On a recent field trip to northern Bangladesh, the smiles of Habibur, a young man working in a rice field under the scotching sun caught my attention. Habibur, 28, looked content amidst the wide green vista of fields.
I learned that his life had not been easy. His father died when Habibur was around four years old, and the family had no land. His young widowed mother started working as a day laborer to raise her only child. Habibur began working too in his mid-teens. Mother and son struggled, but they managed to save some money. They first bought a cow, and later Habibur leased land for rice cultivation. This is a common practice in rural Bangladesh, where the yield is divided between the farmer and the owner of the land.
Agriculture and Rural Development
Ahead of World Water Day 2016, Lead Disaster Risk Management Specialist Christoph Pusch explains how the World Bank helps client countries anticipate, respond to, and recover from El Niño-related shocks such as droughts or floods.
Yet, as important as land ownership may be, 70% of the world's population still lacks access to proper land titling or demarcation. This carries a host of negative consequences: when people have to live with the constant threat of potential eviction, they are more likely to remain or become poor, and cannot invest in their land with confidence.
Conversely, stronger land rights can be a powerful tool for economic development and poverty reduction. That is why the World Bank is working with client countries to build legal and institutional frameworks that effectively protect land tenure - including for vulnerable groups such as women and indigenous peoples.
In this video, World Bank Practice Manager Jorge Muñoz describes in greater depth how the institution is bolstering land tenure around the world as part of its mission to eliminate poverty and boost shared prosperity.
In our one-year-at-a-time celebration of the 25 year partnership between Mongolia and the World Bank, today we look at 2005. Growth remained a robust 7.3% and industry, which includes mining, continued to produce a larger proportion of Mongolia’s GDP.
The scale of the global land grab is staggering. While international actors have made excellent progress establishing complaint boards, issuing principles for responsible investment, and securing commitments from multinational corporations, these protections do not chart a clear course of action that communities can follow to protect their lands and natural resources before an investor arrives seeking land.
The problem is that once an investor arrives to “consult with” a community, it may be too late. After a deal has been made in capital city conference rooms or in clandestine meetings between chiefs and company representatives, communities are forced on the defensive. At this point, all they can do is try to mitigate the negative impacts of investors' plans rather than assertively proclaiming their legal rights, demanding that the investor abide by FPIC principles, and then choosing whether to reject the investment or accept it on terms that ensure that the community benefits and prospers.
Meanwhile, many of the “investors” grabbing land are national or local elites unaccountable to international institutions – the cousin of the President or the nephew of the Minister – who operate with complete impunity, protected by powerful connections to government, the judiciary and the police. Such individuals do not answer to shareholders or complaint boards, and are not the least bit concerned with principles of corporate social responsibility. If a community’s land claims are unrecognized or undocumented – and if the community’s leadership is weak or corrupt – the easier it is for these elites to manipulate their power to claim what land they want.
To have a fighting chance against elites’ badfaith actions, communities must proactively take steps to know and enforce their rights, prevent their leaders from transacting land without community approval, and seek legal recognition of their land claims. And they must do so before elites and investors arrive.