MAST in the Field

Preventing and Mitigating Conflict over Land and Resources

Tenure insecurity can contribute to conflict over land and natural resources. This is particularly true where demand for land from individuals, communities, companies, and governments has increased, and where land governance is weak.

Globally, the potential for these conflicts is increasing as demand for land multiplies. Participatory approaches to recognizing and documenting land rights at the local level, such as with MAST, can prevent and mitigate land-related conflicts, and potentially decrease the long-term potential for conflict. In Zambia, MAST methodologies were utilized, prior to mapping, to engage citizens in participatory activities that identified resources, their uses, and to assist in mitigating future conflict.

MAST has helped prevent and mitigate conflict in the areas in which it has been piloted. In Burkina Faso, MAST improved the ease with which individuals and communities could trace land rights information, thus increasing clarity around land rights and reducing the potential for conflict. In Tanzania, the MAST process led to the exposure of latent disputes, primarily within families, many of which were then resolved by local authorities. Participants in the MAST process in Tanzania noted that they expected that conflicts would be mitigated in the future because their land rights had been clarified and secured.

Creating Incentives to Improve Agricultural Productivity, Reducing Hunger and Poverty

Secure land tenure can have a positive impact on food security and agricultural productivity. When farmers perceive that their land rights are more secure, they typically invest more in their land, which results in improved yields. In rural Benin, households that participated in a process to map their land rights had improved tenure security and shifted their focus from subsistence crops to long-term and perennial cash crops. In Ethiopia, the participatory documentation of land rights was found to increase investment in soil and water conservation, which could contribute to improved agricultural productivity and reduced environmental degradation. The relationship between the documentation of land rights, agricultural investment, and productivity has been identified through research in a number of places including Nicaragua, Peru, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Rwanda.

MAST provides tools and a participatory approach to mapping and documenting land and resources. MAST pilot participants in Tanzania felt that they were less likely to be expropriated or wrongfully lose their land rights. Some participants noted that they were planning to invest in cash crops, such as tomatoes, thus also increasing income potential.

Promoting Gender Equality and Enabling Women’s Economic Empowerment

For women, documented land rights can confer direct economic benefits and lead to greater autonomy, increased bargaining power within their communities and households, and enhanced resilience. In Tanzania, when women’s land tenure security increased, they were more likely to work outside the home and commanded higher earnings. Evidence from Nicaragua and Honduras suggests that women’s land rights increase their control over household income. Furthermore, when women’s rights to land are documented, they are more resilient to the social and economic upheaval caused by divorce, widowhood, or abandonment. Without documented rights, women may be left with little or no rights to land in such cases.

Efforts to map and document women’s land rights can lead to positive changes for women, their families, and their communities. The MAST pilot in Tanzania supported gender equality in land documentation by engaging both women and men as community surveyors and by providing trainings on women’s land rights. In villages where MAST was implemented, men were initially opposed to the idea of women owning land and receiving land rights certification. However, through education, training, and outreach, the project was able to achieve parity between land registrations for women and men. Furthermore, women felt more empowered because of trainings on women’s land rights, and felt that their children’s land rights would also be more secure.

Enabling More Responsible Land-Based Investment

Investment in large-scale agricultural production by domestic and international investors has increased as the same time that pressures from climate change, food price volatility, and global interest in biofuels are on the rise. Land of interest to investors is often held by indigenous or customary land users, many of whom only have local or informal use rights to the land on which they depend. Investments in land for which users have insecure rights can lead to harmful effects on local livelihoods.

In contrast, when individuals and communities have secure rights to land, they are better protected from arbitrary or forced dispossession and may be able to negotiate for more equitable deals with investors. In particular, when land rights are clarified through mapping, registration, and documentation, individuals and communities can more easily exercise and defend their rights, and investors may be incentivized to work with local land users, rather than seeking large-scale acquisitions of land.

Documenting individual and community land rights with MAST can strengthen the capacity of women, smallholders, and other vulnerable people to defend against and negotiate with external interests, such as investors, and thereby support responsible land-based investments. In Tanzania, where the government has promoted large-scale investment in agriculture to foster economic growth, smallholders who lack documented land rights are more vulnerable to losing their land or losing their access to critical natural resources. Villagers in Tanzania who participated in a MAST pilot in which their land rights were mapped and documented reported they felt their land was less likely to be expropriated or that they were less likely to wrongfully lose their land rights, indicating that these communities are likely in a better position to negotiate with potential investors.

Creating Incentives to Manage Natural Resources Efficiently and Sustainably

Tenure insecurity undermines sustainable natural resource management. Where land rights are unclear, communities may have limited incentive to protect natural resources, leading to environmental degradation through poor land management, overgrazing, wildlife poaching, deforestation, and ineffective watershed management. However, when land tenure is secure, individuals and communities are assured of their long-term relationship with the land and they are more likely to manage natural resources efficiently and sustainably. Evidence from Mexico, Nepal, Mongolia, and the Pacific Islands indicates that communities manage resources more sustainably when they have secure rights. Mapping and documenting land rights, such as with MAST, is a critical component of strengthening tenure and incentivizing individual and community-based natural resource management.

Improving Resilience to Shocks and Disasters

Unpredictable temperatures and precipitation, along with natural disasters such as droughts, floods, and cyclones are increasing, and are likely to become more frequent and intense with climate change. Following a disaster, relief efforts related to land and property often focus on individuals and communities with documented land rights, and are challenged to address those with informal or undocumented rights. Where land rights are undocumented prior to a disaster, efforts to rebuild infrastructure or resettle displaced populations will be subject to conflict, delay, and increased costs. To reduce the land tenure-related impacts of natural disasters, it is important to recognize and document land rights before a disaster strikes, particularly the rights of the most vulnerable – women, youth, migrants, and the poor.

Land rights that have been recognized and documented through participatory methods can help mitigate the impact of disasters on affected communities and can increase resilience to ongoing stresses. After a disaster, documented tenure can serve as a baseline for investment and historic rights. In Mozambique, occupancy rights that involved consultation with local leaders and authorities were more traceable following a disaster in which physical documents were destroyed. Because MAST leverages cloud-based technologies, which provide security when storing land information, MAST can help reduce the challenges faced during reconstruction by making land rights information accessible even if physical documents have been destroyed. Furthermore, documented land rights help households and communities address recurrent stresses which have the potential to drive families into shock-response coping modes. MAST offers a host of ways to increase families’ resilience capacities.


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