December 2015 - Newsletter
Governance of Tenure Newsletter

Governance of Tenure

December 2015, Issue #25

The "Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security” are referred to as the "Voluntary Guidelines" in this newsletter.

Civil society and grassroots organizations: developing capacity to use the Voluntary Guidelines in countries

In seven countries (Guatemala, Malawi, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Senegal and South Africa), a training programme enabled civil society and grassroots organizations to increase their use of the Voluntary Guidelines. The joint development and testing of a modular framework helped participants to reflect on their own situations and how they could apply the Voluntary Guidelines. Guatemala and Nepal were the latest countries to participate in the initiative, which was launched in 2014. In Guatemala, the Training of Trainers exercise involved 10 organizations (covering CSOs, farmers’ organizations, human rights and indigenous peoples) that work in the land, fisheries and forestry sectors. In Nepal, 35 people from 15 different organizations participated in a two-day workshop that was opened by the Minister of Agriculture, and a five-day Training of Trainers workshop was held for 30 participants from more than 10 organizations working in the land, fisheries and forestry sectors.

During 16-18 November, a workshop in Rome reviewed lessons learned from the seven countries in order to improve ways for enhancing capacities of CSOs to use the Voluntary Guidelines. The participants included representatives of the national CSOs implementing the project, FIAN International, International Planning Committee for Food Sovereignty (IPC) and FAO. The work is implemented by FAO together with FIAN as the facilitator of the IPC working group on land, and with financial support from Belgium.

See the newsletter of July 2015.


“Communicating tenure rights, improving tenure governance” was the theme of the second workshop on the Voluntary Guidelines, held in Monrovia during 1-2 October. It responded to the findings of a workshop in 2014 that a general lack of awareness of tenure prevents people from fully enjoying their tenure rights and playing an active role in the governance of tenure. After the 2014 workshop, messages of tenure of different organizations were assessed using the framework of the Voluntary Guidelines. The assessment was done under the guidance of the Voluntary Guidelines Task Force and it fed into this second workshop where more than 100 participants from all sectors discussed the findings, mapped roles and capacities of organizations responsible for raising awareness on tenure issues, and jointly formulated recommendations on how to mainstream harmonized messages on governance of tenure. The workshop was co-organized by the Liberia Land Commission and FAO with financial support from Germany.

See the newsletters of July and November 2014.


The importance of secure tenure rights was the focus of a lively discussion at a national workshop on the Voluntary Guidelines in Chisinau during 26-27 October. Twenty-seven people from government, private sector, academia and civil society discussed existing deficiencies in land administration arising from unclear institutional mandates, a lack of unified record systems and limitations in procedures and standards. Recommendations include strengthening coordination between agencies at national and local levels, clarifying mandates and removing overlaps. Participants explored the possibility of using small courts for land-related cases and alternative dispute resolution mechanisms. They also affirmed that the forest sector is in need of reform. The workshop is part of a series in Europe and Central Asia organized under FAO’s “Regional initiative on empowering smallholders and family farms”, and it followed a workshop on the Voluntary Guidelines that was organized in December 2013 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Industry, in cooperation with the Ministry of Environment.

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Over 50 stakeholders used the second national workshop to assess progress, develop an action plan for implementing the Voluntary Guidelines, identify ways to use the Voluntary Guidelines to improve the pastoral land law, and review the results of a forest sector assessment, which used a tool based on the Voluntary Guidelines. The workshop, held in Ulan Bator during 4-5 November, drew participants from government, civil society, the private sector, academia and international organizations. It was co-organized by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and FAO, with financial support from Germany. After the first workshop in October 2014, a working group on the Voluntary Guidelines was established by an order of the State Secretary of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, and it has led several initiatives, including the translation of the Voluntary Guidelines into Mongolian. Additional assistance is being provided by FAO, with financial support from Germany and Switzerland, for a draft pastoral land law and through targeted capacity development learning programmes for a general audience, for civil society, and on gender.

See the newsletters of November 2014 and July 2015.


A national workshop on the Voluntary Guidelines brought together about 100 participants from civil society, government, farmer organizations and academia. The workshop, held in Nay Pyi Taw during 9-11 October, was jointly organized by the Ministry of Environmental Conservation and Forestry and FAO, with funding from the UK Department for International Development. The workshop was facilitated by the Land Core Group and was conducted mainly in the Myanmar language. It raised awareness on the Voluntary Guidelines and fostered dialogue. It was combined with a capacity needs assessment where the stakeholders assessed their own current capacities, created a vision for the desired capacities and formulated tangible suggestions for action for improvement of governance of tenure over the next two years. The assessment results will provide inputs to the national process for support to the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines.

See the newsletter of July 2015.


About 70 people attended a national workshop that raised awareness of the Voluntary Guidelines and promoted discussions on how they can be used to improve governance of tenure. During 26-28 October, participants met in Abuja to formulate recommendations on the way forward in the form of a declaration that was presented to the Federal Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development during the closing ceremony. The participants represented Federal and State governments, civil society, private sector and academia. The workshop was organized by the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development in collaboration with FAO and with support from the UK Department for International Development.

In Katsina State, the Ministry of Lands, Survey and Environment installed information technology equipment that allowed the implementation of a computerized registration system in the Deeds Registry using the open source SOLA software (Solutions for Open Land Administration). Equipment was also installed to assist the Livestock Division of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to map community grazing reserves and the Forestry Department to map forest-gazetted reserves. The work is being carried out with the assistance of FAO through a project funded by the UK Department for International Development to support the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines in three states: Katsina, Kebbi and Anambra. In Kebbi State, the Ministry of Lands, Urban Development and Housing will install similar equipment and mapping data will be made available to all Ministries through a website.


How to apply the concepts and principles of the Voluntary Guidelines to public policies concerning land tenure security, family agriculture and food security was discussed by leaders of rural organizations, representatives of civil society organizations and staff members of the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation at a workshop in Lima during 16-18 September. The participants drafted recommendations on how they would replicate the workshop and training in their respective organizations and institutions. The workshop was jointly organized by FAO, the Peruvian Ministry of Agriculture, Centro Peruano de Estudios Sociales (CEPES), Welthungerhilfe, Heifer Peru, International Land Coalition (ILC), Plataforma para la Gobernanza Responsable de la Tierra and Convención Nacional del Agro Peruano (CONVEAGRO). It formed the second module of training on the Voluntary Guidelines.

See the newsletter of May 2015.

Republic of the Congo

The Ministry of Land Affairs and Public Domain hosted a national workshop in Brazzaville during 5-7 October that brought together 64 people from various sectors to discuss the relevance of the Voluntary Guidelines. As forests cover about 70 percent of the country, the workshop was an opportunity to improve the understanding of linkages between tenure and forestry. The participants endorsed recommendations, including the establishment of a multi-stakeholder committee and the dissemination of the Voluntary Guidelines at decentralized levels. The actions proposed include integrating the Voluntary Guidelines in national processes by improving the normative framework, conducting reforms to improve tenure governance and launching a consultation process for the development of a national land use plan. The workshop was organized with the technical and financial support of FAO.

Sierra Leone

Almost 100 stakeholders of Sierra Leone’s multi-stakeholder platform for the Voluntary Guidelines participated in the second national workshop on “Sustaining the implementation” in Freetown during 28-29 September. They evaluated progress with the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines; validated the findings of legal and policy assessments conducted in the land, fisheries and forestry sectors; and formulated recommendations for the way forward. The four Ministers of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force (Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security; Lands, Country Planning and Environment; Fisheries and Marine Resources; and Justice) play a major role in moving forward the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines. They opened the workshop and returned to the closing ceremony to listen to the recommendations, demonstrating again the high level of political commitment. The workshop was co-organized by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security and FAO with financial support from Germany.

See the newsletters of July 2015 and May 2014.

South Africa

A learning programme on “Governing land for women and men” enabled 26 representatives from government, civil society, private sector and academia to take an online course during 19-30 September and participate in a workshop in Cape Town during 19-22 October. The Gender Learning Programme was designed to strengthen the capacities of people to support the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines with a gender lens. Participants increased their knowledge of key land and equity issues, including those affecting women and men from various social categories and marginalized groups. At the workshop they prepared work plans to translate the knowledge and skills gained into action in their daily work. Participants can seek further guidance and advice and get support from FAO for refining and implementing their work plans through an online mentoring phase for an entire month. The programme was organized by FAO together with the Department for Rural Development and Land Reform and Action Aid South Africa, and with the financial support of the UK Department for International Development.

See the newsletters of January and July 2015 for South Africa, and July 2015 for the gender learning programme in Mongolia.

SOLA and Open Tenure

SOLA (Solutions for Open Land Administration) provides an affordable way for automating land administration through open source software. It is based on international good practice for service delivery and is designed to be customized to fit a country’s laws and practices. Open Tenure is the latest addition to the SOLA software family. It allows people to have their tenure rights recognized at a community level through the use of mobile devices and crowdsourcing techniques. Open Tenure is available on Android mobile devices and Apple iOS.

Go to the SOLA website


Safeguarding land tenure rights in the context of agricultural
This guide advises government authorities on actions they can take to create an enabling environment for responsible and sustainable investments in agriculture. Applying the principles of the Voluntary Guidelines can help governments to achieve their economic development goals by maximizing the shared benefits of both private and public investments and mitigating negative impacts. Governments can create incentives for inclusive business models that share value with local farmers and that do not imply the transfer of large areas of land. In doing so, they will be instrumental in achieving better living conditions and greater social justice for their people – a prerequisite for peace and stability.

Other technical guides already published:

Governing land for women and men
EN | FR | SP | Albanian

Improving governance of forest tenure
EN | FR | SP

Respecting free, prior and informed consent
EN | FR | SP

Land Tenure
The new edition features articles from Central and Eastern Europe to Francophone and Anglophone West Africa, through East Africa and back to Northern Europe. The focus of the topics spans land consolidation approaches in Europe, experiences of land colonization and an overview of tenure reforms in Burkina Faso, post-conflict land policy in Liberia, land reform in Malawi, and community commons in Norway. The topics reflect a wide variety of tenure governance issues that are at the core of the Voluntary Guidelines.


Now available
in English:

Governing land for women and men
This module addresses why it is important to take gender and social issues into account when dealing with land tenure. It describes actions that should be taken so that women and men from different social groups can participate equally in – and benefit equally from – processes for the governance of land tenure. By making the policies and laws related to governance of land tenure more gender sensitive and gender responsive, it is possible to address the root causes of poverty and inequality for all marginalized men and women, boys and girls.

Access course

Browse all Responsible Governance of Tenure e-learning courses

International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) Global Conference and General Assembly (10-13 November 2015)

Over 1 000 participants from around the world gathered at the Global Conference and General Assembly during 10-13 November in Antalya, Turkey. The meeting had the theme “Towards 2020 – What will your cooperative look like?” Prior to the meeting, 28 people from 18 countries participated in a one-day event on the Voluntary Guidelines organized by ICA and FAO. The event raised awareness of the Voluntary Guidelines and assessed their usefulness to cooperatives in improving tenure security of their constituencies. Participants recognised that the Voluntary Guidelines can play an important role in helping their members address many of the challenges faced and they identified the need for capacity development tools that are specifically tailored to their needs. The ICA has 289 member organizations representing about one billion individuals. Cooperatives and producer organizations are important partners in the fight against hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty: they follow core values and principles that are critical to doing business in an equitable manner, and seek to empower and benefit their members and the communities in which they operate.

Visit the conference website | Read more on FAO partnerships with cooperatives

IIED reports on investment treaties and the Voluntary Guidelines

Land governance is increasingly influenced by international law in a globalized world. Investment treaties between states establish standards to protect foreign investment against public action, and they can allow foreign investors to take disputes to international tribunals if they think that a state breached treaty standards. The International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) recently published a report that sheds light on how investment treaties can affect land governance in key areas of the Voluntary Guidelines. For example, the standards of treatment and compensation established by investment treaties can affect foreign landholders in cases of land redistribution, restitution and tenure reform. Investment treaties can reinforce the Voluntary Guidelines. However, actions to tighten standards can expose governments to investor claims: states may find it more costly to implement the Voluntary Guidelines where investment treaties protect the landholdings of foreign investors against the legitimate land claims of indigenous peoples and small-scale producers. The report makes recommendations for policy and practice in both land governance and investment treaties, and suggests directions for further research.

New Alliance and Grow Africa promote a framework for land-based investments in Africa

The Analytical framework for land-based investments in African agriculture is now available. Grow Africa is promoting the framework on behalf of the New Alliance to help companies assess and manage risks related to land tenure. Security of tenure is a prerequisite for investment and growth – whether for smallholders, larger farms, or actors upstream and downstream – yet in many African countries, land rights and land governance are ambiguous, complex and poorly managed. Companies that understand the risks posed by insecure land rights and that engage host communities can secure an advantage. The framework was developed as a tool for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines and in alignment with the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa, the Guiding Principles on Large Scale Land Based investments in Africa and the Technical Guide on “Safeguarding land tenure rights in the context of agricultural investment”.

Visit the website

See the newsletter of October 2015.