Scaling bottom-up or community-based initiatives towards fair and inclusive land governance | Land Portal

This panel session reflected on the definition of ‘scaling-up’ with experts from the field bridging experiences from the ground to the theoretical concept of scaling. The focus lied on scaling for increased tenure security – geographically and/or institutionally. Reflections were given on what was scaled, why, how scaling unfolds and what has been learned – in the field of land governance. The session was organized by LAND-at-scale. Scaling is at the heart of both the name as well as the strategy of the LAND-at-scale program (LAS). LAS is a land governance support program funded by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands and managed by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency (RVO).

Every LAND-at-scale intervention at country-level is aimed at achieving sustainable and structural change. Therefore, any LAS-funded intervention should include at least two or more of the elements of the overall LAND-at-scale scaling definition:

“LAND-at-scale aims to increase the application of the particular strategy. Scaling should lead to sustainable and structural change in which the impact remains, or (preferably) increases, after the project end date without any additional (financial or operational) support. This is only possible when sufficient attention is paid to the enabling environment, meaning that legal, environmental and socio-economic factors need to be considered. It is important to add value to and align with ongoing processes rather than attempting to achieve impact in isolation. Similarly, buy-in, engagement and co-investment from relevant stakeholders are vital for success. Scaling strategies should therefore be inclusive and include multi-stakeholder approaches. Finally, it is important to follow and adhere to global standards and best practices with regards to (corporate) social responsibility.”


Key Takeaways

  • Not all pilots are scalable – the time and efforts it takes to make them work cannot be invested everywhere. It is often also important who does the project, personalities matter.
  • There are different perspectives on scaling, what scaling is. There was disagreement among the panelist of the use of the word scaling. The difference seems to lie in whether we speak about scaling interventions, or scaling impact and outcomes.
  • Scaling is highly context specific and unfolds in many different ways, there are many characteristics to it, which together seem to provide a package-deal. But measuring the interdependent elements – or momentum – is difficult to grasp. 
  • There are good pilots and rough pilots. A good pilot project comes with detailed analyses. Researchers should work at two different levels – thorough analysis of pilot projects, but sometimes we also have to accept that rough is good enough.
  • A risk is going too fast in response to a question about the difficulties of emphasizing women’s land rights in a context where even male community members do not have access to land and are completely disempowered.
  • We have to prepare for big changes in land governance. Urbanization is increasing rapidly, and while land for food production is still needed, many farmers struggle to make ends meet. The landlord-tenant system is likely to expand with wealthy urbanites investing in rural areas. That may imply that we move beyond focusing on tenure security and include many other social issues.
  • Some simplifications are inevitable in scaling.  Risks should be very well accounted for.
  • There are many myths about what the impacts of increased tenure security are in terms of economic output etc. We should also be aware that many impacts will only materialize in the long term.
  • There is a problem with scaling for vulnerable groups – women, youth, migrants. Most projects still focus on property and titling. Vulnerable groups may benefit from family rights, but will hardly ever get the title
  • Discussion whether mobilization for change in Chad can be labelled as scaling land governance, or does the mobilization address underlying obstacles that need to be addressed before scaling of responsible land governance can take place?


Presentation 1

Professor Marja Spierenburg - Towards responsible scaling in land governance interventions

Approaches to and ideas about scaling have changed over time. While in some policy contexts there is still a strong belief in technological development as the single most important driver of change – especially in a context of rapidly evolving AI techniques – there is a growing recognition that change and interventions to bring about change are context dependent. At the same time, the magnitude of societal problems, such as poverty and inequality, foster a desire to move from a multitude of small-scale initiatives that seem to work to promoting large-scale improvements. A review of the literature on scaling, drawing also on lessons learnt in the studies of sustainability and food systems transitions, however, cautions us against viewing scaling as automatically desirable and possible.

Responsible scaling calls for a reflexive approach, including posing ethical questions about scaling. What is the purpose, what visions of the future are at stake, whose visions, and who ultimately benefits? Such questions are also imperative in designing impact or outcome scaling. This approach to scaling starts at the local level, with a collaborative exploration of the problem at hand, the way the context impacts the problem, to develop a diversity of response options to address the problem. It is the start of an iterative process in which locally-based interventions are evaluated, as well as the changes occurring when interventions are scaled – when scaling is deemed possible. This approach directs our attention to the possible unintended/negative impacts of scaling, and emphasizes the need to establish interlinked, but also inclusive networks of stakeholders and partnerships to coordinate scaling.


Presentation 2

Dr. Ingeborg Gaarde - Scaling up Partnerships for an Inclusive Land Reform Process in Chad

Reflected on how leveraging of synergies between international and national partners working on land tenure have contributed to trigger an inclusive land reform process in Chad. She presented how deliberate steps to intersect complementary actions of different actors fostered an enabling environment for land reform, especially the review of the draft land code and the preparation of the National Land policy inspired by the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT). It was shown how these dynamics contributed to institutional changes within the country, for instance through the revitalization of a multi-stakeholder committee, composed by both state and non-state actors, that today is in the driver’s seat of leading the participatory land reform process.


Presentation 3

Pinaki Halder - Online land recordation services for rural women in India.

Online land recordation services are offered by the government through a web portal created for this purpose which people are unable to access due to inadequate computer and land literacy. The umbrella of women self-help group federation under government, covers seven million rural women for enhancing their capacity on entrepreneurship as well as entitlements. Landesa coordinates with this federation to promote land literacy among women. The vibrant cluster federations of women groups, called Sangha - are present across 3300 village panchayats in the state and equipped to provide land records updation services through trained women service providers at a cost.

Landesa facilitated establishing five Sangha-level land service centres operated by trained women during a pilot phase in 2020 and subsequently 106 Sangha centres are set up till December 2022 which has increased economic and social opportunity with tenure security across rural West Bengal.

This technology-driven community-based scalable approach to update land records online at village setting and thereby improve land governance system in rural areas is potentially sustainable and scalable across the country.


Presentation 4

Elizabeth Daley - Scaling-up community-based land governance initiatives, driven by community demands

The WOLTS project has developed an innovative approach to strengthening land governance in several pilot communities in Mongolia and Tanzania since 2016. The approach was iteratively designed to build local people’s ownership and capacity to determine what land and tenure security issues need to be addressed, to have confidence to address them, and to share lessons beyond their community.

A programme of nurturing cohorts of ‘gender and land champions’, men and women, spear-headed the development of critical mass for change in social norms. A focus on gender rather than solely on women, and the practice of including men and fostering support from community leaders, has allowed attitudes about land rights and governance to evolve in an unthreatening way.

Outcomes in two communities where ‘mentors’ supported training of new champions have been most pronounced. Champions have become leaders in addressing a range of gender- and land-related problems in their communities. A peaceful demonstration by herders in Mongolia gained national political attention; in Tanzania, champions are working locally to address inheritance rights for widows and land rights for childless women. Champions have become proactive, independently of the project, which is promising for long-term sustainability.

The WOLTS approach has built within it the mechanism to scale-up while maintaining context-sensitivity, through gradually rolling-out the champions’ training programme into neighbouring communities and beyond, led by mentors among each new community’s champions. The key enabling/hindering condition is the availability of long-term funding to support implementation, which depends on donor priorities and desires for rapid quantifiable results.

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