28/05/2018 Bangkok, Thailand Addressing fairly the challenges of land tenure for hundreds of millions of people in Asia and the Pacific is a critical step that policy makers must take if the region is to meet the 2030 deadline for zero hunger and eradication of poverty, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and partners warned today.
Access to land is fundamental for the food security and well-being of rural people who rely on agriculture for their livelihoods and securing rights over this key resource is a fundamental condition of household food security and equitable economic development. Secure land tenure also provides a valuable safety net as a source of shelter, food and income, particularly in times of hardship.
“Secure land tenure is linked to no fewer than five of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 1, 2, 5, 12, 16), and so clearly if the Asia-Pacific region is to meet the 2030 SDG deadline, particularly the goals for ending poverty and achieving zero hunger, then secure access to land must be assured,” said Marianna Bicchieri, FAO Land Tenure Officer.
The comments were made on the opening day of the Second Regional Land Forum, convened by the Mekong Regional Land Governance (MRLG) project and FAO. More than 300 participants are drawn from Government, civil society, private sector, academia and advocates for landless, vulnerable communities.
More than two billion people worldwide access land and natural resources through customary tenure systems. And while access to land, and land use traditions acquired by various communities, are often recognized by the authorities in many countries, that doesn’t necessarily mean the land users have legal claims to the land. This leaves hundreds of millions of people vulnerable to exploitation. Without formal recognition of their de facto tenure rights, these communities are particularly susceptible to forced evictions when their land is considered “free of occupation” and granted to large-scale private investors and developers.
Standing their ground – a need for compromise
“National and foreign large-scale land investments have been on the rise. Some forms of large-scale land-based investment can contribute to economic growth and agricultural modernization, but they may also threaten local communities and small-scale farmers’ livelihoods,” said Kate Rickersey, MRLG Team Leader. “In countries where local land rights are not clearly defined and governance issues observed, large-scale land acquisition raises particularly high risks for smallholder farmers and local communities who can lose access and control of their land and forest resources and, consequently, their livelihoods.”
The forum organizers noted this trend has been particularly prominent in the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). Reaction from Governments, private sector, academia and civil society organizations has been varied, moving between the extremes of seeing it as a major threat to the lives and livelihoods of rural people, to one of economic opportunity for rural poor worldwide.
The forum aims to bridge these divides by discussing alternatives to enhance land governance, promoting a different model of rural development, in which economic development challenges are met while human rights are respected. Notably, it aims to provide analysis that leads to action for the socio-economic advancement of the most disadvantaged people in rural and peri-urban areas.
The participants are studying various existing instruments, such as the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) and the Principles for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems (CFS-RAI), both endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), in 2012 and 2014 respectively, and how they can be implemented in the countries of the region.
The Second Regional Land Forum is taking place at the Avani Riverside Hotel in Bangkok from 28 – 30 May. It is jointly organized by FAO and the Mekong Region Land Governance Project (MRLG).