A Better World - Volume 4

[ ] 10 A B et t er W or ld Land degradation neutrality and tenure security — the SDG’s prospects Everlyne Nairesiae, Coordinator of the Global Land Indicator Initiative; Oumar Sylla and Judith Mulinge, Global Land Tool Network, UN-Habitat T here is increasing recognition by policymakers, and practitioners worldwide, that secure tenure rights to land are strongly linked to poverty reduction, food security, gender equality, urban development, social cohesion and environmental stability. The securing of tenure rights to land, and related land use practices, can contribute to achiev- ing Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) by 2030. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) defines desertification as “land degradation in arid, semi- arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities”. Land degradation therefore means the reduction or loss of defined aspects of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of the land, resulting from land use or a combi- nation of human activities and habitation patterns, such as soil erosion caused by wind and/or water. Land tenure and governance systems have not often been influ- encers of policy decisions and strategies for achieving LDN. However, the link between land tenure rights and land degra- dation, including the perception of tenure security and related land use practices, has been strengthened in the context of SDGs 1 and 15, with the monitoring of indicators 1.4.2 and 15.3.1, providing the data required for evidence-based analysis, planning and policy decisions by governments and other actors. Exploring the link between land tenure security and land degradation For a long time, land tenure and land degradation have been treated in isolation. Although there is no global empiri- cal evidence that links a specific tenure type to causes of land degradation, studies have suggested that secure land tenure rights for individuals or groups positively affect LDN. Security of land tenure is anchored in the freedom from fear of dispossession of such rights, regardless of their legal status. Current literature shows that individuals or groups with secure land tenure rights are more likely to undertake long-term investment and embrace land use practices that prevent and restore degraded land. Decisions on land use practices may include, but are not limited to, tree planting, prevention of soil erosion, improved governance of range land, and use of enclosure grazing areas. However, Large Scale Landbased Investment (LSLBI) in agriculture by domestic and international investors has come under sharp criticism for encouraging deforestation and the replacement of local plant species, causing pressure on land resources. Some LSLBI models promote the commodification of land and its alienation from local communities, widening the window for corruption in land transitions, and entrench- ing gender inequality; and the unfair appropriation of land without fair compensation or Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) promoted by the “Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Forests and Fisheries in the Context of National Food Security” 1 . Decision to privatize land, including range lands, has often been misguided by the perception that such land use is less economically viable. An increasing world population has also shifted in character from being predominantly rural to becoming urban, and is projected to grow by two-thirds by 2050, a situation likely to increase the risk of privatization to pave the way for agriculture, eviction and land degradation. Group land rights, mainly concerning communal grazing land, are often alleged to increase land surface degradation Mary Katana, a Kwa Bulo informal settlement dweller in Mombasa, Kenya, shows off her newly issued certificate of occupancy Image: UN-Habitat/Judith Mulinge