Research on Vulnerable Populations and Land Rights

This research paper from USAID calls attention to the challenges faced by vulnerable populations with respect to land. The paper identifies five vulnerable groups who have weak claims on land rights and are particularly vulnerable to changes in land tenure systems and property rights reform:

  • Women
  • Households that have been directly affected by HIV/AIDS
  • Pastoralist communities
  • Indigenous populations
  • People who have been displaced during violent conflicts (refugees, IDPs, and demobilized combatants) or who are threatened to be displaced by natural disasters or climate change (climate refugees)

The issues faced by each of these groups differ. Women’s vulnerability, for example, is greater when a country has weak inheritance rights. Gender-biased policies – both customary and statutory – can also deny a woman’s independent claim on land and property. Indigenous populations, on the other hand, often face competing challenges over the rights to valuable natural resources contained within indigenous territories.

Identifying these vulnerable populations and carefully analyzing their unique issues is essential to the development of strategies to strengthen the position of these groups with respect to secure access to land and other natural resources. Because the vulnerability of these groups may be reduced by land tenure and property rights interventions, recognizing them and giving proper consideration to their circumstances and challenges during foreign assistance program design and implementation is critical.

Addressing the issues surrounding vulnerable populations with respect to land should also be an important consideration for policy makers seeking to improve the livelihoods of the poor and reduce their vulnerability to economic shocks.