Announcing the LandAssess Tool: Demystifying Land Risks in Project Due Diligence | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

In recent years, numerous companies have made commitments to better recognize and respect land rights throughout their supply chains. Although making such commitments is a critical first step towards achieving more responsible investments, many companies still struggle with how to practically implement those commitments.

To address this gap, Landesa developed the LandAssess Tool, with funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and in partnership with Illovo Sugar Africa (“Illovo”). The LandAssess Tool is a risk assessment and management spreadsheet that helps companies conduct land rights due diligence and monitoring specifically for agricultural projects. Despite its focus on agricultural issues, the Tool can provide important guidance to other sectors as well.

Using a set of clear and simple checklists, the LandAssess Tool guides companies through a series of questions to measure whether they have carried out specific actions that demonstrate compliance with best practices for responsible land-based investment. For each question, users indicate the level of progress made, as well as assign the level of risk to help categorize areas of noncompliance that should be prioritized in the short, medium, and long-term.

Checklist topics include: corporate policy and capacity assessment; legal, administrative, and institutional review; impact assessments; consultation and engagement; contracting and agreements; grievances and feedback; encroachment; and land use change.

For categories where a company has made minimal or marginal progress or is designated medium or high risk, the LandAssess Tool will automatically generate a report where the company can detail work plans it can carry out to mitigate risk, including who within and outside the company will be responsible for executing specific activities.

To ensure the LandAssess Tool is applicable to different business models and scenarios, separate checklists and reports are available for estate landholdings and outgrower schemes. Checklists and reports can also be used to assess new and existing operations, including current landholdings or prospective land acquisitions, as well as existing or expanding supply chains. This broad scope helps to ensure that any agricultural investor or company – regardless of where it is in its journey to better recognize and respect land rights – can pick up and use the LandAssess Tool.

These key features of the LandAssess Tool – clear and simple checklists, auto-generated reports, applicability to different business models and scenarios – were created after piloting the LandAssess Tool throughout Illovo’s operations in Malawi, Mozambique, and Tanzania. Through these pilots, Landesa obtained critical feedback from company staff and local civil society organizations that helped to ensure the LandAssess Tool not only meets businesses’ needs for a practical, straightforward tool that allows companies to manage implementation of land rights commitments over time, but does so without sacrificing quality and thoroughness of the content.

Illovo staff in Tanzania is already using the LandAssess Tool to help manage its efforts to implement the company’s Group Guidelines on Land and Land Rights, and Illovo’s other countries of operation are being encouraged to similarly use the LandAssess Tool.

Illovo staff that have used the LandAssess Tool provided positive feedback regarding its utility and impact. For example, one staff member explained how the LandAssess Tool “helps you to understand your operations from a land rights point of view… and how to prioritize issues, so you earn a social license to operate in the community.”  Another staff member described how “engagement has been a key lesson [of the Tool]” and that the Tool has “creat[ed] a new way for [Illovo] to relate to stakeholders.”

To view and use the LandAssess Tool in English, Portuguese, and Kiswahili, visit Landesa’s website here. There, you will also find a User Guide and Recorded Training that explains the LandAssess Tool’s features in more detail, as well as how and why to use it.

The LandAssess Tool was created as part of Landesa’s Commitment to Practice (“C2P”) Project, with funding by DFID’s Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND) Program and in-kind contribution from Illovo.

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