Land governance and today’s global challenges

By Harold Liversage, regional land advisor, and Steven Jonckheere, land and natural resources associate for IFAD in East and Southern Africa.

From March 24-27, hundreds of representatives from governments, civil society, academia, the development community, and the private sector gathered in Washington DC and debated the profound implications the effective governance and use of land have for many of the global challenges we face today – from managing rapid urbanization to creating jobs, stimulating investment, ensuring food security, supporting climate smart agriculture, and enhancing transparency. The World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty this year came at a critical time when the global community is increasingly focused on the Post-2015 development agenda. We have a unique opportunity to put land higher on the agenda in the post-2015 context. The discussions on the post-2015 framework for sustainable development goals recognize the importance of land as a critical asset, from a gender perspective, for food security, and with respect to the rule of law. During the conference a lot of emphasis was put on discussing how private investment can provide substantial opportunities for improving rural living conditions and increasing food security, with operational standards that enable investors to document their adherence to accepted global standards.

Several experiences from IFAD supported projects and programmes were presented. This included, the experience the Vegetable Oil Development Project (VODP) in Uganda and the impact it has had on women’s land rights and their livelihoods more in general. To address the specific challenges of women, VODP took specific measures to increase their opportunities for improved participation. The most important have been: i) increasing and strengthening women’s access to land; ii) increasing women’s membership and participation in smallholder sourcing schemes; iii) ensuring women benefit from technical training, extension services and production inputs; and, iv) introducing the household mentoring approach in order to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment at household level.

Furthermore, IFAD’s experience with sugar in the Lower Usuthu Smallholder Irrigation Project in Swaziland and with cocoa in the Participatory Smallholder Agriculture and Artisanal Fisheries Development Programme in Sao Tomé & Principe in shows how inclusive business models can play an important role in improving the livelihoods and land and natural resource tenure security of poor rural women and men. The two cases showed that establishing mutually beneficial partnerships is possible, but requires sustained support by a range of service providers (government, civil society, private sector) to secure rights, support land use and investment planning and to negotiate with outsiders, and effort and time. Particular attention needs to be given to empowering smallholder farmers and rural communities to engage on equal terms with outside investors.

Finally, IFAD’s engagement in securing access to land for young rural women and men was presented, drawing on the experiences of the Rehabilitation and Community Based Poverty Reduction Project in Sierra Leone, the West Noubaria Rural Development Project in Egypt and the Pro-poor Value Chain Development Project in the Maputo and Limpopo Corridors in Mozambique. The challenges young people face in accessing land were discussed and options for addressing these constraints were presented. There was a general agreement that programmes addressing access to land should include special provisions to assist young people.