Policy Support and Governance Gateway
©Momodu Deen Swarrey

Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests

The daily food and incomes of billions of people, particularly the rural poor, are determined by their access to land, fisheries and forests. Societies define and regulate access to these resources through systems of tenure.

Supporting responsible governance of tenure to achieve food security.

Responsible governance of tenure is critical to eradicate food insecurity, allowing families to invest in sustainable production.

FAO played a lead role in developing the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) in 2012. Since then, FAO and partners have raised awareness and developed strategies, policies and legislation to improve tenure systems.

FAO currently supports 29 multi-stakeholder platforms (MSPs) in 14 countries, promoting participatory decision-making on governance of tenure and natural resource management. With women remaining excluded from decision-making in many countries, MSPs have contributed to empowering these women in decision-making processes while improving access to land.

Key policy messages

·        Application of the VGGT should be encouraged to safeguard tenure rights, which includes processes to secure access to natural resources for those most vulnerable, resulting in food security and nutrition while building resilience. Amidst the current COVID-19 crisis, rural and urban households can thereby withstand shocks to livelihoods including long-term impacts such as climate change and natural disasters.

·        The VGGT are an internationally recognized framework to improve the governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests. They can be used by all countries and regions at all stages of economic development and for the governance of all systems and forms of tenure, including public, private, communal, collective, indigenous and customary.

·        Tenure system policies, laws and programmes should be guided by the five general principles that underpin the VGGT: recognize and respect all legitimate tenure rights and the people who hold them; safeguard legitimate tenure rights against threats; promote and facilitate the enjoyment of legitimate tenure rights; provide access to justice when tenure rights are infringed upon; prevent tenure disputes, violent conflicts and opportunities for corruption.

·        The VGGT call for tenure policies to be developed through multi-stakeholder processes to ensure broad participation. Capacities should be developed to involve women and vulnerable groups who have typically fewer and weaker tenure rights.

·        Strengthening tenure rights is critical to reach the 2030 Sustainable Agenda, with the FAO Land Tenure Unit's Theory of Change emphasizing the following Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 1 (No Poverty); 2 (Zero Hunger); 5 (Gender Equality); 10 (Reduced Inequalities); 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions) and 17 (Partnerships for the Goals). FAO is the custodian agency for SDG indicators 5.a.a and 5.a.2 on gender equality and is supporting countries worldwide to improve women’s access to land ownership. 

Featured resources

Share this page