On March 20, 2018, Jeffrey Hatcher, Managing Director of Indufor North America, presented initial findings of the USAID Investor Survey on Land Rights during a panel on how land governance affects investor risk perception at the World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty. The panel, chaired by Chris Jochnick, CEO of Landesa, revolved around why investors in natural resources should take land tenure issues seriously.
The Investor Survey on Land Rights was initiated in 2017 by USAID and implemented by Indufor North America. The aim of the survey was to assess the drivers of tenure risks surrounding land-based investments and learn how investors and operators assess, mitigate and are affected by such risks. Respondents included 75 companies operating or investing in agriculture, forestry or renewable energy projects. The presentation highlighted some of the key findings from the survey results, including
1. Land tenure risks are seen to be increasing: Two-thirds of respondents perceive land tenure risks as increasing or significantly increasing in the past five years. Land tenure risk was the second “very important” risk for operators in the sample, while it was the seventh for investors.
Risks Rated to be Very Important by Respondents
2. Risks related to local communities’ rights are perceived as increasing more than governance-related risks: Local community rights to access resources and local community land disputes were cited by more than 50 percent of respondents as increasing over the past five years. Fewer than 20 percent of respondents cited governance issues such as expropriation or overlapping concessions as increasing.
3. Active community engagement risk mitigation strategies work better than exclusionary tactics: Of the tenure risk mitigation strategies reportedly used in undertaken projects, those perceived as being successful in more than half of reported projects focused on stakeholder engagement, community development programs, participatory mapping of land rights, establishment of grievance mechanisms, and support to local communities to obtain land titles.
Questions from the audience focused on why awareness had increased over the years, and what the positive effects of secure land tenure, such as increased productivity, would be. The discussion that followed highlighted some of the gaps regarding responsible land-based investment, including a lack of good governance to ensure enforcement, a lack of indicators to measure respecting land tenure rights, a lack of integrating land tenure data into private sector decision making, and a lack of communication between public and private sectors. Overall it was concluded that the private sector is increasingly interested and expected to play a more pro-active, socially responsible role to recognize and support the legitimate land rights of communities affected by land-based investments.
More findings and details will be presented via a webinar on April 5 at 8:00 am EDT, where Indufor, along with USAID, African Plantations for Sustainable Development (APSD) and The Moringa Partnership, will discuss results of the first Investor Survey on Land Rights. Click here for more information and to register.