Providing secure access to land and other natural resources is essential
for the achievement of the World Food Summit Plan of Action and the
Millennium Development Goals.
Land tenure and the eradication of extreme
poverty and hunger
Secure access to land and other natural resources is a direct factor in the alleviation of hunger and rural poverty. Rural landlessness is often the best predictor of poverty and hunger: the poorest are usually landless or land-poor. Inadequate rights of access to land and other natural resources, and insecure tenure of those rights, often result in extreme poverty and hunger. Improved access may allow a family to produce food for household food consumption, thus helping to ensure food security, and to increase household income by producing a surplus for sale in the market. Secure access to land often provides a valuable safety net as a source of shelter, food and income in times of hardship.
Land tenure and environmental sustainability
Land tenure, by defining access and security of rights to land and other natural resources, affects how farmers decide to use the land, and whether they will invest in land improvements. Inappropriate land tenure policies and inequitable access to land and other natural resources result in over-cultivation and over-grazing of marginal lands. Good land tenure arrangements promote land use practices that enhance the environment. Farmers are more likely to invest in improving their land through soil protection measures, planting trees and improving pastures if they have secure tenure and can benefit from their investments.
Land tenure and gender equality
In most societies access to land has favoured certain individuals and groups at the expense of others. Women are one of the groups that often have fewer and weaker rights to land because of biases in formal law, in customs and in the division of labour in society. Land tenure initiatives that promote gender equity may also indirectly serve to further empower women. Improved rights to land can increase women’s power in social and political relationships. Providing secure rights to land for women can increase their social and political status, and improve their sense of self-esteem, confidence, security and dignity. Holding rights to land often lead to other benefits in society such as participation in community councils, elections or schools, and access to credit, technological inputs and training.
Current work on land tenure
Current work on land tenure includes investigations of the land tenure implications of climate change scenarios and of policy options in relation to the rapid growth of land use for bioenergy production; land tenure in emergency and post-emergency work; compulsory purchase of land and compensation; state land management; low-cost land tenure security; good governance in land administration; and making land information accessible for the poor.