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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.

Population growth, urbanization, large investments, environmental protection, climate change and other factors lead to increased competition for natural resources and threaten access by the poor. Responsible governance of tenure is critical to eradicate food insecurity and to allow families to invest in sustainable production.

FAO played a lead role in the development of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT), which were endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security in 2012. Since then FAO and partners have supported initiatives in over 60 countries to raise awareness, develop strategies, policies, legislation and programmes to improve tenure systems.

Key policy messages

·        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.

·        Policies, laws, programmes and improvements in tenure systems should be guided by the 5 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.

·        Effective implementation and enforcement is essential to improve the governance of tenure. This requires better mechanisms (e.g. law enforcement, participation, accountability and transparency), inclusion of marginalized stakeholders, capacity building, monitoring and cooperation between government Ministries and other stakeholders.

·        The VGGT call for tenure policies to be developed through multi-stakeholder, inclusive processes to ensure broad national ownership. People’s capacities should be developed to enable them to participate effectively. Involving women and vulnerable groups is important given that they typically have fewer and weaker tenure rights.

·        Strengthening the governance of tenure rights is critical to achieve a number of the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, especially Target 1.4 on poverty that relates to ownership and control over land and natural resources; Targets 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5 that relate to ending hunger, achieving food security and improved nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture; and Target 5a that relates to gender and tenure.

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