Effective and inclusive governance is essential for building capable and informed institutions and organizations. However, advances in land and water governance require coherent and integrated policies in the various sectors to deliver on the multiple objectives related to natural resources management, trade-offs, and related ecosystems and services. Coherence is needed across all levels of government and policy areas, as decisions outside the water and land domain can significantly affect natural resources. This imperative extends into transboundary resources management because water and sediment cross international borders.
Understanding and recognizing the relationship of customary and statutory land and water rights and the role of hybrid legal systems for inclusive water and land tenure regimes can form the basis for achieving a diverse array of policy and development goals. Effective, efficient and inclusive land and water policies need developing through multilevel governance. Multi-stakeholder and multidisciplinary approaches are critical in achieving integrated land and water management, including engagement with civil society, academia, local communities, women and girls, youth and the private sector.
Evidence demonstrates that restoring degraded resources, sustaining intensification and increasing resilience can be achieved through planning and implementing integrated and multi-stakeholder initiatives at scale. This can be done through watershed or river basin management, integrated landscape management (ILM) and restoration, irrigation modernization and climate-smart agriculture (CSA), supported by long-term strategies, investments and innovative financing and partnerships to sustain initiatives and improve livelihoods.
Policy and legal frameworks governing land and water resources at national level are often disjointed or lack implementation, or have proven ineffective due to institutional and technical silos and mismatch in jurisdiction over ecologically interconnected resources. Integrated water resources management acknowledges that water needs managing as a system, usually as a basin, sub-basin or aquifer, and water system boundaries often do not correlate with political or administrative boundaries. To achieve good governance and increase water-use efficiency and sustainability, technical, financial and institutional solutions must be in place, followed by effective and coordinated cross-sectoral implementation.
Information about land and water (quantity and quality), distribution, access, risks and use is essential for effective decision-making. Real-time digital information can enable policymakers to employ quality, accessible, timely and reliable disaggregated data, smart technologies and robust monitoring mechanisms to develop effective cross-sectoral policies to “leave no one behind”.
Current levels of financing remain substantially inadequate to reach the international community’s goal for life on land (SDG 15) and sustainable management of water (SDG 6). International funding and public and private investments are encouraged to improve the enabling environment and explore new approaches for investment in environmentally sustainable land, soil and water resources. Farmers must also be recognized as prime investors and not just beneficiaries of public subsidy and tariff protection.
Three main governance responses promise effective transformation towards coherent and equitable land and water governance and contribute to sustainable food systems, people and ecosystems:
develop coordinated and coherent policy, legal and institutional arrangements across all sectors;
devolve governance and address power differentials; and
adopt adaptive governance and structural flexibility.
International conventions and high-level political commitments provide a strong mandate and support for multisectoral and integrated land and water governance. They provide the foundations for achieving SDGs and negotiating social, economic and environmental outcomes.
Solutions to address land and water challenges can be selected and adapted to specific circumstances, and supported by governance measures and strengthened institutions and capacities at all levels of decision-making. At a fundamental level, there is need for effective land and water resource governance measures to drive well-adapted investments and behaviour change. This is expected to turn sustainable resources and ecosystem management options into long-term actions at scale.
Governance arrangements and instruments are needed to understand and address trade-offs across sectors and reconcile economic development, social protection and environmental conservation goals. A clear focus is needed to mitigate inequalities around water allocation and land and water access through recognizing, respecting and enforcing land and water tenure rights, in particular, access and user rights of individuals and groups who rely on those resources for food and livelihoods. Vulnerability and risk assessments are needed to avoid adverse risks.
Reservoirs in the upstream reaches of the Red River in northern Viet Nam regulate flows and generate much of the electricity needed for the modernization and industrialization strategies of Viet Nam. The same system supplies water for domestic use for irrigating 750 000 ha of rice in the Red River delta, which is critical to social stability and food security. Most irrigation systems use electric pumps with energy supplied from the upstream hydropower schemes.
As water becomes scarce and competition between the energy and agricultural sectors increases, there is still a lack of reliable and policy-relevant data and information to guide water allocation choices. Effective cross-sectoral consultation is needed to address this problem and to ensure decisions on water release and allocation are taken as part of an integrated, long-term and multisectoral strategy.
Cross-sectoral and territorial approaches, such as ILM, IWRM and the water–food–energy nexus approach, provide valuable experiences to refine and apply integrated land and water governance frameworks that enable conservation, sustainable management, and restoration of land resources and ecosystems at scale and contribute to achieving SDGs. However, these approaches require strategic policy tools, particularly participatory land planning, incentive mechanisms, sustainable financing and competent decentralized institutions. These will need equipping with up-to-date diagnostic, planning and evaluation tools, integrated data sets, up-to-date digitalized administration tools and multi-stakeholder approaches.
Proven strategies for enhancing nutrition and ecosystem health and sustainable and resilient agrifood systems that rely on soil, water and biodiversity management include agroecology, conservation agriculture, organic agriculture, agroforestry and integrated crop–livestock systems.
Land, soil and water actions within and beyond the farm are becoming mainstream to help address trade-offs to reconcile production and ecosystem management, increase agricultural productivity and climate resilience, reduce food loss and waste, change food consumption patterns, and transition to food systems that are more resource efficient.
Devolving governance and addressing power differentials are prerequisites to informing policies adapted to socio-economic and ecological settings, and to implementing strategies that benefit the poor. Inclusive land and water governance requires deliberate linkages across institutions, scales and sectors, and engagement of all actors. Platforms for dialogue and consensual approaches are needed to enable effective engagement and negotiation by civil society, including marginalized groups, with the government and the corporate sector. This will help ensure negotiated trade-offs are equitable, and allow transition to sustainable food and agricultural systems.
The landmark Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) highlights and prioritizes the climate-related risks through public policies and governance instruments, recognizing land as a critical part of the climate solution (Box S.3).
This initiative provides a platform for strengthening land and water governance by integrating climate adaptation and mitigation policies across agricultural sectors. Specific issues addressed under KJWA include methods and approaches for assessing: adaptation, adaptation co-benefits, mitigation, improved soil carbon, health and fertility in grasslands and croplands; improved livestock management (including agropastoral production) systems, socio-economic and food security dimensions of climate change in agriculture; and modalities for implementing outcomes. In addition, the process facilitates multi-stakeholder knowledge exchange and identifies key policy and governance interventions and good practices for scaling up to support CSA, livelihoods and food security.
Source: UNFCCC, 2018.
Instruments, such as payments for environmental services, can incentivize adoption of sustainable and productive land and water management and agrifood systems by transferring some benefits to land users and stimulating further investment.
Experiences in scaling up SLM and restoration demonstrate the need for substantial, long-term and targeted incentives to engage the various stakeholders, from design through to planning, implementing and monitoring. There is a need for clear land tenure and use rights.