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Partners discuss FAO guidelines on land, fisheries and forests

Guidelines developed based on inclusive, transparent consultation process

16 July 2014, Lilongwe, Malawi: The first-ever seminar on Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) was held in Malawi from 14-16 July with primary objective of  creating a critical mass of informed stakeholders and discussing ways to effectively implement them with the view of initiating the development of a multi-stakeholder platform.

The seminar – supported by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) -  targeted a range of stakeholders involved in the tenure of land, fisheries and forests such representatives from Government, Civil Society, private Sector, academia and research institutions.

In Malawi, the majority of Malawians depend on access to farmland and rangeland,  fisheries and forests for their livelihoods and the way the Government of Malawi and society manage these resources has a direct impact on food security, poverty alleviation, economic growth and environmental sustainability.

Tenure governance is defined as weak when the legal, institutional and administrative systems for the management of natural resources, whether formal or customary, can no longer cope with national demand and fail to define, regulate and protect legitimate land rights.

The VGGT represent an unprecedented international agreement on the governance of tenure, which places secure access to land, fisheries and forests firmly in the context of food security.

The Guidelines are based on an inclusive, transparent consultation process started by FAO and then finalized through intergovernmental negotiations led by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), and which included the participation of civil society organizations, private sector representatives, academics and researchers, and international organizations.

In sync with policies and development blueprint

Malawi’s Principal Secretary in the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development Ms Ivy Luhanga acknowledged the fact that sustainable food security for billions of people in the world depends on security of land tenure and other resources.

“Security on land tenure may help families to produce food for their consumption undisturbed, and to increase their income by producing a surplus for sale in markets while at the same time act as a valuable safety net in times of hardship,” said the Principal Secretary at the opening of a three-day awareness-raising workshop on VGGT in the capital, Lilongwe.

She described the Guidelines as being in sync with Malawi’s land policies and the overarching national development blueprint – Malawi Growth and Development Strategy II.

“It is in line with this that Malawi is undertaking this initiative so that we do not lag behind in such efforts,” she said, adding that “Government [of Malawi] is also aware that one of the challenges being experienced is insufficient public awareness on existing land related laws.”

She thus appealed for a multi-sectoral and concerted efforts in the implementation of the Guidelines to ensure success in improved governance in land and other natural resources in the country.

In a world where natural resources are fast diminishing in both quantity and quality, there is a growing competition for access to and use of land, forests and fisheries and this is particularly true in Malawi with depletion of forests in most parts of the country.

FAO Representative in Malawi Florence Rolle said: “With the Guidelines now a reality, there are both needs and opportunities for raising awareness and advocacy, for capacity development, for strengthening on-going national processes and achieving better governance of tenure.”

She applauded Malawi for being advanced in the formulation of the Land Policy, which she said is considered by many experts as a progressive policy and its legal framework as well as subsidiary bills developed in a more participatory manner.

Objectives  of the seminar

Within the broad framework to discuss and identify actions to implement the VGGT and to improve governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests, specifically the seminar was convened to:

- Present the VGGT and relevant case studies and national initiatives and their synergies;

- Discuss and analyze challenges and opportunities for improved tenure governance in the country;

- Discuss, identify and propose actions and ways forward to mainstream the VGGT and to improve governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the country;

- Link with existing initiatives and create networks of actors across disciplines and stakeholder groups to share information, experiences and knowledge to improve governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests in the country.  

About the VGGT

The VGGT provide the first global consensus on what it means to improve tenure and its governance. The Guidelines were negotiated in the forum provided by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in order to improve tenure security and thereby contribute to improved food security. These Guidelines were officially endorsed by the CFS at its 38th (Special) Session on 11th May, 2012. Since then, their implementation has been encouraged by the UN General Assembly, Rio+20 Declaration, G8, G20, lÁssemblee Parlemantaire de la Francophonie and the Berlin Summits of Agricultural Ministers.  The Guidelines are based on an inclusive, transparent consultation process started by FAO and then finalized through intergovernmental negotiations led by the CFS, and which included the participation of civil society organizations, private sector representatives, academics and researchers, and international organizations. Malawi has become the eighth country where FAO supports awareness raising workshops on the VGGT.  It is expected that by the end of 2014 there will be up to 20 countries engaged in VGGT implementation worldwide.

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Contact: Mike Chipalasa, FAO Malawi Communications Officer, Email: Mike.Chipalasa@fao.org, Tel: +265 888 715 385