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News & Events Navigating the challenges of land-based investment governance
Navigating the challenges of land-based investment governance
Navigating the challenges of land-based investment governance
Forest transition Aerial view of a Transition Forest area in Bokito, Cameroon. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR
Forest transition Aerial view of a Transition Forest area in Bokito, Cameroon. Photo by Mokhamad Edliadi/CIFOR

In this new blog series Practitioners’ Perspectives: Responding to the Challenges of Land-Based Investment Governance, we invite rights defenders and practitioners to reflect on their strategies to push for more responsible and sustainable investments, on why and how they have developed them, and the tangible outcomes these strategies have had. In this first post, we present a brief background to the issues – and a dedicated tool to help navigate them.


Land-based investments: what are the challenges?

As the world continues to grapple with the Covid-19 pandemic, there is mounting pressure on governments to kickstart national economies and drive economic recovery. For some governments, promoting natural resource-intensive investments – such as mining and agribusiness – through social and environmental deregulation appears to be an increasingly prominent approach. In contrast, others appear to advocate for an alternative pathway of a green economic recovery, involving the increased use of renewable energy and nature-based solutions.

But regardless of the paths or types of investment chosen, any increase in large-scale land-based investments will likely come with significant land footprints, putting growing pressure on both the environment and the individuals, communities, pastoralists and Indigenous peoples who currently use the land.

These challenges are not new. Since the onset on the Global Land Rush in 2008, the negative impacts of poorly planned or irresponsible investments have become the subject of increasingly nuanced debate. Lost livelihoods, displacement, failure to deliver benefits for host communities and those who live nearby, and even violent conflicts have all been observed

But recognition of these issues has led to a deeper understanding of them. From complex political economy dynamics and the costs of not proceeding responsibly to the diversity of actors, laws and policies involved, a vast number of knowledge products and practical guides have emerged on how to navigate these challenges – and how to avoid them in the first place.


The navigator: a tool for practitioners

A dedicated knowledge hub now brings together this wide range of tools and guides on how to address a variety of land-related issues and strengthen the governance of land-based investments. The Responsible Land-Based Investment Navigator, jointly developed by the International Institute for Environment and Development and the Land Portal Foundation, is maintained through the ALIGN project. It collates resources tailored to the roles and needs of different actors, from governments, civil society and grassroots organisations, to actors within the private sector such as company operators, lenders, investors and buyers. 

Many of these guides and tools draw on practical experiences from a growing community of practice. Rights defenders and practitioners have developed creative and wide-ranging strategies to respond to the many-faceted challenges: from understanding the political and legal contexts in which investments occur and designing strategic interventions to influence policy and law-making arenas, to linking these efforts to research and initiatives on the ground


Sharing stories of change: the blog series

In addition to the navigator platform, as part of the ALIGN project, our new blog series also aims to support this growing community of practice. Across the globe, dedicated organisations and individuals are working hard to improve investment processes and correct gaps in laws and policies that undermine long-term sustainability for both communities and investments. 

Most importantly, it is these people who are finding ways to translate words into action. Thanks to the extensive mobilisation of civil society and rights defenders, change is happening even at the highest institutional levels. One culmination of this work is the international recognition of the rights of Indigenous peoples and rural communities at the 26th United Nations Climate Change conference (COP26) in 2021. 

But most of the hard work is happening at the local level, where rights defenders and practitioners are pushing for concrete change: greater protections for Indigenous peoples and their livelihoods, ensuring local communities have a seat at the negotiating table, and that they receive tangible benefits from land-based investments. 

Their grassroots actions are driving ongoing debate to ensure important issues are brought to light and heard by decisionmakers and ultimately transform the governance of land-based investment for the better. In this blog series, we have invited partners from diverse backgrounds and contexts to reflect on their experiences of responding to the challenges of land-based investment governance – and on how they are making change happen. 


Practitioners’ perspectives: responding to the challenges of land-based investment governance

We launch our new blog series with contributions from South Africa and Ethiopia, with another blog from Tanzania to follow shortly:


Mining and land rights in South Africa: how has the Maledu judgement empowered rural communities?

In South Africa, traditional leaders had the power to enter into mining agreements without consulting the affected communities. But in 2018, a landmark judgement ruled that a community’s consent was required after recognising them as the lawful occupiers of their land. Louise du Plessis from Lawyers for Human Rights in South Africa discusses the importance of the Maledu judgment for other rural communities on how to negotiate for improved benefits.


Moving forward with communal land rights in Ethiopia: what are the legal solutions?

In Ethiopia, pastoralist communities and other communal land users face significant threats due to government policies which favour large-scale land investments which erode communal land rights. Daniel Behailu from Sustainable Land and Development for Ethiopia (SULED) and Nathaniah Jacobs from IIED will discuss the importance of developing laws that recognise and respect communal land rights in Ethiopia, potential legal solutions, and why change will require community engagement and social legitimacy to work.


Land-based investment in Tanzania: how simplified legal guides are empowering communities

Over the last 20 years in Tanzania, conflict has escalated between communities and foreign investors over land rights and land-based investments. Here, Masalu Luhula from Landesa in Tanzania discusses how the use of simplified guides is helping to empower communities to engage in dialogue and negotiating processes with government authorities and investors – and to promote socially responsible land-based investment.


We would love to hear from you! 

We welcome contributions from individuals working to improve land-based investment governance or rights protection. If you would like to propose a blog post, please get in touch with us at



The ALIGN project (Advancing Land-based Investment Governance) is a partnership between the Columbia Center on Sustainable Investment (CCSI), the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) and Namati. ALIGN supports governments, civil society, local communities and other relevant actors in strengthening the governance of land-based investments – from agriculture to infrastructure, extractives and manufacturing. 

The Responsible Land-Based Investment (RLBI) Navigator helps private-sector actors identify and access the practical tools and guidelines that are most relevant to their work. It was developed jointly by the Land Portal and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) as part of then DFID-funded Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND) programme.


About the Blog Series

This blog is part of the ‘Navigating the challenges of land-based investment’ series, which is jointly edited by Land Portal and IIED, with funding from FCDO, as part of the ALIGN project. Other blogs in the series can be found here.