The launch of the impact evaluations on land tenure and land governance interventions

Bangladesh - Char Development and Settlement Project – Phase IV (CDSP IV) - Oct. 2017   ©IFAD/ Fahad Kaizer

By Jennifer Witriol Lisher

Secure land tenure is now recognized by global actors as a key driver of poverty alleviation, food security, gender equity, effective urbanization and sustainable natural resource management. When a land governance system effectively allocates and protects land use rights, individuals, groups, government and private sector entities with secure tenure can make productive and long-term investments in their land, property and human capital. However, there remains a lack of evidence on the driving factors, timeline, and context of how land tenure and governance interventions lead to impacts among beneficiaries. As donors, governments, and civil society put more resources into improving security of land tenure and effectiveness of land governance systems, decision makers are requesting evidence of outputs of the interventions as well as progress towards expected outcomes.

Although performance monitoring provides a good tool to track data trends, impact evaluations combined with qualitative assessments are crucial to understand the nuances behind this monitoring data and drivers and impacts of changes in land tenure. Only impact evaluations can show causality of project impacts. However, establishing effective impact evaluations that well capture the nuances of results in the land sector has proven difficult. This is due to the nature of land but also projects lacking detailed theory of change models and relatively weak evaluation designs. Land tenure experts often lack statistical tools to understand project design needs to facilitate an impact evaluation and statisticians often lack sufficient understanding of the nuances of land tenure and land transactions to effectively capture results across beneficiaries.

It is important to both understand the lessons learned in conducting land impact evaluations, as well as have a well-accepted theory of change based on patterns in the land evidence and which is clear on potential gaps that need further assessment. MCC presented its lessons learned from conducting land impact evaluations at the 2016 World Bank Annual Land and Poverty Conference. Following on this initiative, MCC and IFAD presented at the 2017 World Bank Annual Land and Poverty Conference findings from a systematic review and gap analysis of the land literature, including presentation of a model for key economic benefit streams.

Building on these efforts, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) partnered with Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), in consultation with the Global Donor Working Group on Land, to improve the tools to evaluate land tenure and governance interventions—specifically the production of the Guidelines for Impact Evaluation of Land Tenure and Governance Interventions and related theory of change founded on existing literature and experiences of the land and research community. The guidelines aim to serve as a tool for both evaluators and land sector experts in the design and conducting of land impact evaluations and ultimately broaden the evidence of what works and does not work and why in regard to measures meant to improve land tenure and governance. The overall objective is to inform and strengthen the design and implementation of future land tenure and governance interventions to best support lasting tenure security and achieve related impacts on poverty, food security, gender equality, environmental sustainability, and security.

The launch of the land impact evaluation guidelines took place at a roundtable during this year’s World Bank Annual Land and Poverty Conference. Harold Liversage, head of IFAD’s Land Tenure Desk, chaired the session and Oumar Sylla of UN Habitat GLTN provided opening remarks. It was a full house of attendees including those from the evaluation and research institutions as well as the land community. As the author of the Land Impact Evaluation Guidelines and MCC’s technical lead for land monitoring and evaluation, I provided an overview of the evidence and gaps in the land literature, introduced the theory of change model for land tenure and governance interventions, and presented key aspects of the land tenure and governance impact evaluation guidelines, focusing on recommendations for impact evaluation design (key research questions, methodology, exposure period, sampling), data sources and data collection. The presentation and guidelines can be found at the link above.

Discussants from civil society (Jolyne Sanjak of Landesa), research community (Heather Huntington of Cloudburst and Michael O’Sullivan of the World Bank’s Gender Innovation Lab) and government (Caleb Stevens of USAID) weighed in with their respective experiences and contributions. Discussants and attendees commended the team on producing this helpful tool to help improve land impact evaluations. The roundtable closed with suggested next steps for moving forward in establishing improved impact evaluation and evidence of land tenure and governance interventions.
Most notably this included:
  1. Publish and disseminate the guidelines; 
  2. Rollout the land impact evaluation guidelines tailored to various groups of stakeholders; 
  3. Continue to build and share land evidence; and 
  4. Establish the land impact evaluation working group/community, which is comprised both of evaluators and land sector experts with an interest in land impact evaluation. 
The team looks forward to engaging further in this initiative as we head to the next phase and move forward these action items. The guidelines will be published on the UN and IFAD websites shortly, while the draft is available here. The land impact evaluation working group already has around 20 members and is starting a listserv to allow members to correspond directly. The group will hold its first webinar in the fall to present results from the latest released land impact evaluations.

If interested in joining the land impact evaluation working group, please reach out to Romy Sato at