It became clear that better land governance was needed to protect the smallholder farmers and other poor people using land-based natural resources against loss of access to these resources, but also to improve and clarify conditions for land acquisitions by investors as well as farmers who want to grow. The declaration of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (known as the VGGT) by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in 2012 was a landmark in that regard.

However, this was not the end of the “land story”. At least six more phenomena add to an increasing focus on land, and this year’s lead theme at the World Bank’s Land and Poverty conference, ‘Catalyzing Innovation’, hints to another cross-cutting topic that will influence land governance profoundly. The conference, in which more than 1,500 participants from governments, academics, civil society and the private sector discussed the latest research, general trends, achievements and setbacks around land governance in the world, is a good mirror of the growing and changing attention given to land issues.

Land is key to political stability and security

The quest for safeguarding biodiversity through area protection following, for instance, the Aichi target of protecting at least 17 per cent of the landscape brings environmentalists and the tourism industry up against farmers and local communities.