Why Land Rights?

The UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development contains land-related targets and indicators under the Sustainable Development Goals 1, 2, 5, 11 and 15.

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MUD Africa as an apolitical Swedish NGO, works for and advocate for land rights and women rights as we believe it is a core proponent for improving living conditions for marginalized and poor households. Strengthening land rights is not only central to the work of MUD Africa, but it is also central to the UN 2030 Agenda. Moreover, it is estimated that up to 2,5 billion people depend on land and natural resources that are held, used and managed collectively. These people manage and protect our valuable world, they manage and protect around 50 per cent of the globe’s land area. They do, however, only formally own 10 per cent of this land and as a consequence: One-third of the world population are living without formal registration and secure tenure, leaving them in a vulnerable situation and an easy target for more powerful actors.

With this in mind, land is a significant resource, both cross-cutting and critical for ending extreme poverty and promoting resilient societies. Secure land rights create incentives that enhance food security, economic growth and sustainable development!

Land has several characteristics that make it contestable: for example, it is a considered a valuable asset. In Malawi, where MUD Africa have worked since the beginning of 2012, land is the very basis of life upon which most households rest.

Land is also an important safety net for poor households, travelling through generations. In a time when the population across the globe are rising, demands for land is inevitably rising, fuelling competition of different sorts, causing conflicts between different groups and increases barriers to access to land for some groups. Often groups that already where side-stepped.

In many countries, secure land rights and land governance system are weak. Systems are weak because most states wherein, rights to land are of question – the state apparatus is also weak. Several types of law systems are at play simultaneously and as a consequence of these factors, rights to land and claims to a piece of land are often undocumented and/or have overlapping documents indicating different laws.

In Malawi land is scarce, and rural families need land in order for them to achieve decent living standards. They need support to withstand strong and powerful actors.

When communities and law systems allow women to have secure tenure and land rights they have opportunity to invest in their land, allowing them to increase their income, which in turn can increase their status and in some contexts decrease their exposure to domestic violence. If they have children, their extra income can help send them to school. This can spark a cycle of benefits.

At MUD Africa, we work to secure land rights for the rural poor, who make up 75% of the world’s poorest women and men. With secure tenure follows increased investment and productivity and ultimately a way out of poverty!

Land, however, is  to be considered as much more than just a source for economic safety. As land is the basis of life in many agricultural based countries, it is also considered a source of ones identity. Your identity is based on your piece of land. Your history, your culture and ancestors of a certain community is all tied up in land. Without land, a community runs the risk of losing its distinctive identity. At the household level, access to land confirms membership in a community. Without access to land, the physical security of households may be at risk. In many societies, women-headed households may be particularly vulnerable without land, lacking an important livelihood asset as well as the security of a community.

When talking about climate, secure land rights would help successfully achieve the goal of limiting the rise in global temperature to no more than 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrial levels – set as a worldwide goal in the The 2015 Paris Agreement.

How? As an example: the World Resource Institute have conducted research in the conjunction to land rights and deforestation in the Amazons and their analysis finds that the annual deforestation rates in tenure-secure indigenous forestlands are significantly lower than in areas where insecure tenure is common, suggesting that securing tenure contributes to reducing deforestation in these areas.

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