Guide to Land Access
WHY LAND ACCESS AND RESETTLEMENT MATTER:
Competition for land is always an issue for companies and communities. Compensation for damage and the displacement and resettlement of communities is a challenging experience for all concerned often leading to conflict over the right to land and its use. For community people, the very idea of losing their land creates strong emotions. Add in the complex business process of land acquisition and resettlement and the experience can be very traumatic. For your company the difference between doing it well and doing it badly will affect the success or failure of your business plan with inadequate attention to the impacts of land access and acquisition likely to lead to disaffected communities and civil society groups taking action. Communities might choose to do this by lobbying government and holding up permits and approvals or they may take direct action and stop construction and operations. On the other hand, if the acquisition and resettlement is well managed it can result in positive results for local people, creating benefits such as better quality housing and new livelihood opportunities.
WHAT TO DO:
HOW TO DO IT:
Understand the local context for land acquisition
Obtain information on:
- land tenure and ownership;
- land usage;
- any areas of conflict over land and resources;
- local land tenure dispute resolution procedures;
- impact of proposed project on availability of arable land to the community, linked to population and livelihoods;
- the unit to which compensation will be paid (household, family, individual, clan, community); and
- who the legitimate landowner representatives are.
Establish rules for accessing land for temporary use that are to be used by everyone on site
It may be that the in-country team has been doing a good job and has established good practices in which case your job will be as simple as updating and broadening to cover the range of increasingly invasive field-based activities that are part and parcel of project assessment - activities such as baseline environmental data collection; bulk sampling or field tests. On the other hand, you may be starting with a blank sheet in which case you need to establish rules around:
- Notification: Ensure that land owners are aware of what you plan to do and give you permission to enter onto their land before you start work;
- Compensation: It is crucial that everyone understands compensation payment procedures; how payments are calculated; who the recipients are; why these recipients were chosen; and where and when payments are made. The compensation process must be transparent to all affected parties, but the value of specific payments to individuals and households can remain confidential (if this is what they want).
- Communication: Ensure that you communicate to the broader community what you are going to be doing in the area before you start work. Sampling activities, baseline measurement programs, household surveys are all open to interpretation and you need to avoid uninformed rumors from becoming the “truth”.
Build a plan for permanent land acquisition
- Link all land acquisition and resettlement activities to the project schedule and ensure adequate resources are provided. Surveys; agreement making; payments and moving all take time and have the potential to become critical path activities that hold up construction activities.
WHAT ELSE YOU CAN DO:
Six common mistakes: Many companies fall into the trap of making assumptions that are contrary to accepted international standards governing resettlement, and could leave the company open to human rights related claims and other costs. Common assumptions include:
- If land is state land, or has been cleared of people by the government prior to handover to the company, the company has no resettlement obligations;
- Only people with legally recognized rights to land need to be compensated;
- Cash compensation is usually adequate to cover resettlement impacts;
- If problems occur, additional compensation payments will usually resolve them;
- Disclosure of information about how land and assets will be valued will lead to escalating demands from affected people;
- Provided the company complies with national laws, it has met international standards.
Clarity: It is crucial that everyone understands compensation payment procedures; how payments are calculated; who the recipients are; why these recipients were chosen; and where and when payments are made. The compensation process must be transparent to all affected parties, but the amount of specific payments will often be confidential. The procedures must include meticulous record-keeping. In the case of land compensation, it is important to record the following and where possible have the data linked into a GIS system:
- name and address of landowner;
- purpose and nature of land acquisition (temporary /permanent);
- nature of land (cultivated/cash crops; subsistence gardens; forest; orchard; barren; government; waste land; river; streams; seasonal pond; grazing land; improved non-agricultural land);
- type, age and condition of current crop;
- type and condition of houses and other buildings and their contents;
- photos taken prior to access and after access;
- consent of the landowner (granted willingly / after some negotiation / needed community leader’s intervention, background notes on negotiation);
- compensation paid;
- proof of payment (signatures of the landowner, the witness and the government representative responsible for land administration); photo of landowner receiving payment; and copy of payment receipt to landowner); and
- landowner satisfaction with the process.
Resettlement: If your initial review identifies that it is likely that people will be economically and / or physically displaced then start the process of developing a Resettlement Action Plan sooner rather than later. Minimising the impacts of land acquisition for project infrastructure matters because landlessness tops the list of impoverishment risks associated with involuntary resettlement, with food insecurity coming in a number five.
Early Access Control: To protect from speculative land acquisition, you could choose to secure all required land up-front, even if the land acquisition could be scheduled over several years. During the intervening period, you could choose to allow ongoing use of the land through the development of annual land-use agreements. The long-term benefits are likely to outweigh the short-term costs.
Establishing Buffer Zones: You might consider including buffer zones in the design footprint, providing some clear space between the project and local populations. These buffer zones could take the form of exclusion zones into which entry is forbidden or as zones with designated (and restricted) occupation and land use rights. Use of buffer zones may prevent the development of settlements too close to the edge of the project.