Women striving for ownership over land – Putting the VGGT into practice

- August 25, 2017

By Karin van Boxtel (Both ENDS)

Access to, ownership and control over land is inherently part of a successful implementation of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) and sustainable land management. In particular women’s land use rights are fundamental as they are the ones working on the land and thus putting LDN into practice. For many women around the world, it is important to feel secure about their land ownership and to have a legal recognition for the use of their land.

Last June I took part in community meetings on land tenure security in Monze District, Zambia. The communities engaged in participatory land use planning processes. This involved trainings of community parasurveyors, awareness raising activities, mapping of land user rights and an open dialogue within the community and with authorities. Besides a community land use plan, the most remarkable impact of this process was the stories women shared with me. These women explained how their husbands engaged in conversations about their own land use rights. Some gave their women a part of the land and officially recognized it. Others started to collectively manage the lands. The women indicated that they now feel much more confident that they will be able to have ownership over the land in the long run –also in case their husband would die or they would divorce- and are increasingly engaged to invest in and sustainably use their land with a long-term view.

These are just a few of the numerous examples of community-driven initiatives to strengthen women’s land tenure security. It illustrates the importance of recognizing women’s land rights in sustainable land use and the implementation of LDN. Access to, ownership and control over land for women is a prerequisite to realize the SUstainable development Goal (SDG) 15.3, implement LDN and sustainable land use. This kind of approach is also the perfect illustration of holistically implementing the SDGs and to leave No One Behind as it directly contributes to SDG targets 1.4, 2.3, 5a, 10.1, 16.7 and 17.6.

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) embrace these land governance approaches. The guidelines stress the importance of good land governance and strengthened legitimate land tenure rights of especially women and small-scale farmers, pastoralists, youth, indigenous peoples and poor people. The VGGT were formulated in 2012 after profound consultations with all stakeholder groups and are adopted by the FAO Council and the UN member states as a response to the land (use) rights insecurities of local communities. The guidelines provide governments with guidance on how to ensure good land governance, which is crucial when restoring lands and implementing LDN. Adopting and implementing the VGGT in the UNCCD Future Strategic Framework, National Action Plans and LDN target setting would lead to more cases of the above-mentioned gender-sensitive good land governance practices.