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Competition for land has never been greater. The world faces rising population numbers, rapid urbanization, climate change, declining soil fertility and an increasing demand for food and fuel security. All of this puts pressure on land.
In many developing countries, competing land uses and increasing demand are sources of conflict and debate. Weak land governance and inefficient management of natural resources compound these issues.
Poor rural people – especially women, youth, indigenous peoples and other marginalized groups – typically have weak or unprotected tenure rights.
This means that they risk losing access and control over land, often the only asset they have to secure their livelihoods.
Land tenure security for broader stability
Access to land is key to eradicating poverty – and not only because it allows farmers to feed their families.
When smallholder farmers have secure land rights, they are more willing to invest in the land and can use it to access credit. Land ownership also gives them more incentives to improve farming techniques and manage their land sustainably. They are able to diversify their incomes and protect their family’s well-being against the threat of more powerful neighbours or private companies claiming stake to their land.
With secure land rights, rural women usually have a greater say in household investments and in community matters.
Land tenure security makes societies more stable, with less conflict and more opportunity.
Inclusive decision-making and a more secure future
IFAD-supported projects help people in rural areas gain legal rights to their land — a key factor in the fight against poverty. We promote the recording and registering of land rights, decentralized land administration and more secure rangeland rights.
We also encourage good land governance through participatory land-use planning and conflict resolution, as well as inclusive and responsible investment and multi-stakeholder dialogue.
Securing land rights can be complex, and is an issue that requires sustained international support. IFAD is therefore engaged in the global policy dialogue on land as part of the Global Donor Working Group and is a founding member of the International Land Coalition, which identifies access to both land and natural resources as a fundamental factor in IFAD’s efforts to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition and strengthen resilience in rural areas.
Collaborating with FAO, the Committee on World Food Security and others, IFAD contributed to the formulation and implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGTs).
We also worked together with the African Union Commission and its partners to develop the pan-African land policy guidelines. More recently, IFAD has collaborated with a range of partners on the inclusion of a land tenure security indicator within the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) framework.
IFAD also leads the Global Environmental Fund (GEF) Integrated Approach for Food Security in Sub-Saharan Africa, which focuses on the natural resources that underpin food and nutrition security — land, water, soils, trees and genetic resources.
A green new hope for degraded soils
Over half the world’s arable land is already degraded, and this number is growing at a rate of 23 hectares per minute. But with the support of an IFAD-funded project – along with an unlikely ally – farmers in Bolivia’s Pando region are restoring the land in record time.