Woman with sheep in the Turkish countryside. It is important that the local users’ rights to the land are secured to secure their possibility of sustenance.
Photo: Scott Wallace/World Bank
Natural resource management
People’s right to cultivate, use and own land, water and forest must be clear, whether it involves formal land registrations or various forms of traditional agreements. Through these agreements, it is regulated who can use the resources during what time and on what conditions. This contributes to both combating poverty and the natural resources being used in a way that does not harm the environment.
The natural resources are very important to the local population and their possibilities of growing their food. Moreover, the sale of any surplus can provide income that gives people the possibility to buy goods and services that they themselves cannot produce.
A matter of human rights
The possibility of influencing how natural resources are used is also a democratic and human right. It is a matter of something so fundamental as a family or a community having a secure supply of food.
By strengthening people’s right to arable land, for example, they are also encouraged to invest in improvements of their fields. They also have an easier time of getting loans with the land as collateral.
At the same time, the probability increases that people deal with nature in a way that secures the source of sustenance for future generations. They also often become better at managing natural resources. It does not matter as much whether they own the land individually or collectively.
Greater interest in land resources
Global competition for land, water and forest is growing as a result of population growth, migration, urbanisation, environmental destruction and climate changes, among other aspects. When interest in the land increases, it becomes even more important to find out who actually has the right to it. Ambiguous ownership conditions and greater competition can lead to prolonged conflicts.
In many countries, the state is the owner of forests and other land even though the resources in practice are used by local populations that view themselves as the legitimate owners. In several countries, women may also not own or have the right of use to land. Therefore, Sida supports the work of strengthening women’s rights.
Sida supports reform work
Sida both supports and cooperates with a number of networks, foundations and organisations that work globally with issued that concern ownership rights and land rights, among other things. They include International Land Coalition, the UN body UN Habitat and Global Donor Platform for Rural Development.
Sida also supports the work of reforming, for example, land legislation on a national level in a number of partner countries. Sida contributes, for example, to strengthening and developing institutions’ and authorities’ capacity to introduce laws, guidelines and strategies. This is particularly true in Africa, where a majority of all land lacks a formal, registered owner. Preparing land registrations for all land is a costly process that not all countries can afford.
For the past few years, there have been international, voluntary guidelines for responsible land use. They lay a good foundation for the continued work with the administration of the use of land, fishing and forests. Sweden has been a driving factor in the work of developing the guidelines.
Clear ownership reduces exploitation
A good example of ownership reforms in agriculture can be found in Ethiopia, where Sida contributed to about four million households being able to formalise their land holdings with the help of a kind of certificate.
In Mozambique and Tanzania, it has among other things been about formalising collective rights to agricultural land and forests that the local communities count as their own, so-called “community lands”, even if they are used individually.