Pioneering local mechanisms for resolving land conflicts
Land and forest tenure support project benefiting local communities in Mali

The National Coordinating Body of Peasant Organizations in Mali (CNOP) and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation pioneered innovative approaches and tools for resolving tenure conflicts and encouraging collaborative natural resource management. The project capitalized on the opportunity to address land conflict in Mali, in the aftermath of Mali’s armed conflict, and contributed to achieving the 2015 Accord for Peace and Reconciliation. CNOP and HELVETAS organized and trained 17 local land commissions, established Mali’s first inter-community forest, and facilitated a local multi-stakeholder dialogue on mining. The potential for scaling up is promising, and the project is generating knowledge that will inform the development of cornerstone laws for rural land rights in Mali.


For the full story of the fight to implement land and forest rights in Mali go to the Timeline.

Strengthened the capacity of 17 local land commissions to resolve conflict over land and resources in rural communities where courts are often too remote and expensive for villagers to access — in 22 months

“The Tenure Facility pilot in Mali is strengthening national reconciliation and peace. Commissions help to calm the country. The pilot started in accessible areas in southern Mali, with a level of security that allows for movement on the ground. Based on the experience gained in these areas, we plan to expand project activities in the more volatile and conflict-prone part of the country.” — Célestin Dembélé, HELVETAS Mali


To accelerate the implementation of innovative measures contained in the new land policy for decentralized and peaceful management of natural resources


  • Strengthen village and community land commissions’ operability
  • Demonstrate how collective rights can be recognized and implemented in a pilot intercommunal forest and through agreements between communities on social and environmental commitments
  • Host a strategic dialogue space on the implementation of the agricultural tenure policy and law


  • Build the capacity of new land management organizations
  • Support recognition of eight municipal-level commissions and nine village-level commissions
  • Develop a consensus-based management plan for a pilot intercommunal forest
  • Support negotiation of an agreement between a private mining company and a communal council
  • Establish and facilitate a national multi-stakeholder strategic orientation committee to support the implementation of the government’s Agricultural Land Policy


  • Established, organized and trained 17 local land commissions – eight at the municipal level and nine at the village level
  • Reduced by 35% land conflicts in participating villages and 25% in participating municipalities
  • Mapped, demarcated and geo-referenced Mali’s first intercommunal forest area covering 4,220 hectares and prepared for official recognition
  • Organized and facilitated Mali’s first local multiparty dialogue on mining
  • Established and facilitated a national multi-stakeholder strategic orientation committee to support the implementation of Mali’s Agricultural Land Policy and the National Assembly’s development and enactment of the country’s landmark 2017 Agrarian Reform law
  • Engaged the High Council of Local Collectivities (Haut Conseil des Collectivités), the Permanent Secretary of the High Council on Agriculture (Secrétariat Permanent du Conseil Supérieur de l’Agriculture), and other high-level government institutions to guide project activities, validate approaches and tools, and draft new legal instruments
“This pilot showed it was absolutely necessary to equip land tenure commissions so that communities and people will believe in them. The government is now convinced this is how things will be done.” — Boubacar Diarra, Project Coordinator


  • Addressed the urgent need to resolve longstanding conflict over land by pioneering, testing, and demonstrating scalable approaches and tools that rural municipalities and local communities can use to resolve conflicts among themselves and with government, investors, immigrants, and settlers
  • Set the stage for scaling the success of land commissions across the country by supporting and learning from the experiences of land commissions in the south, where conflict is more localized; the learning can be scaled to areas where conflict is more prevalent and widespread, particularly in the north
  • Built trusting and collaborative relationships between communities, government, civil society, and private sector that show the way forward in a post-conflict environment
“The intercommunal forest initiative is a very good thing, especially because it is located in Yorosso, at the gate of the desert. It is critical to manage it with local people. The same is true for the village land commissions, which can help local people manage their land conflicts and better understand the mechanisms of land management. That is why the land commissions are being spontaneously adopted by other villages. Some villages that did not work with the project heard about the experience of village land commissions and decided to organize their own to improve land management.”” — Bakary Diarra, Regional President of AOPP, Sikasso Region


From: 01 November 2015
To: 31 July 2017



National Coordinating Body of Peasant Organizations in Mali (CNOP) and HELVETAS Swiss Intercooperation


Grassroots communities and their organizations, including family farmers and other vulnerable groups such as youth, women, migrants, and herders

The national ministries and authorities on land governance

High Council of Communities



Mali’s new agricultural land law paves

way for scaling up the role of local land commissions

Three communities establish

a communal forest in Yorosso—at the gate of the desert

Lessons Learned

  • Engagement in the design and implementation of land reform projects builds the ownership and commitment of policy-makers and government representatives, as well as local communities.
  • Developing and facilitating a neutral space and time for stakeholders to deliberate and negotiate is essential to changing norms, rules, and power relations that shape land and resource and fuel conflict.
  • More horizontal relationships, combined with increased trust and broader participation, enables a more reflective discussion of current problems and potential in a community.
  • The use of less hierarchical communication results in a wider exchange of knowledge and experiences among project participants.