This paper reviews the key issues with regard to land resource governance and its dimensions in terms of sustainability and rural development. It explains the links between these areas and the related research and policy implications. It concludes by recommending the required priority actions at the global and country level to move the land resource governance agenda forward within the perspective of promoting sustainability and development of the rural areas and communities. The paper presumes that the land resource governance is expected to remain a key area of national and international engagement in the near future, especially in the context of climate change and food crisis, because the access to land is becoming ever more relevant for livelihood enhancement, food security, and rural development. Moreover, the poor land governance and policies that undermine tenure security often tend to diminish investments and encourage unsustainable practices of land management that generate short-term gains at the cost of social and environmental balance. Based on this, pro-poor, democratic and sustainable governance solutions are urgently required that respect and strengthen the tenure rights and security for smallholder farmers, pastoralists, forest dependent people and indigenous people.
- Pro-poor governance
- Tenure security
- Land grabbing
- Rural development
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According to IFAD (2010), there are more than 1.4 billion extremely poor people in the world, struggling to survive on less than US$ 1.25 a day, 70% of them live in the rural areas of the developing countries.
Land access is broader than land rights in a legalistic sense. Land rights do determine access, not only rights of full ownership but also a much wider range of entitlements (e.g., various types of use rights). But access to land is also shaped by social relations, including control over markets, capital, and technology; by relations of power, authority, and social identity; and by relations of reciprocity, kinship, and friendship. These factors may entail a disconnection between having a legal right to use land and being able to claim and enjoy that right in practice (Ribot and Peluso 2003).
Land tenure pertains to all rules, norms and institutions that govern access to land.
With countries and businesses now recognizing the potential of growing some fuel crops on land that cannot sustain food crops, even less-fertile land may now have value (IFAD 2010).
During the current food crisis, most statements of concern and proposed solutions in the international summits—addressing how to achieve increased food security for more than one billion undernourished people—have not focused on the deeper form of insecurity related to the crisis that is also on the rise: insecurity in access to land for more than 1.5 billion people in smallholder households involved in agriculture.
The Tanzanian government, like many African countries, is currently committed to fast-tracking agrofuel initiatives, and switching over vast areas of land to sugar cane, palm oil, and jatropha. The most fertile lands, with best access to water are being targeted, even though these lands are already used for food production by small-scale farmers (African Biodiversity Network 2007).
Important studies are the International Land Coalition (ILC), Global Initiative on Commercial Pressures on Land (CPL), and the Dutch IS Academy on Land Governance. For documents on the ILC Global Initiative studies see http://www.landcoalition.org/cplblog/?cat = 149.
Significant seminars that were organized on the topic were the 3D Seminar “Land Grab: a Human Rights Approach” held in Geneva 16 May 2009, see http://www.3dthree.org/en/page.php?IDcat=-19&IDpage = 51; and the Development Policy Review Network (DPRN) Expert Seminar “Commercial Pressures on Land” held in Utrecht on 8 July 2009. An international academic workshop on “Global Land Grabbing” will be held on 6–8 April 2011 at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, Brighton, UK.
Grain has kept an inventory of media releases on land grabs which date back to 2002 (and a lost article from 1989). This inventory today counts a total of 1187 articles. A spur in new coverage is found in May 2008. The peak is noticed from April 2009, and still lasts today. See www.farmlandgrab.org. Under a relatively narrower definition, the International Land Coalition has started an inventory in 2009, in which today some 387 articles are kept. For more information: http://www.landcoalition.org/cpl-blog/?cat = 149.
Investors include the private sector (banks, agribusiness, investment companies, institutional investors, trading companies, mining companies), and in some cases governments (directly or indirectly), through sovereign funds, domestic investors.
A 2009 study titled “Land Grab or Development Opportunity?” jointly produced by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), analyzed land acquisitions of 1,000 ha or more between 2004 and 2009 from Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, and Mali (FAO, IFAD and IIED 2009). According to the study, about 2 million ha of land across the four countries had been signed over to foreign interests, including a 100,000 ha project in Mali and a 450,000 ha plantation for agrofuel in Madagascar. IIED (2009) identified a cumulative increase in land acquisition in the four countries with the past five years seeing an upward trend in both project numbers and allocated land areas; it also identified further growth of these activities. For example, in July of 2009, the Government of Ethiopia marked out 1.6 million ha of land, extendable to 2.7 million, for investors willing to develop commercial farms. The size of single acquisitions can be very large. Allocations include a 452,500 ha agrofuel project in Madagascar, a 150,000 ha livestock project in Ethiopia and a 100,000 ha irrigation project in Mali.
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The authors gratefully acknowledge the contribution of Dr. Sidney Draggan (Scientist and Science Policy Advisor at the Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment, United States of America) for his precious comments on the original version of the paper. Special thanks are also addressed to Dr. Touria Nakouch (Professor at Ibn Zohr University of Agadir, Morocco) for her relevant suggestions on the paper’s grammatical and linguistic consistency.
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Behnassi, M., Yaya, S. (2011). Land Resource Governance from a Sustainability and Rural Development Perspective. In: Behnassi, M., Shahid, S., D'Silva, J. (eds) Sustainable Agricultural Development. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-0519-7_1
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