Land is a major source of people’s identities and livelihoods as well as being a key asset for households. Land ownership and land use rights crucially affect both equality of opportunity and economic and environmental stability. It is entirely justified to include these rights in the Sustainable Development Goals and not without reason that the adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) attracted so much attention four years ago. Often, land remains the only source of livelihood for poor and marginalised households. Thus improved security of land rights first of all creates secure access to basic necessities such as housing and nutrition. When such needs are met, the poor are more likely to be able to afford education, which helps people exit the vicious cycle of poverty.
With its extensive resettlement programme, the Ethiopian government is promising people improved access to government services. In reality, however, its policy is resulting in forced displacement, conflicts over scarce resources and ethnic tension. And ultimately to hunger, as the example of the west Ethiopian region of Gambela shows.
Throughout the world, demand for finite land resources is ever increasing, and can lead to irreversible land degradation, as land is used beyond its “bio-capacity”. Against this background, sustainable land management has become extremely important. The benefits are well-known, as are measures and best practices. But implementation is still lagging behind. A plea for more efforts in bringing together the world of conservation with the financial and development sectors.