LEGEND Challenge Fund Overview | Land Portal | Securing Land Rights Through Open Data

Expected results

The Challenge Fund aims to identify and support projects to strengthen land governance which will ultimately contribute to: inclusive growth; increased incomes for the poor, especially women; reduced environmental damage; and reduced conflict potential.

More directly, the aim is to identify and support projects interested in testing innovative approaches to ensure that agricultural investors act responsibly and assist in developing partnerships with rural communities, so as to contribute toward the outcome of: 

Securing and protecting land/property rights for poor women, men, communities and responsible businesses, and improving responsible private sector investment in agricultural land in Africa.

To promote this outcome, projects are expected to:

  • Demonstrate how the VGGT can be applied to concrete investments: particularly in relation to respecting, and protecting the land tenure rights of poor women and men and improving responsible investment practices;
  • Build innovative partnerships: particularly between civil society and the private sector, to promote better understanding, innovative thinking and collaboration;
  • Promote understanding: amongst stakeholders of approaches to protect land rights for poor people, including for women and girls,  and enable agricultural investments to deliver shared value for local communities and businesses at scale;  
  • Capture learning: to ensure that whether an innovative approach works or not, the reasons are understood, documented and disseminated widely, to contribute to better understanding of what works.


Grantees are national or international non-profit organisations who have established formal partnerships with private sector businesses investing in the one of the Challenge Fund’s target countries. The grantees are the non-profit organisation. In addition, grantees may partner with government, research or development organisations, as relevant to the specific context.

The fund has currently selected the seven grantee organisations provided below, alongside their partners and a brief description of their projects:

Bonsucro and TMP Systems (Ethiopia, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia)

The partnership will apply an innovative approach to due diligence and data collection in the critical sugar supply chain, which will improve business practice and transparency on land rights. The project aims to improve livelihoods for 50,000 people across four countries directly.

Landesa and Illovo Sugar Ltd (Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania)

The project will pilot an approach that aligns Illovo’s Land Guidelines, along with its Road Map on Land Rights, with the principles embodied in the VGGT and approaches to responsible agricultural investments in land set out in the Analytical Framework for Land-Based Investments in African Agriculture. This will be done on Illovo sugarcane investments in three countries. Lessons from this pilot will be used to ensure more socially responsible land investments - better protecting land rights and increasing income for communities affected by Illovo investments.

MICAIA Foundation and Baobab Products Mozambique Ltd (Mozambique)

The project will support 24,000 women in Northern Mozambique to secure access to forest land and to generate income from forestry. The value chain in focus will be that of the famous Baobab tree which is often handled as a hidden “gold mine” for health and nutrition-sensitive agricultural production and business operations.

ORAM and Portucel (Mozambique)

This project will use an integrated approach to securing community, family and individual land rights by partnering with Portucel, a major forestry investor. The pilot includes: the creation of 20 representative entities at community level; development of detailed community land use plans; certified tenure over land resources for 14,000 households, and the creation of a legitimate local land administration system.

Solidaridad and Natural Habitats Sierra Leone Ltd (Sierra Leone)

The project will apply the VGGTs to a Natural Habitats SL palm oil operation in Sierra Leone. This seeks to directly increase the annual income of over 3,000 smallholder farmers. Learning from this pilot will be used to promote industry-wide adoption of these guidelines.

Welthungerhilfe and Balmed (Sierra Leone)

The project will assist Balmed, a cocoa producer, in developing an equitable and sustainable income sharing arrangement between Balmed, land owner and workers. This project supports 900 smallholder farmers in acquiring and securing new tenure rights for themselves and their families.

Veterinaires Sans Frontieres Belgium and Dorobo Safaris (Tanzania)

This project will work with local communities to build the capacity of local land management institutions and encourage local people’s engagement in land and tourism planning.  It aims to secure community land for farmers and hunter-gatherers with legitimate tenure rights and for tourism use.

Window structure

The Fund has two concurrent “windows” through which applicants applied for grants:

Window 1: Responsible Land-Based Agricultural Investments

The purpose of this window is to test the New Alliance’s Due Diligence tool (the Analytical Framework for Due Diligence in Responsible Land-Based Agricultural Investments). The geographic focus of this window is on the four target countries that are participating in the New Alliance: Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria and Tanzania.
Projects are expected to reflect the approach specified in the New Alliance DD tool which identifies a number of issues to be considered in the due diligence process. See: https://www.growafrica.com/sites/default/files/Analytical-framework-for-... .

In addition, projects include complementary activities to be implemented alongside the New Alliance DD. These activities help to make the due diligence process effective and enable responsible and inclusive agricultural investments.

Window 2: Open Innovation

The Open Innovation Window is for testing innovative approaches to responsible land-based investments consistent with the principles of the VGGT. These ideas aim to generate shared value for local people/local economies and business. This involves investments in agriculture as well as investments for forestry, natural products, and tourism, including private investments that contribute to stronger land governance or more secure land rights.  The window includes projects in 6 African countries: Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Sierra Leone and Zambia.

Types of projects

The LEGEND Challenge Fund is designed to be flexible to accommodate a range of possible projects. The following broad examples illustrate the types of projects: 

Approaches to mapping and documenting ownership and use rights over land and associated natural resources, recording land rights and resolving land related disputes;

Inclusive consultation processes with communities, producers and other stakeholders affected by the investment (which may be beyond what is required under the country’s laws);

Activities that focus on protecting or improving the land rights and the economic opportunities of women and girls in relation to private business investments; and

Contractual arrangements between investors and local communities, such as to promote equitable benefit sharing and protect community’s access and use rights to natural resources. 


By the nature of the New Alliance due diligence tool to be piloted under Window 1, these projects are more comprehensive and cover full application of the tool, so as to avoid a selective approach to applying the agreed minimum standards enshrined in the VGGT.

Key concepts

Two defining features of the LEGEND Challenge Fund are the emphasis on responsible land related investments and on innovative approaches.

Responsible Land Investment

There have been some well publicised cases of land investments where the rights of local communities in developing countries have not been respected or protected, or where established good practice processes were not followed, and as the result local people were left worse off. Given this background it is worth emphasising that that the approach of the Challenge Fund to land governance and responsible business investment in land is, as stated above, driven by the VGGT. See: http://www.fao.org/nr/tenure/voluntary-guidelines/en/
In particular we highlight here the relevant sections discussing responsible investment, in particular VGGT Chapter 12.4:

‘Responsible investments should do no harm, safeguard against dispossession of legitimate tenure right holders and environmental damage, and should respect human rights. Such investments should be made working in partnership with relevant levels of government and local holders of tenure rights to land, fisheries and forests, respecting their legitimate tenure rights. They should strive to further contribute to policy objectives, such as poverty eradication; food security and sustainable use of land, fisheries and forests; support local communities; contribute to rural development; promote and secure local food production systems; enhance social and economic sustainable development; create employment; diversify livelihoods; provide benefits to the country and its people, including the poor and most vulnerable; and comply with national laws and international core labour standards as well as, when applicable, obligations related to standards of the International Labour Organization.’


Encouraging innovation is one of the rationales for using a Challenge Fund mechanism. Within Challenge Funds, innovation is often interpreted as meaning a new tool or method. But often an existing tool or approach may be appropriate, though to be most effective it may require adaptation to a specific context where it has not been tried before, or for specific issues or for certain types of project, new untested partnerships towards a common goal, etc. The emphasis in the LEGEND Challenge Fund is on innovative thinking and approaches to a well-known challenge with multiple facts and expressions. It may also mean taking an adaptive approach in implementation. One of the assumptions of the LEGEND Challenge Fund is that new partnerships between organisations can help trigger innovative approaches.

Share this page