Land Tenure Documentation Guidance

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1. Introduction

Objective

To provide guidelines for documenting and understanding land ownership and land-use rights to ensure the community engagement and sustainability of TerraFund for AFR100 projects in its target landscapes.

TerraFund acknowledges that every country has its own procedures for land agreements. We encourage all Restoration Champions to utilize the legal land documents or formats that best suit everyone, considering the various land ownership structures in their country, including cultural norms and traditional practices.

Why document land tenure?

  • Legal Compliance: Many projects require adherence to land-related regulations and laws. Documenting land tenure ensures compliance.
  • Risk Mitigation: Understanding land tenure reduces project risks associated with disputes, land grabbing, and conflicts.
  • Transparency: Transparent land tenure documentation enhances accountability and builds trust among project stakeholders.
  • Capacity and level of community engagement: The document will serve as proof of Restoration Champions’ capacity to engage community and the level of commitment from the landowners on where trees will be grown.
  • Prevent the overlap of sites designated by different Restoration champions. This agreement ensures that planting locations are not claimed by multiple Restoration Champions, thereby avoiding duplication or multiple reports of restoration impacts.

2.Land categorization and proposed signatories

2.1. Community Land

Community land refers to areas of land collectively owned or utilized by residents of a particular geographic area, either as individuals, cooperatives, or groups. Under this category, Restoration Champions are encouraged to raise community awareness with the goal of obtaining agreement or consent from the local community to utilize their land and collectively care (maintain) for the trees that are planted.

Who signs land agreement for Community land?

Formal agreements or consent forms can be signed by the community representatives that outline land ownership and land-use arrangements:

  • Household ownership: The family representative can sign on behalf of the family.
  • Farmer group ownership: The group representatives (at least 2 people) can sign.
  • Cooperative ownership: Board members (at least 2 people) or legal representatives can sign.
  • Traditional authority: Where applicable, the legal chief can sign land agreements on behalf of many smallholder farmers.

2.2. Private Land

Private land is defined as any parcel or area of land owned by individuals, including large-scale farmers, enterprises, or other private entities. The owners of private land have legal rights to use and do whatever they want with that land.

Who signs the private land agreement?

  • Single ownership/Private: The owner can sign.

2.3. Government / Public Owned land

Public land or government land is defined as parcels or areas of land owned and managed by governmental entities, including national, state, or local governments or government institutions, to benefit and serve the public.

Who signs land agreement for Government/Public land

  • Any governmental entity (Forestry Commission, Wildlife Division, etc) with the legal authority to sign these agreements/Memorandum of Understanding may do so. These agreements should clarify land use rights and responsibilities.

3. Moment & Process for Collecting Documents

A. Application

  • During the application stage, applicants must have an initial comprehension of the land tenure context. This entails making early connections with pertinent authorities or local communities to convey the project's objectives and eagerness to collaborate. Applicants are encouraged to provide any form of land agreement documentation previously utilized for reference. This document shows that the applicant understands the essence of having land agreements for sustainable land management practices.

B. Implementation Phase

  • All projects that have been legally allocated concentrated plots of land by Government, large-scale individual landowner and traditional authorities are requested to submit the land agreement for those areas, in whatever format is available to them, in their six-month project report on TerraMatch.
  • For projects working with smallholder farmers/community members on land not legally or officially allocated, they are strongly encouraged to submit land agreement in the second reporting period. Projects can submit any legal document that works best for them.

This critical documentation will be meticulously reviewed by the designated project manager to guarantee compliance and the successful progression of our collaborative efforts. This added layer of scrutiny not only safeguards our investments but also promotes sustainable and responsible land use practices among our partners.

4. Addressing Changes or Challenges

As projects evolve, circumstances can change; new stakeholders might emerge, or community dynamics could shift. In response, it is vital for Restoration Champions to have robust change management strategies in place, ensuring that any alterations in land tenure agreements can be navigated smoothly and with minimal disruption. Challenges, such as disputes over land boundaries or unexpected legal hurdles, can surface. Project teams should be well-prepared to identify these risks and have contingency plans ready.  Any changes or updated land tenure documentation should be documented, reported and uploaded in TerraMatch.

5. Conclusion

These land tenure policy guidelines are essential for the success and sustainability of TerraFund projects. This will ensure legal compliance, mitigate risks, promote transparency, and demonstrate our commitment to community engagement. By following these guidelines, we lay a strong foundation for project success and long-term impact. 

6. Sample Land Tenure Capture Form

This Land Tenure Capture Form is intended to assist in the documentation of land agreements for TerraFund projects. The level of detail and the inclusion of specific sections may vary depending on the agreement's complexity and legal requirements. Restoration champions must ensure that the format of their agreement complies with all relevant local and national laws.

The sample provided here is merely a reference; champions are encouraged to utilize any format that suits them best.

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