On 7 and 8 November 2013 LANDac organized the first LANDforum meeting: a group of policy makers, practitioners, private sector representatives and researchers gathered at Utrecht University and discussed new ways to optimize the links between land-related investments, food security and inclusive sustainable development. This meeting in Utrecht was a first step towards the establishment of a multi-stakeholder network and think-tank that met again in 2014 and 2015.
The LANDforum is organized by the Netherlands Academy on Land Governance (LANDac). LANDac is a network of Dutch organizations and their Southern partners working on issues regarding land and development. LANDac was established in 2010 and has been involved in a wide range of activities where researchers, policy makers and practitioners in the area of land governance are brought together. In 2010, LANDac started a number of PhD trajectories and a series of short-term research projects. Building upon this research, LANDac has developed and consolidated a platform function. The LANDforum emerged from this dialogue, stressing the open and flexible character of the consortium.
The LANDforum provides a platform to learn from each other’s experiences: it sets out to facilitate the exchange of information between countries and between different sectors in a systematic way and for a longer period of time. The forum will be conducted for three years in a row and will also be represented at the annual World Bank Land & Poverty Conference. It guarantees continuity of exchanges by means of its series of three meetings between 2013 and 2015 and by linking to the World Bank Land & Poverty Conference. Therefore, the LANDforum aims to contribute to building bridges: linking people between countries and between sectors that are often not connected to each other and work separately. Representatives of various groups such as the private sector, policy makers, development practitioners and researchers are brought together on a longer-term basis. This offers opportunities for cross-fertilization as well as for developing a community of practice. The starting point is a comparative approach: several developing countries that have recently been targeted by European and other investors in land–related projects are compared in the deliberations, as are the roles of different types of actors. In addition to ‘north-south’ investment relationships, attention is also given to increasing ‘south-south’ investments.
Participants of the first LANDforum hailed from Brazil, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Mozambique, Uganda and the Netherlands and all have a professional interest in investments in land and agriculture in their work at universities, knowledge centers, civil society organizations, farmer’s organizations, governments, donor organizations, farms, enterprises and investment funds. The central aim of the first meeting was to explore the current situation in each of the selected countries, to set the agenda, and to identify the topics for research and debate. Participants discussed the current situation in the different countries within country groups: what can others learn from the experiences in your country and what do you see as the main challenge for realizing and optimizing the impact in terms of sustainable and equitable development? On the second day, experiences were exchanged between the different countries in four sector-based working groups: business, civil society, public sector and research. They also discussed their potential roles in fostering positive outcomes. At the end of the second day, the country teams presented priority themes and proposed possibilities for follow-up activities in the countries.
The discussions focused on identifying examples of positive land investments, i.e. cases of positive business results that also yield clear benefits for local people; ways in which others can learn from the experiences of different countries; and the main challenges for optimizing the development impact of investments in land and agriculture. The discussions set the agenda for the LANDforum meetings in the coming years. Although it is too soon for conclusions, the open atmosphere and frank exchanges of this first LANDforum gathering looks promising for future discussions on new and innovative approaches. The country teams have been asked to think of follow-up activities based on the two-day discussions and in preparation for further sessions. And the LANDforum secretariat, in collaboration with members, prepared a proposal for a round table discussion around a priority theme identified: experiences with benefit sharing arrangements in the different LANDforum countries, to be organized for the Land & Poverty Conference at the World Bank in March 2014. The outcomes of this round table will provide a starting point for the next LANDforum meeting in 2014.
International Development Studies – Utrecht University (leading partner), African Studies Centre – Leiden University, Agriterra, Disaster Studies – Wageningen University & Research, HIVOS, Royal Tropical Institute, Triodos Facet, and the Sustainable Economic Development department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs