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Why does it matter who has rights to land, fisheries and forests?

Access to land and natural resources can mean the difference between having food and going hungry.

© FAO / Joan Manuel Baliellas
04/09/2018

Growing crops, fishing, harvesting fruits and nuts from the forests are just some examples of the activities that millions of people do daily to get food to eat or to earn a living. But when their rights to that land or those natural resources aren’t recognized, livelihoods and food sources can disappear from one day to the next.  

Rights to land, forests and fisheries can mean the difference between poverty and income, between going hungry and being satiated. These rights, also called tenure rights, can change people’s lives. Here’s how:

1. People can’t produce food without access to land and other natural resources.

Tenure rights, i.e. rights to land or other natural resources, define who can use what resources for how long and under what conditions. When people have limited or insecure rights to land and other natural resources, they can’t produce the food they need to feed themselves or to earn an income. Helping people secure their rights to land and resources means helping ensure they are able to provide for themselves.

2. Tenure rights help to enforce women’s equality. 

In many countries, either because of custom or law, women do not have equal rights to land and other resources. Widows, for example, may lose the land they have been living or working on if laws prevent them from inheriting it from their husbands.

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