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Getting political about ensuring pastoral land rights

Participatory work for pastoral land use rights

Participatory work for ensuring equitable use of, and rights to, pastoral rangelands (photo credit: Fiona Flintan).

This article is written by ILRI rangeland governance specialist Fiona Flintan, who also serves as a technical coordinator for the Rangelands Initiative of the International Land Coalition (ILC).

‘It is easy, too easy, for scientists and others to shy away from engaging in political issues such as land rights, even though they are a key factor in the ability of populations to eke a living from the land and to feed themselves. But without secure land rights, more powerful actors can appropriate land from local land users, sell or lease it, or change its use. Without secure land rights, land users are more likely to exploit and pollute resources, and less likely to invest in longer-term processes to improve land productivity. And without secure land rights people can feel lost and without a sense of place or home.

‘The world’s pastoralists—livestock herders who move their animals to track spatially and temporally distributed resources—are particularly vulnerable to displacement and loss of their livelihoods. Insecure land rights mean that lands they have used for centuries are appropriated for other uses: riverine dry season grazing areas are leased to investors for irrigated agriculture crop schemes, high biodiversity areas are enclosed for national parks and access prevented, and livestock routes are blocked by private landholdings and infrastructure. Gradually the rangelands are being fragmented, lost, and pastoral livelihoods are being compromised.

Global Rangelands Initiative
‘The International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is working to redress these problems. Through its membership in the International Land Coalition (ILC), ILRI supports ILC’s Global Rangelands Initiative, which works to provide local rangeland users more secure land tenure. The Initiative works with government and other actors to develop enabling policy and legislation and/or to implement policy and legislation in ways that better support productive and sustainable rangeland use. This is guided by a cycle of engagement and support starting with knowledge generation and consolidation. . . .

The cycle of engagement and support

Figure: The cycle of engagement and support

Land rights and the Sustainable Development Goals
‘. . . Land rights are held by groups as well as individuals. And group land rights, like individual land rights, need protection. Advancing land rights of groups need not come at the expense of land rights of individuals. Indeed, only by advancing both group and individual land rights will we manage to provide local and other communities with equitable solutions.

‘Land security and equity are necessary foundations for meeting the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This agenda should not be limited in scope to western notions of property and the ‘right to own,’ but rather include rights to use (including multiple use), control, own, rent, lease, mortgage, exclude, inherit and otherwise make decisions about land. These rights need to be recognized and protected, not only legally but in practice too. Often, they are not.

‘Through the ILC, ILRI and the Rangelands Initiative are providing technical inputs to development of the SDGs and SDG indicators. That is good. But now we must do more. We must now work to ensure that opportunities for securing rights to land by pastoral groups as well as individual women and men are actually realized. And that will mean getting political.’

The most recent Rangelands Bulletin, which contains information on the Initiatives described above, can be found here.

Read the whole article on the CGIAR Consortium website: Let’s get political — Vote for pastoral land rights!, 9 Oct 2014.

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