Video: Land ownership for women prevents fears of uncertainty
Around the world, rural women are a major provider of food and food security. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations argues that improving women’s access to productive resources (such as land) could increase agricultural output by as much as 2.5% to 4%. At the same time, women would produce 20-30% more food, and their families would enjoy better health, nutrition, and education.
These discussions, covering dozens of sectors in every region of the world, offer many innovative solutions that affect millions – if not billions – of people globally. Looking back, all the small gains from many initiatives from 1990 to 2013 led to a reduction of global extreme poverty of more than one billion people.
Sounds simple, maybe even jargony, but no – they are concrete, with real impacts. All of a sudden, we had an internationally negotiated soft law or a set of guidelines on (land) tenure navigating successfully through the global web of interests on land, reaching a common ground. The consensus at the CFS was further strengthened by the endorsement of the VGGT by the G20, Rio+ 20, the United Nations General Assembly, and the Francophone Assembly of Parliamentarians.
This journey started with an inclusive consultation process started by the FAO in 2009, and finalized through intergovernmental negotiations. Importantly, no interest group – governments, CSOs, academia, private sector – felt left behind, and the States were engaged in word-by-word review of the guidelines.
This can be seen in the result. The VGGT’s power stems from the consensus on its principles that States were to:
Recognize and respect all legitimate tenure right holders and their rights;
Protect tenure right holders against the arbitrary loss of their tenure rights; and that
Women and girls [were to] have equal tenure rights and access to land.
Thirty years separate these two photographs. When I returned to the LSE to give a lecture the memories flooded back of my year at the university as a British Council scholar. Still there, close to the main entrance, was the local branch of the NatWest Bank, the first bank where I ever opened an account.
The circumstances of my arrival in London were all down to perestroika. Gorbachev was urging the eastern bloc to open up to the world. Suddenly we were allowed to apply to study overseas, beyond the Iron Curtain. My first hurdle was to learn English – I have the BBC World Service to thank for accomplishing that task in a very narrow timeframe. Added to my PhD in environmental policy — a relatively rare subject for an east European at the time — got me a British Council scholarship and an entry into life on the other side of the Iron Curtain.
While historically confined to medical and academic research, challenge funds – competitive financing for innovative solutions to entrenched problems – have gained traction in the international development field over the last decade.
Pioneered by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), challenge funds have championed transformational disruptive technologies, such as M-Pesa, Kenya’s mobile money transfer service. The electronic payment system, which allows users to withdraw, deposit and transfer cash through their mobile phones, started as a pilot project funded by DFID’s Financial Deepening Challenge Fund. Today, more than two thirds of Kenyans use the channel, and the innovation has changed the scope of financial inclusion programs globally.
India’s state of Chhattisgarh faced a daunting challenge in the mid-2000s. About half of its public food distribution was leaked, meaning that it never reached the intended beneficiaries. By 2012, however, Chhattisgarh had nearly eliminated leakages, doubled the coverage of the scheme, and reduced exclusion errors to low single digits.
We face global challenges on an unprecedented scale: climate change, natural disasters, poverty, water scarcity, food insecurity, global displacement, conflict and violence. These are not the kinds of challenges that will go away on their own—they feed off one another and flourish. The world is responding with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which lay out a road map to building a more inclusive, peaceful and prosperous world—a better world.