A woman in Burundi carries a child on her back among a thick patch of vines. Issues surrounding land have stirred an intense debate within the global development community, with this resource being is vital to survival for many of the world's poorest, including small-holder farmers. Photo by: EC/ECHO Martin Karimi / CC BY-SA

#Landmatters for many reasons. And over the past week, Devex and our Land Matters partners looked at the importance of land to economic development and conflict resolution.

Disputes over land are common around the globe – “even conflicts that seem on the surface to be about something else,” Tim Large, editor-in-chief at Thomson Reuters, told Devex.

Our readers chimed in with their own observations.

“All correct,” Richard A. Shepard wrote in response to an op-ed by Landesa founder Roy Prosterman. “Why isn’t it happening? One reason is the unsustainable systems promoted by donors and the usual cast of consulting firms. These systems have become increasingly complex, expensive and non-maintainable once the donor money runs out. However, no one is willing to take a new, simpler and maintainable approach because of sunk costs and self-interest.”

Nitin Panigrahi offered a suggestion on how to improve land revenue administration, saying this would require not just a right-based approach but also a democratic political setup.

Rahman Khalilur chimed in from Bangladesh, noting that nearly three-fourths of people live in rural areas and are defined poor because “our development is urban-oriented/city oriented.” He argued that land should be in the hands of those who till and called for the elimination of distant land ownership.

Across Africa, meanwhile, land is often considered communal, Emmanuel Saye Larmeh said, and extra care should be taken when negotiating its long-term use. His suggestion: to make landowners become shareholders “so that they wouldn’t see the investment as ’us versus them’ which sometimes lead to chaos and death.”

To Themba Phiri, averting land conflicts hinges on empowering local communities.

“The indigenous citizens should be given the first preference in land allocations,” he said. “This alone arrests land-based conflicts that can result in countries facing negative economies due to the poor land re-distributions.”

What do you think?

Check out our Land Matters campaign for innovative solutions in the areas of food security, economic development, conservation and more, and tell us why #landmatters.

About the author

  • Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.

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