Governance of Tenure

Governance of Tenure Newsletter - November 2020

26 November 2020

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" or the VGGT in this newsletter.

Examining the impact of COVID-19 on tenure rights


A recent FAO analysis projects that millions are likely to join the ranks of the hungry as a result of the COVID-19 triggered economic recession.  A 5% global economic downturn increases the number of extreme poor by almost 150 million (FPRI, 2020). The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is finding that the food supply chains are being affected by trade disruptions, border closures, quarantines, especially in countries that already face food shortages.  There is also a projected 20% decline in remittances worth an estimated USD 110 billion, usually going to less developed countries in the Global South. 

These grim scenarios point to the severity of the pandemic and the new vulnerabilities faced by rural communities and households. For the latter, security of food and nutrition is inextricably linked to security of tenure. Observed in a rural landscape, one can identify different categories at risk: in lowland farming areas the (near) landless may be affected, whereas in upland forest dominated areas communities with customary tenure systems may be affected. The proximity or distance of these rural communities to markets is another factor, as is the proximity to borders that because of the pandemic have been closed. The COVID-19 pandemic has also increased inequalities between women and men, rural and urban citizens, migrant and non-migrant workers.

The FAO Land Tenure Unit is undertaking a number of studies with partners to examine different impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on tenure rights of rural communities.

For full article 

Promoting sustainability in land tenure, advancing toward the right to food


Ahead of Human Rights Day, putting people-centre stage is key to recover from the pandemic.

Today, more than ever, the VGGT and the Right to Food Guidelines matter to stamp out hunger and build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic. These policy tools can help states and other stakeholders face the challenges brought about by the crisis.

The VGGT and the Right to Food Guidelines pursue the same goal: the progressive realization of the right to food. Both Guidelines share core values: they are anchored in human rights principles and urge greater attention to the most vulnerable. The implementation of the VGGT cannot be seen in isolation, but in synergy with legal instruments like the Right to Food Guidelines. This is because the VGGT further expand upon the latter, particularly Guideline 8 about access to resources and assets.

Growing pressure on natural resources can lead to dispossession and land-grabbing, progressively worsening the food insecurity of marginalized groups. Both Guidelines can be used to empower these communities, as well as to help protect them from human rights violations.

Guaranteeing the right to food for present and future generations also urgently requires investment in registration and land lease processes, reliable grievance mechanisms and digitalization, among other concrete measures. This has to be done through a human rights-based approach, ensuring that no one is left behind.

States are responsible to develop, implement and monitor actions that are consistent with these principles, as stated in Paragraph 1.1 of the VGGT. Over the last 15 years, great strides have been made in this sense, as is the case of Sierra Leone, where the National Land Policy was launched in 2017 as the result of a widely participatory process.

Human rights, the engine for development

Human Rights Day will be commemorated on 10 December. This is an opportunity to highlight the linkages between the improvement of governance of tenure, the realization of the right to adequate food and the 2030 Agenda.

 Read the latest report on success stories and challenges in the implementation of the right to food worldwide.

Supporting peaceful and sustainable transhumance in South Sudan


Disputes and conflicts over natural resources, particularly access to and management of traditional grazing lands and water rights, remain a fundamental challenge to peace, stability and resilience building in the border regions between South Sudan and Sudan.

With the aim of sustaining this nexus, the Joint Border Peace Committee and Court (JBPC) was established as a complementary authority to the formal judiciary system. The JBPC was formalized at the 2017 Myolo and Rumbek Agreements, with the support of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, AECOM Technology Corporation, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the FAO. The Committee is an authorized mechanism to peacefully settle the nomadic or cattle migration and the conflicts resulting from cattle raiding, competition for grazing land and water resources, theft and destruction of property, and other inter-communal disputes that arise from seasonal migration.

 “Strengthening local governance systems, building trust and ensuring peaceful and equitable access to natural resources are essential to peace, stability, food security and ensuring that the children of future generation will reap the benefits of their land”, said Meshack Malo, FAO Representative in South Sudan.

FAO supports the JBPC through its contributions to the pre-and post-seasonal migration conferences, including the mapping of grazing routes, enhancing the capacity trainings of natural resource management committees and JBPCs and development interventions and provision of equipment, like radios, smart phones, tablets and bicycles to enhance early warning mechanisms.

The FAO financial support to the JBCC is provided by the European Union.

Mission between the Zinder Region (Niger) and Jigawa (Nigeria) for a peaceful transhumance

©Moussa Tambari Ismaël, ROPEN-Maroobé

From 19 to 21 October 2020, as part of the national process of setting up National and Regional Transhumance Committees (CNT and CRT) in Niger, the Réseau des Organisations des Pasteurs et Éleveurs du Niger (ROPEN-Maroobé), national branch of the Billital Maroobé Network (RBM) , with the support of FAO, organized an exchange mission between the border regions Zinder (Niger) and Jigawa (Nigeria) in order to study the modalities for a peaceful transhumance between the pastoral populations of the two countries.

The discussions reviewed difficulties faced by breeders on both sides of the border during their seasonal movements, difficulties increased by movement restrictions associated with the precautions taken against the spread of Covid19. The mission also aimed to find concerted solutions to reduce the growing number of conflicts between the actors of the two countries.

Multi-stakeholder dialogues and exchanges between local authorities and pastoral civil society actors from the two countries can greatly contribute to the establishment of peaceful cross-border transhumance.

Inspired by the principles and recommendations of the VGGT, the mission created a consultation framework bringing together authorities and pastoral civil society on both sides of the border.

In order to sustain these encouraging results, the mission laid the foundations for the signing of a bilateral agreement between the respective authorities of the two entities.

Local actors on both sides were also sensitized on cross-border issues and conflict prevention through the pictorial guide "Guide d’accompagnement pour l’amélioration de la gouvernance des régimes fonciers pastoraux au Niger”. This document, developed by ROPEN in collaboration with local stakeholders and with the support of FAO, is an adaptation of the technical guide "Improving governance of pastoral lands" to the Nigerien context.

Since 2016, ROPEN has been engaged in setting up and strengthening the capacity of Regional Transhumance Committees (CRT) in seven regions of Niger: Tillabéry, Tahoua, Zinder, Dosso, Diffa, Maradi and Agadez. Thanks to funding from FAO and in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock, ROPEN also played a leading role in the process which culminated in the establishment of the CNT in Niger, following the Government decree dated 20 November 2019.

This mission was part of a series of initiatives that have enabled ROPEN to make a significant contribution to peaceful cross-border transhumance. The results of the mission will be shared with stakeholders in the region during the High Level Meeting on Peaceful Transhumance scheduled for early 2021 in Lomé, Togo.

32nd Session, Regional Conference for Europe (ERC)

CFS EVENT: Value and application of policy recommendations of the Committee on World Food Security

4 November 2020


The CFS event: Value and application of policy recommendations of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) highlighted the relevance of the global policy work and inclusive approach of the CFS to advance food security and nutrition. The FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu, stated that the region is an economic and agricultural powerhouse but also faces many enduring and new challenges. These include "pressure on natural resources, land degradation and water scarcity in large parts of the region, persisting food insecurity but also growing levels of obesity, increasing gaps between rural and urban areas, gender inequalities and enduring pockets of hunger and poverty in many rural areas," he said, innovation and digital technologies are crucial to promote modern sustainable agriculture and rural development.

The panellists presented the CFS core policy products such as VGGT, and the need for multi-stakeholder, cross-sectoral and whole-of-government approaches to transform the global food system and advance food security and nutrition.

H.E. Bojan Maricic, Minister of Justice of the Republic of North Macedonia, highlighted the experience of North Macedonia and the Western Balkans in implementing the VGGT to secure women’s land rights in the context of SDG indicator 5.a.2. North Macedonia managed to increase women’s share of property ownership by ten percent over the last six years through a combination of measures including, the implementation of the legal requirement to register properties owned by couples married under the regime of community of property in the name of both spouses, the provision of free legal advice by notaries and Agency for Real Estate Cadastre to vulnerable groups, producing gender disaggregated reports and monitoring the progress, and sharing good practices within the region, among others.

The next steps include further digitization to connect the property register with other key registers to improve service delivery, the training of notaries and staff from the property registration authority on the joint FAO/GIZ regional guidelines for strengthening gender equality, continuing to share good practices within the region and beyond, and to monitor progress.
Read More

Recorded 32 Session of FAO Regional Conference for Europe – Day 3, CFS event

Achieving SDG indicator 5.a.2 in the Western Balkans and beyond (Also available in Albanian, Bosnian, Macedonian, Montenegrin, Serbian (Latin and Cyrillic))   

 9th Capitalization Meeting of the EU Land Governance Programme

This year the 9th Capitalization Meeting was held virtually, due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite the challenging situation and the unusual format, about 40 participants from eleven countries - Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Kenya, Malawi, Pakistan, Sudan, Eswatini and Uganda - participated in the three virtual sessions.

The meeting focused on assessing key results, success factors, lessons learned, and key challenges to improving the governance of tenure in the participating countries as well as critical thematic issues for future projects. It also included a training session on mediation as a dispute resolution mechanism for improving governance of tenure. The last day included a special webinar on the impact of COVID-19 on tenure governance and tenure rights with emphasis on ensuring that in building back better economies post-COVID-19, tenure rights and tenure governance will be embedded in the programmes. The webinar was resourced with experts from FAO, IFAD, ILC and the Land Portal. 

Mr Etienne Coyette of the European Commission noted that the EU has adopted a green deal strategy focusing on greener economies, greener societies and a more sustainable future. The EU now promotes land governance and land management issues as integral components of other thematic issues such as sustainable land management and rights-based approaches to economic development such as land use planning. He urged participating countries to liaise with EU Delegations in their countries to ensure that land governance is embedded in the next EU funding cycle for programmes.

The meeting’s key takeaway message was that the weaknesses in our systems, exposed by the pandemic, should drive rebuilding efforts and strengthen institutions and individuals that seek to protect the tenure rights of indigenous people, the vulnerable, the poor, women and youth in our societies.

For more information:

Lessons from the European Union Land Governance Programme 

EU Land Governance Programme Country Level Experiences

Viet Nam – Rollout of the Learning Programme by AGROINFO/IPSARD


The Information Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development (AGROINFO) of the Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development (IPSARD) rolled out the Learning Programme “Safeguarding land tenure rights in the context of agricultural investments" in September 2020 to enhance capacities of government authorities by providing guidance on actions that can be taken to create an enabling environment for responsible and sustainable investments in agriculture while safeguarding legitimate tenure rights. This is increasingly important in the context of COVID-19. Long distance support was provided by FAO.

After the Online Phase, around 30 participants from different departments and government institutions covering agriculture, agricultural policy, cadastre and land registration, economic management, land monitoring, legislation, local and regional economy, rural development, and social affairs, as well as delegates from the province, attended a Face-to-Face Workshop in Quang Ninh from 10 to 13 November 2020.

Participants practiced with responsible investment principles, identified stakeholders, analyzed business models, and learned about FPIC, gender equality, environmental and social impact assessment, and monitoring.

Lavifood Group talked about creating an enabling environment and the investment approval process from the private sector perspective. CISDOMA/LANDA and Oxfam talked about the consultation process and impact assessment, providing examples from experience, from the social organization's perspective. 

A Mentoring Phase will follow through mid-December 2020.

Validation of the Otjiherero and Khoekhoegowab versions of the VGGT completed in Namibia


Two validation workshops of the Otjiherero and Khoekhoegowab versions of the VGGT took place in Namibia’s capital from 26-29 October 2020. The workshops sought to engage a range of stakeholders in a bid to ensure that the interpreted versions correctly convey the contents of the English version which has been translated into the two Namibian indigenous languages.

The translations were prompted by a request made during the VGGT guided capacity-building workshop for Namibian Parliamentarians held in June 2019. The workshop, organized by FAO, provided an introduction to the VGGT and promoted their application in coherence with the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa (F&G) in responding to land reform challenges in Namibia.

The workshop revealed that there is a need to urgently extend VGGT and F&G training to the traditional authorities responsible for managing communal land from which the majority of Namibians

draw their livelihoods. This was seen as an essential means to raise awareness and build the capacity of traditional authorities and other stakeholders to effectively administer communal land.

The validated VGGT version in Otjiherero and Khoekhoegowab will further be simplified into illustrated versions to facilitate capacity development of traditional authorities and other stakeholders in the application of VGGT for administration of the Communal Land Reform Act.

The translated versions were validated by various stakeholders including traditional authorities, officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Land Reform (MAWLR), the University of Namibia (UNAM) and Namibia University of Science and Technology (NUST).












FAO Malawi project focuses on land and water management to improve agriculture


Most rural farming in Malawi is done on customary land, which is characterized by low levels of tenure security. This hinders farmers from committing to long-term soil and water management practices, thus leading to degradation of both soil and water resources and subsequently affecting agricultural productivity.

In this context, FAO and the Government of Malawi, with financial support from the Government of Flanders, launched at an inception workshop in February 2020, for a project aimed at promoting secure land tenure through systematic rural land registration, improved rural land use planning and promotion of appropriate land and water management practice for improved agricultural productivity. The project will be implemented over a four year period, in the districts of Mzimba and Kasungu.

Speaking at the workshop, Deputy General Representative of the Government of Flanders in Malawi, Mr Nikolas Bosscher stressed the importance of improved land water management in the country, stating:

“With the negative impacts of climate change, we are experiencing more frequent dry spells or heavy rains. If we do not take care of productive resources… we will not have healthy soils, we will not have good drainage and this will affect food security.” 

Representing the Principal Secretary for Agriculture and Food Security, the Acting Director for Land Resources and Conservation, Mrs. Gertrude Kambauwa, confirmed that Malawi is struggling with countering the effects of climate change on agricultural productivity and that proper climate resilient interventions are a necessity.

“Research conducted in 2014 revealed that Malawi loses arable land of up to 29 metric tonnes every year to soil degradation per hectare…. Among others measures, the Government of Malawi will be promoting sustainable land and water management as part of the suite of climate smart agriculture interventions under this project,” she stated.

Yvonne Mmangisa, Head of the Technical Unit in FAO Malawi, stated that addressing land tenure issues and sustainable land and water management is fundamental for achieving Zero Hunger. Improved agricultural productivity can be achieved if smallholder farmers have legal and formal land rights, as this will encourage better land and water management.

“Due to high population growth rates in Malawi and poor land tenure arrangements, small-scale farmers are increasingly cultivating on marginal and reserved lands in an effort to increase production. In addition, many are unsure whether they will continue to cultivate on their land the following year due to frequent climate-related shocks and conflicts arising from land tenure and use,” Mmangisa said at the inception workshop.

Through the project, FAO expects to reach over 60 000 smallholder farming households in Kasungu and Mzimba Districts. Lessons emerging from this effort will aid in informing design and scale up of similar interventions in other parts of the country.

Sierra Leone MPs discuss land rights

©Momodu Deen Swarray/FAO Sierra Leone

Members of Parliament (MPs) of the Committees on Human Rights and the Legislative Branch attended a workshop on 21 October 2020 in Freetown. This event was organized by the Ministry of Lands and Country Planning in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The workshop aimed at deepening parliamentarians understanding of the draft National Land Commission and the Customary Land Rights bills, in order to better lead the discussion on the process in their various constituencies, when the ministry embarks on a nationwide consultation and aids in the smooth passage of land rights bills.

Hon Neneh Lebbie, co-chairperson of the event, highlighted that the presence of parliamentarians in the engagement would help ensure that the right legislations are enacted. 

FAO Representative Ms Nyabenyi T. Tipo stressed the need for more collaborative engagement for the implementation of the VGGT. She informed attendees about the progress being made relative to international benchmarks.  

The Director of the Department of Parliamentary Assistance and Coordination (DePAC), Mrs Finda F. Frazer stated that management, acquisition and utilization were fundamental to socio-economic and political stability. She reassured participants of her office’s support, in coordination, facilitation and collaboration with development partners.

The Director emphasized the importance of land to the livelihood of rural compatriots and the critical issues surrounding the country's land system including customs, conflict of ownership and rights of women and investments. "The Lands Act was criticized for being gender-neutral and for not tackling women's precarious access to, and ownership of, land under customary tenure" she revealed and referenced the importance of the draft documents.

"This session will provide the opportunity for the Parliamentary oversight committees present here, to fully understand the essence and importance of the Land Commission and Customary Land Rights Bills and to provide their inputs into the bills before taking them to parliament for approval", she noted. 

Mrs Frazer commended all stakeholders, including donors, for their various contributions and expressed hope that women's rights to land would be approved.

The Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Mr Ibrahim Turay, highlighted the dangers if certain issues are not addressed. "Inadequate and insecure tenure rights to these natural resources increase vulnerability, hunger and poverty and can lead to conflict and environmental degradation, when competing users fight for control of these scarce resources" he remarked. He went on to say, that people can be condemned to a life of hunger and poverty, if they lose their rights to their homes, lands, fisheries and forests. The minister underscored some remedies relative to responsible governance of tenure, promotion of the development agenda and responsible investments, in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). 

An important recommendation that came out of the workshop was the formation of a technical working group that includes MPs, the Technical Working Group for the National Land Policy-VGGT implementation, development partners and other relevant stakeholders.

©Momodu Deen Swarray/FAO Sierra Leone








New Publications

Governance of Tenure Technical Guide 12:

Strengthening civic spaces in spatial planning processes

A technical guide on regulated spatial planning and tenure to balance societal priorities in the use of land, fisheries and forests

This Technical Guide, prepared through a multi-actor approach by TMG
Research - Thinktank for Sustainability, deals with spatial planning procedures that can have a considerable impact on the legitimate tenure rights of the respective right holders and, in the long term, can affect livelihoods. It is important to acknowledge the link between spatial planning and tenure and to safeguard such legitimate tenure rights when reconciling and harmonizing different objectives and interests concerning the use of land, fisheries and forests. 

The Guide fills a gap by focusing on the practical challenges of implementing spatial planning objectives and considering peoples' tenure over land, fisheries and forests. It takes a human-rights based approach to spatial planning with the aim of strengthening civic space. It provides strategies on how to strengthen, protect and promote legitimate tenure rights of people, communities, and others, in spatial planning procedures at the local, regional and national levels to ensure that such processes adhere to the principles and promote the objectives of the VGGT.

Agriculture and climate change

Law and governance in support of climate smart agriculture and international climate change goals

Climate change presents multiple challenges and it cannot be addressed effectively in silos. Attention must be paid not only to specific agriculture sectors, but also to governance areas that are interconnected with agriculture, such as public spending and investment, social protection and rural development. Efforts should be coordinated with the engagement of civil society, including the legal profession, vulnerable groups and the private sector.

This study addresses the principal expressions of the food and agriculture sector (crops and livestock agriculture, forestry and fisheries), looking at the critical cross-cutting issues and their integration into agriculture law. It provides a comprehensive overview of the legal and institutional issues to consider when working towards preparing the agriculture sector for the challenges of climate change.




Sustaining land governance reforms

Lessons from the European Union Land Governance Programme 

Through the European Union Land Governance Programme the VGGT and the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa (F&G) are applied in 18 countries dealing with country-specific tenure challenges. This policy brief discusses the key tenure challenges that arose, the achievements in project implementation, key lessons learned and emerging issues that affect tenure governance. It calls for sustained political will and commitment of policymakers as well as long-term engagement of development partners in tenure reforms.





Legal and policy arrangements for cross-border pastoralism 

Now available in French

In many countries, pastoralism has always been practiced in areas that today are separated by international borders. This is a major obstacle to sustainable resource management and pastoral development. This report examines how pastoral mobility has been affected by the creation of artificial boundaries within pastoral lands and how societies cope with these constraints through legal or informal arrangements.  

This joint FAO and IUCN publication regarding legal and policy arrangements for cross-border pastoralism is now available in French.






Le code foncier et domanial du Togo et les Directives volontaires pour une gouvernance responsable des régimes fonciers

This visual guide on the VGGT and the Land Code of Togo is a capacity building tool for national trainers to improve land governance at the village level in Togo.

The guide presents how the Land Code, adopted by the National Assembly on June 5, 2018, incorporated the ten principles for the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines as “fundamental options”. It provides concrete guidance for rural actors and local authorities on how to use these instruments to recognize and guarantee customary land rights.


Improving governance of tenure in policy and practice: The case of Myanmar

With increasing pressures on scarce land and natural resources, responsible governance of tenure to protect rights and right holders of these resources becomes pivotal. Especially if the livelihoods of these right holders is directly linked to having access to and control over these resources. A human-rights based approach for the responsible tenure governance is needed, recognizing, respecting and securing tenure rights to resources of individuals, communities or peoples both in policy and practice. In Myanmar, the process of the National Land Use Policy enabled four aspects of implementation, which come with the greatest benefits when these are interlinked and mutually reinforcing, to come together. These aspects are awareness raising and common understanding, multi-stakeholder processes and platforms, system-wide capacity development, and supporting efforts embedding the VGGT in national policies and law processes. The quality of these aspects, and not their speed, determine the VGGT implementation process in achieving improved tenure governance in policy and practice. In Myanmar this concerns in particular recognition of customary, communal and ethnic tenure systems, and women’s rights to land and natural resources.



 A wide variety of e-learning courses are available on the Responsible Governance of Tenure. Learn about:

  • making access to land, fisheries and forests more equitable
  • how to protect people's tenure rights
  • options to simplify the administration of tenure and make it accessible to all
  • how to ensure disputes are resolved before they degenerate into conflict

Browse all Responsible Governance of Tenure e-learning courses


Land Tenure Journal - Call for submissions!

We are looking for quality articles that highlight important global or regional experiences and best practices related to land and natural resources tenure, lessons learned in the implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT). The article should be in support of a global land agenda, emerging tenure issues and cross-cutting themes, and propose ways forward to meet challenges that the land and natural resources tenure sector is facing in the context of the 2030 Agenda and meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To facilitate the discourse on tenure governance issues, sharing and dissemination of land tenure experiences and in view of the recent cancellation of the 21st Land and Poverty Conference “Institutions for Equity and Resilience”, you may wish to consider submitting articles based on your approved, but perhaps unpublished paper(s) for publication in the FAO Land Tenure Journal (LTJ). Submission requirements can be accessed here.

The Land Tenure Journal is a peer-reviewed, open-access flagship journal of the Land Tenure unit (PSPL) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Launched in early 2010, it is a successor to the Land Reform, Land Settlement and Cooperatives magazine, which was published between 1964 and 2009.

The Journal is a medium for the dissemination of quality information and diversified views on land and natural resources tenure.

For more information please contact [email protected], or visit the Governance of Tenure website.