The Decision on Land Tenure (Decision 26/ COP.14) by the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) recognises the importance of responsible land governance for sustainable land management and restoration, as well as for combatting desertification, land degradation and drought. The decision, recognizing the importance of responsible land governance in the implementation of Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) activities, encourages stakeholders to comply with the principles of tenure governance set down in the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (VGGT). The VGGT are a globally accepted framework of reference for improving the governance of tenure of land, fisheries, and forests with the overarching goal of achieving food security for all. While many countries have expressed their commitment to combatting land degradation by setting national-level targets to achieve LDN, few have adopted the land tenure decision. LDN measures often prioritise conservation over the tenure security of forest-adjacent communities. TMG Research’s Global Soil Week (GSW) 2021 seeks to identify how LDN measures can promote responsible land governance, with a focus on tenure security for smallholder farmers and other marginalised natural resource users in Kenya and Benin. In Kenya, the GSW 2021 partnered with the Kijabe Environment Volunteers Organization (KENVO), the Kereita Integrated Community Forest Association (KICOFA), and the Kenya Forest Service (KFS) to document, in a participatory mapping process, the tenure rights of the community living adjacent to Kereita Forest in Kiambu County. This community practices crop cultivation and livestock grazing within Kereita Forest while contributing to restoration efforts within Kenya’s forest co-management framework. Other user rights conferred to the community through the KICOFA Participatory Forest Management Plan include the gathering of firewood and medicinal herbs, water resource use, and honey harvesting. The mapping results reveal that forestadjacent communities are highly dependent on secure access to forest resources for household food security and income. As a result, LDN measures that focus on forest conservation and restoration by restricting access to forests directly impact the tenure rights of forest-adjacent communities and, in turn, affect their food security and livelihoods. Additionally, while co-management structures are generally provided for in the legal and institutional framework for forest management, enforcement can be hindered by the limited capacity of community organizations to participate in decisionmaking. The findings of the GSW 2021 provide the basis for TMG Research and partners to develop a monitoring approach that can be replicated by other civil society or community-based organizations supporting local communities. Additionally, the findings of GSW 2021 can inform engagement with other civil society organizations, helping to refine the implementation methodology for land restoration projects so that the tenure rights of communities are safeguarded and strengthened as countries implement the UNCCD Land Tenure Decision. These findings will form the empirical basis for discussions with national ministries and government agencies implementing LDN measures, and inform the reporting on land governance and tenure rights at the upcoming UNCCD COP15.
Authors and Publishers
Brian Washe Kazungu,