Securing and protecting vulnerable people’s land rights is essential for bringing about a fair and prosperous society. It is key for combating poverty and hunger in rural communities, which rely on the land for food. Land rights are central to addressing inequalities, protecting the environment and sustaining peace.
When women and men can prove that they have secure land rights, it makes it easier for them to access credit, loans and extension services, as well as schemes such as insurance or welfare plans. People with secure land tenure are better able to invest in their land and make improvements. In urban areas, land rights are often vital for access to public services such as water and sanitation.
Marginalised groups’ rights
Around the world, women own less land than men. The land they do have is of worse quality and comes with less legal certainty. Supporting women to get access to more land, and to gain recognised property rights, can bring transformative social change. When women own land, either individually or jointly with their husbands, they have a different position in their families and societies. Research has shown that women are more likely than men to spend income from land and other resources on their children’s food and education.
Working towards indigenous and community land rights is also vital. Large amounts of forests and pastures are held and managed communally by indigenous peoples and local communities. These groups have valuable skills and knowledge for preserving and caring for their lands and natural resources. Protecting their rights is not only important for safeguarding their livelihoods and cultural identities – it also helps to conserve the environment and combat the effects of climate change.
The world is experiencing a land tenure crisis. This is because there is increasing competition for land and natural resources. Competition happens at all levels: within families, within the same community, among communities, and between communities and the government or private investors. In the last decade we have witnessed the growth of ‘land grabbing’. This is when powerful elites or investors obtain land, often at low cost and without proper consultation or consent.People who have no means to protect and claim their land rights are evicted and displaced on a daily basis for the benefit of the few. This is worsened by the high level of corruption in many governments. Corruption can also be found within communities, where traditional leaders might act selfishly for personal gain.
The broken relationships between people because of land issues easily turn into conflicts. Good, just systems that govern land and its resources are vital to prevent this competition ripping our societies apart.