Topic Guide: Land

This guide covers issues such as land in fragile and conflict affected states, land reform and policy and land acquistion


This Topic Guide is written for DFID staff, but is relevant to all development professionals. It comprises the following sections:

Section 1 - Growing interest in land: large-scale land acquisition
How land is used and governed affects many of the issues on which Livelihood Advisers work. Access to land is critical for the livelihoods of many people in countries where DFID works, particularly for poor people whose livelihoods depend on agriculture and pastoralism. How land is governed is also important for growth: good land governance is critical to secure property rights. This section covers trends in and drivers of large-scale land acquisition; the potential risks, costs and benefits from large-scale land acquisition and the evidence for these risks, costs and benefits. The expected and observed impacts, and the factors affecting the risks, costs and benefits are discussed.

Section 2 - Reactions to rising interest in land at the national and international level
There have been several reactions to the rising interest in farmland. There are moves to improve the provision of and access to more accurate data on large-scale land acquisitions, coupled with national, regional and international initiatives to provide guidelines to enhance security of tenure and promote good quality investment that maximises the benefits of land-based investment and minimises the social risks. A discussion of the monitoring of the large-scale land acquisitions sector is followed by information on the following key international and regional initiatives:

  • FAO voluntary guidelines for land governance
  • Principles of Responsible Agricultural Investment (PRAI and rai)
  • Land Policy Initiative and the African Union (AU) Framework and Guidelines for Land Policy
  • G8 land transparency initiative
  • Global donor working group on land, created in 2013
  • Land Governance Assessment Framework (LGAF)
  • Land post-2015
  • NGO campaigns on improving land rights
  • National initiatives – the case of Mozambique
  • Technological innovations for transparency

Section 3 - Land reform and policy: types, impacts and risks
This section focuses on particular land reform issues that are more central to DFID advisers, such as land tenure regularisation and land administration systems. It begins with an overview of the shifting nature of donor interventions in the land sector, then goes on to discuss land policy, land tenure systems and the role of land titling, the debate on formal titling, and the gender impacts of land reform.

Section 4 - Land in fragile and conflict-affected states
This section addresses land issues in the context of fragile states, and conflict and post-conflict situations. It includes discussion of how donors can best work with the private sector in fragile and post-conflict states.

Further reading and resources are listed at the end of each section, and there is a long list of references, including links to blogs, websites and conferences, at the end of the guide.

This peer reviewed Topic Guide has been produced by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by HTSPE Limited and IMC Worldwide Limited.


Locke, A.; Henley, G. Topic Guide: Land. Evidence on Demand, UK (2014) 46 pp. [DOI:]

Topic Guide: Land

Published 1 January 2014