The Land Portal Foundation is collaborating with Both ENDS on a webinar series dedicated to inclusivity and bringing community and grassroots voices to the forefront. The second webinar of the Whose Land? - Inclusive Pathways to Land Governance series focused on the opportunities and constraints of civil society in advocating for more open land data and in harnessing its power for improved land governance. It was a rich and powerful discussion that brought together voices from Cameroon, Namibia, Colombia, and Paraguay.
The Land Portal’s open data expert, Charl-Thom Bayer, began the conversation by defining the conditions that make open data open.
Public data is not open data. Of course, it's a key part of open data, but just being public doesn't actually make it open. Open data needs to be digital data that is available with the technical and legal characteristics necessary for it to be freely used, reused, and redistributed by anyone, anytime. That means it must be open by default. It needs to be timely and comprehensive. It needs to be accessible, discoverable, and usable. Open data must be machine readable. - Charl-Thom Bayer
Juan Pane, the Director of Center for Sustainable Development in Paraguay who has been working with open data for 20 years, set the stage by reminding the participants that open data normally serves different purposes for different audiences. Grassroots communities are often associated with people with a lot of needs, with many rights being wronged. It can be hard for them to concentrate on more advanced rights when they need to procure food for the next day. “What we have normally seen in the past is that there are different stakeholders that help them in achieving more advanced rights, such as CSOs and NGOs."
At the end, we're all people that we want to live better, and open data is a tool, it's not an endpoint itself. It's like a hammer – you can use a hammer to build a house but you can also use the hammer to do a lot of damage. - Juan Pane
Hernando Castro, Indigenous leader from the Nipodimaki People from Caqueta in the Colombian Amazon, pointed out that indigenous peoples' land data is not equivalent to local communities. He suggested that care must be taken to differentiate indigenous peoples versus local communities as they are distinct sets of rights holders.
He also went on to state that good and effective tenure governance by indigenous peoples must have trustworthy and accurate information on traditional land occupation and property rights. Currently, official tenure and geographic information are often incorrect, sometimes because of colonial errors, making indigenous land data essential.
Christian Jitar Taku, Coordinator of COMAID in Cameroon, addressed constraints CSOs and local communities face in accessing land data. At the top of the list was the limited availability of land data to begin with: Most African countries have less than 30% land recordation. In Cameroon, less than 15 % of land recorded and documented. CSOs and communities have limited access to official land data because it is generated and managed by the government departments. In Cameroon, for example, despite the 2018 law which mandates that all concession contracts be made public for transparency and accountability purposes, CSOs and local communities cannot directly access large scale investment contracts.
He stated that corruption and fraud were other limiting factors.
The playground is not level and the consent of local and indigenous communities is hardly sought during large scale land deals because of individual interest from administrators. Data and information on such deals are concealed from CSOs and local communities. Most often, CSOs spend money engaging lawyers to obtain data and information on land which is supposed to be free. - Christian Jitar Taku
Menare Royal Mabakeng, Lecturer on land administration, architecture and spatial sciences at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, shared a case study from the Shack Dwellers Federation. In 2009, the Namibian chapter of Shack Dwellers Federation was one of the first countries to complete a nation wide informal settlement profiling by collecting data from over 235 informal settlements.
The data from the community was used to negotiate for land tenure security. In 2021 The Ministry of Agriculture Water and Land Reform piloted the Flexible Land Tenure System in Freedom Square, issuing landhold titles to over 900 households. This contributed to securing tenure and providing opportunities for housing development.
There is a mistaken impression that local communities do not have the capacity or willingness to deal with data and data issues. This project shows that communities have capacity and are not standing on the sidelines. They do have resources, they have agency, they have equity and can contribute. - Menare Royal Mabakeng
The rest of the dynamic webinar went on to discuss data as a way to support self-determination, the interplay of formal and informal data, and other issues. Watch the replay below or by clicking here.
There will be two more webinars as part of the Whose Land? series this year. Stay tuned for the dates.