27 Jun 2023
Gender, Community & Inclusion
Research & Analysis
Posted27 Jun 2023
I completed the last week of my internship with LEI last week, and it feels as though the three months with them have flown by. Over the course of my internship I have been pushed to gain exposure to many of the different facets of the land tenure and administration process and have come to realise just how inextricable the link between land administration and international development is.
Most recently I have been assisting one of my colleagues by conducting research on the links between development, land tenure and climate change. The intersection between the three is more pronounced than I would have thought and has made me realise just how central land tenure is to achieving development outcomes, climate change outcomes, and conversely, how climate change efforts can affect development and land tenure. For example, some of my research indicated that often climate change adaptation and mitigation practices – those being actions which either reduce the risk of climate impacts on the land, or help the landholder adapt to the effects of climate change – are often only available to those with formally recognised land ownership. This leaves those who have informal tenure – that which is not legally recognised in the jurisdiction’s land administration system – vulnerable. The vulnerability boils down to the fact that farmers or land dwellers are only likely to invest in climate smart agriculture (‘CSA’) or sustainable land management (‘SLM’) practices if they are sure that they will be the ones to reap the benefits from those investments, which may take many years to become fruitful. For those with insecure tenure, making a longer-term investment, in, for instance, agroforestry, is not logical as they may have their land stripped from them before the benefits of their investment are felt – due to an inability to defend their rights to land. They therefore have less incentive to protect themselves from the effects of climate change – both present and future. This is, however, not to say that those with informal tenure do not act as good stewards of the land they inhabit. It is just that in the absence of a perceived sense of tenure security, landholders not have the same incentives to invest in the long term climate resilience of their land where they cannot guarantee they will see out the benefits of such an investment.
There are also opportunities in the climate/land space for farmers or forest dwellers to economically benefit from contingent funding schemes. These involve large carbon producers who have exceeded their greenhouse gas emission targets under the Paris Agreement and thus seek investment in reforestation and afforestation projects. These schemes allow carbon producers to ‘trade’ carbon with forest owners. While this can be a very beneficial opportunity in terms of its developmental potential for forest owners, particularly where forests are located in developing countries, many of the schemes are only available to those with secure or legally recognised tenure. This risks unregistered landholders, including indigenous communities, at best: not receiving the funding to maintain and improve their land, and at worst: having their land stripped from them by more powerful elite players attracted to the donorship. Land tenure security is therefore critical to ensuring an equitable approach to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts.
I was also recently invited to observe part of the project design phase for some work LEI is doing in Ethiopia. I was given the opportunity to read up on the context, relevant land laws, and previous project progress to understand how it got to where it is today, and current challenges and obstacles to be overcome in delivering results. Observing the way that work is compiled, edited and refined provided very valuable insight into the more technical elements of the consulting process.
I am so grateful to the LEI team for taking me on as an intern. I feel as though I have gained so much knowledge, insight and considerably refined my problem-solving and writing skills. Being able to work with industry leaders who are highly passionate and knowledgeable has been such a rewarding experience and one I am truly lucky to have experienced. All of the opportunities to read, research, sit in on meetings, observe, contribute and receive feedback have been so valuable. What this experience has taught me more than anything is that my journey in this space is just beginning. I still have six months left of my undergraduate degree which I hope to finish in November. Afterwards, I am considering either furthering my studies or obtaining further work experience to gain the requisite skills to begin a career in the international law space.
In spirit of reconciliation, Land Equity International acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea, and community. We pay respects to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.