Land, Water and Agricultural Investment

Improving land and water governance to enhance security of access and the benefits to rural households and host countries from their use.
A woman harvests rice by hand in Timor-Leste. UN Photo/Martine Perret

The governance of natural resources plays a fundamental role in determining how effectively and efficiently land and water resources are employed to meet the heightened challenges facing agriculture. However, against a backdrop of large-scale land acquisitions in supposedly land-rich developing countries, and the associated, often invisible, water acquisitions, there are increasing concerns over the quality and transparency of decision-making on land and water allocations and the insufficient attention paid to their competing uses for food, feed and energy production. There is also concern that the lack of strong governance of natural resources causes problems for local communities that see their livelihoods undermined and for host countries that see their resources put to inappropriate uses.

This, in turn, raises a set of questions, including:

  • What pressures, incentives and legal loopholes promote large-scale land acquisition?
  • What is the impact of rising powers, such as Brazil, China and India, and new corporate entities on the pace, scale and models of natural resource acquisition?
  • What tenure systems are most appropriate to ensure security of access and equitable sharing of benefits from use?
  • What values can be placed on natural resources acquired by investors under state-owned tenure systems?
  • What technical and managerial capacity do governments in host countries need to make good decisions on natural resource allocation?

We are currently doing a literature review for DFID, analysing the link between property rights and political and economic development, shedding light on the different forms that rights can take and their influence on development.