In November 1996, during the World Food Summit, the Heads of State and Government who met in Rome committed themselves to promoting equitable access by all to resources, be it land, water, forest or pasture, with a view to achieving food security and rural poverty alleviation.
This is why many delegations underlined, during the April 1997 session of FAO's Committee on Agriculture and in the spirit of World Food Summit follow-up, the need to take advantage of renewed interest shown by many countries in land tenure reform and in the different modes of accessing their natural resources.
In reply to these comments, the Rural Development Division proceeded to put in place an unambiguous and unequivocal terminology of the subjects related to land tenure in order to contribute to clarifying the debates in this field and to make related field interventions more efficient.
For this purpose, the Land Tenure Service (SDAA) of the Rural Development Division embarked on the preparation of a land tenure "Thesaurus", mainly covering the following sectors: legal, institutional, historical, description of space, traditional or written land tenure regulations, topographical, land management, as well as land tenure related information techniques.
It is expected that the Thesaurus will serve as reference material both for the normative divisions at FAO Headquarters as well as for field experts engaged in the implementation of projects with a land tenure component.
It could also be useful for training in subject matters related to natural resources and their management, as well as for researchers in the field of rural development.
It was planned that the original French version of the Land Tenure Thesaurus would be adapted to the specific socio-economic, institutional and historical contexts of the Spanish and English-speaking worlds, thus covering the three official working languages of the FAO and other UN agencies.
Adaptation of the French edition and not translation: in general, the words related to land tenure, if literally translated, do not reflect the full reality - whether perceived or experienced - of a different linguistic context.
Passing from one language to another also means passing from one socio-economic and agrarian context to another, the historic, institutional and legal evolution of which has given a certain connotation to the term, expression or concept used. We are therefore trying to transpose the various terms, as satisfactorily as possible, in the cultural as well as linguistic contexts in which they are used.
Synoptic reading of the various versions of the Thesaurus in the main working languages of FAO also allows for an understanding of the evolution of the different land tenure realities described in each language and illustrates the shades of meaning and different uses and comprehension of these realities in the working languages of the Organization.
This does not mean that we cannot further adapt the Thesaurus to other languages and institutional contexts, especially since land tenure is increasingly being considered as an essential aspect of rural development and agro-industrial production, in whatever language it is treated.
The agrarian structures are under constant transformation, although these changes might seem very slow at a first glance. Our effort to establish a terminology base should in fact be seen as an appeal to land tenure specialists, researchers and practitioners to enter into a dialogue with FAO's technical services in order to improve the contents of the Thesaurus by taking into account present land tenure problems.
Rural Development Division