Step by step for successful land governance | #CFS43 FAO

Samie Blasingame
4 min readJan 11, 2021


How should we go about implementing strong land governance strategies?

This was the focus of a side event at the Committee for World Food Security (CFS) this week, which aimed to review and discuss successes and challenges in land governance and monitoring implementation.

Gathering the right information on what is going on in the land sector is the first step. Every country needs systems in place to generate the type of data that is useful not only for governments and possible investors, but for individuals and communities too.

Many developing countries struggle to do this, and this is a huge problem for land rights and land governance monitoring. Many communities, especially in Africa, are still governed and managed under customary land tenure regimes where land rights are not often legally recognized.

What is needed is a mechanism to ensure that all land tenure types (customary, perceived or documented) and rights are respected and valued in line with the Voluntary Guidelines and regional instruments like the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa. While voluntary, these guidelines were developed through highly consultative processes, with the highest political will from governments.

Everlyne Nairesiae, Global Land Indicators Initiative (GLII) Coordinator and side event moderator, explained to me that these frameworks continue to influence land policy formulation and practices on land governance. Various partners, including GLTN/UN Habitat, provide support to countries to put in place monitoring and land policies that can ensure all communities are well protected and that their tenure rights are secure.

Most recently, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have presented the best opportunity for the advancement of land governance and monitoring goals. This is because SDGs 1, 5 and 11 explicitly include land indicators that provide the opportunity to capture legal recognition of all types of tenure. They also, for the first time, recognize perception data.

Perception data is important when land titles do not exist.

In many cases, countries collect information on ownership of land through titling — a formal document which officially states who is entitled to a particular piece of land. Yet communities that have “owned” land customarily, for generations, don’t tend to have this documentation.

“This leaves a whole bunch of communities vulnerable to land grabbing, elite capture, and private and government concessions for investors,” Nairesiae explained. “All these things can take place when there is no transparency, no accountability… or when data has not been captured or that data [is not available] for communities to access and use in order to engage with land governance authorities.”

When this data is available, it is often expensive, and those that need that information most are excluded. This impacts on the local perception of ownership because if you don’t have an official title or access to inventories of official documentation, how can you confidently state that your land is secure?

The SDG indicators acknowledge the need to embrace a Continuum of Land Rights as an approach that recognizes the bundle of tenure rights that exist within formal and informal tenure regimes. This approach, developed by GLTN in collaboration with its partners, affirms that individuals, groups and communities can hold land and property under a range of tenure regimes, each providing a different set of rights and responsibilities, with systems for recognition and enforcement based on customary or community, administrative or legal institutions.

This concept recognizes that this community have their own mechanism for land governance before formal titles, and it enables them to continue their business and other activities, Nairesiae explained. If these people want to secure their land by seeking land titles, they can, but even without the documents they will still be respected as the rightful owner.

As with any new (or renewed) endeavor, the first step is to assess the current situation. We must remember to recognize and respect the various degrees of land rights that exist within various types of land tenure. Then, and only then, can we build strong land governance systems that will aid in securing land rights and land tenure for all, especially for those whose voices aren’t always at the table.

This blog was based on the Side Event at this week’s annual session of the Committee for World Food Security (CFS): “Building the Base of Land Governance Evidence: Frameworks and Lessons Learned from Project, Country and Global-Level Monitoring and Evaluation Efforts.” The panel presented representatives from donor agencies, including IFAD and MCC, who outlined multiple frameworks to collect land data in order to make better investments. Country specific experiences were also shared. The Governments of Ukraine and Tanzania, with the experience from India delivered by the World Bank, explained inventory and monitoring systems that have set their countries up for land governance success. Blogpost by Samie Blasingame, #CFS43 Social Reporter — samieblasingame(at)
Special thanks to Everlyne Nairesiae for her time and expertise.
Picture courtesy: Tomasz Bazylinski via Unsplash This post is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

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Samie Blasingame

Samie is a researcher and community organiser passionate about environmental justice and global food systems.