reduces vulnerability to hunger and poverty.

However, do we understand why land tenure security is so important? We often hear about buzzwords such as “land grabbing” – but do we know who the world’s main land grabbers are? Women’s role in food systems being crucial to global food security – do we know what percentage of the world’s land is owned by women? To what extent is land claimed and managed by communities? Who are we referring to as the “youth” in IFAD’s projects?

Harold Liversage and Elisa Mandelli, land tenure experts from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and Sabine Pallas and Jan Cherlet from the International Land Coalition Secretariat vividly unpacked global trends on land and gave some answers to the questions above in their joint session Land – Unpacking global trends during the 2016 Global Staff Meeting.

Participants discuss during the joint session Land – Unpacking global trends during the 2016 Global Staff Meeting.

Some key messages:

• Often the main challenges IFAD projects face with regard to land grabbing are grabs within families or communities, the competition between different land users (e.g. pastoralists vs crop farmers) and national and local elites as land speculators.

• Women's secure land rights contribute to their empowerment, to household welfare and to the improvement of the land and a better environment. To achieve this, it is important on the one hand to help women become aware of their rights and able to claim them, but also on the other hand to create an enabling policy environment to guarantee those rights.

• Up to 2.5 billion people depend on lands and natural resources that are held, used or managed by indigenous peoples and local communities. They are the best custodians of their land and their existing traditional models of tenure function well if their rights are secure. Communities with secure tenure rights enable sustainable development, foster gender equality, and make the land more productive. Further, community control reduces uncertainty and conflict. A Global Call to Action 
aims to double the amount of land controlled by indigenous peoples and communities by 2020.

• There is no cookie-cutter solution for strengthening youth's access to land, as "youth" is a very heterogeneous group. Taking into account their sex, marital status, stage in life cycle, etc., it is necessary to strengthen local institutions and youth organizations, foster off-farm activities, give targeted economic incentives, raise the youth's awareness and support policy dialogue.

• There is a growing or revived recognition of the importance of tenure security and equitable access to land and natural resources. Good examples therefore are the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance for Tenure or the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa.

• To address many of the issues above, it is fundamental to strengthen the land rights of poor and vulnerable people, to develop accessible, affordable and transparent land administration systems, to promote sustainable community-investor partnerships and to engage in policy dialogue and M&E.

Engaging discussions with our colleagues from the field illustrated the wide variety of perceptions and realities in which concepts apply.

Looking forward, the IFAD land tenure desk aims to create more space for dialogue and sharing experience among peers, so that we can learn from each other.