In November 2020 the Tenure Facility hosted its seventh Learning Exchange, the first to be held entirely online. Co-hosted by the Swedish International Agricultural Initiative (SIANI), the event assembled more than 150 project partners, experts, donors, and government representatives from 20 countries. Overcoming challenges posed by the pandemic, it proved what could be achieved through the creative and adaptive thinking which lies at the heart of the Tenure Facility’s approach.
Offering simultaneous translations and moderated by Fred Pearce, renowned author and journalist specialised in global environmental issues, the online Learning Exchange 2020 interspersed presentations, personal accounts, films, lessons learned, reflections and summaries from thirteen countries, experts, and donors. Discussion revolved around community resilience and collaboration during COVID-19; the challenges of negotiating land tenure during a pandemic; the critical role of land rights in protecting biodiversity and mitigating climate change; building partnerships with Indigenous Peoples; and how to address the gender imbalance in land rights.
Stories of Resilience – a series of 13 films illustrating how each Tenure Facility partner has responded to the pandemic trials of 2020 – were premiered during the Learning Exchange. They are available to watch on the Tenure Facility’s Vimeo and YouTube channels. A fourth day specifically provided training for partners in Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning (MEL) and the use of the new MEL Guide. Participants interacted with the Tenure Facility’s MEL team, and provided and invaluable opportunity to deepen understanding on how to capture the results of projects and measure their impacts.
The Learning Exchange was rich in lessons learnt, some of which are summarised below:
• Community resilience is vital: the pandemic has highlighted the importance of building and strengthening community resilience to manage the impacts of crises. This includes giving communities control over critical assets, including secured land rights, as well as robust traditional governance systems, healthy traditional food systems and bold partnerships both with governments but also relevant local and international actors
• Seizing the opportunity of returning youth: many communities saw an unprecedented return of populations from urban areas, especially young people. While increased demand stretched community resources, there is also an opportunity to revitalise traditional knowledge systems by engaging younger generations, whilst also allowing communities to benefits from the expertise and experience of returnees.
• Forging partnerships is critical to resilience and results: to avoid losing fragile tenure security gains and being caught in the middle of wider conflicts, local leaders need to engage with local authorities, as well as local media. Access to justice often remains complex and costly for communities. Small investments in IT solutions can ensure community leaders have appropriate access to accurate data etc, to enhance their ability to protect and expand secure tenure.
• More climate funding to Indigenous and local organisations is part of the solution: research is demonstrating ever more that Indigenous Peoples and local communities are a key part of the solution to tackle climate change. Indigenous lands are radically better protected from deforestation and biodiversity loss. A paradigm shift is needed, with more funding being channelled directly to organisations representing these communities
• Women securing collective land rights increases their voices within land governance: the pandemic has highlighted the vital role women play within their communities, from food distribution, water collection and even PPE production. At the same time, they face many economic and social pressures, including spiking domestic violence. Securing their collective land rights is a crucial part of their legal advancement, and economic development, as well as that of the wider community.