Examples of key tenure distinctions between agricultural and plantation forestry land

While the Guidance provided here is applicable across all land-based sectors, special emphasis is given to land acquired for agribusiness and plantation forestry. Each of these sectors present special land and forest tenure considerations. Examples of such distinctions are presented below.

Product Special characteristics

Tenure rights to agricultural land can include seasonal use rights for specific plots or pasture coinciding with local weather patterns. Accommodating the rights of way held by other communities – for example nomadic groups – can be particularly important to reduce the risk of conflict over land access. Women’s rights to land exist but can often be obscured, despite their vital roles in performing agricultural work and providing food for their households and communities. In cases where land rights are formally registered, household plots are frequently only registered to the male head of household.

Acquiring land for agricultural production provides a company with an opportunity to support local economic development and food security. Rather than displace communities, companies can engage them and support smallholder agriculture. For example, enhancing smallholder productivity and the cold chain available to community and household producers can help a company meet its production goals while also supporting local producers to serve national and regional markets. Additionally, companies committed to acting in accordance with the spirit of the VGGT can engage national counterparts in processes to register the land rights of local communities and households before finalizing land lease agreements.

Thanks to the shorter rotation period of agricultural production compared to forestry projects, companies, communities and households can benefit from more frequent cash flow from harvesting and selling their products. This characteristic of agriculture can imply that companies are able design their projects with shorter lease periods than in forestry projects. Locking up agricultural land for very long time periods can have a detrimental impact on local communities’ future food security as the population grows, which could lead to future conflicts between the company and communities.

Plantation forestry Plantation forestry requires large expanses of land to produce such crops as timber, pulpwood, rubber, and palm oil. Where the land is suitable for agriculture, communities living nearby may have seasonal use rights to parts of the land for growing crops, gathering food, or for other purposes. Often plantation forestry is practiced in areas unsuitable for agriculture (e.g., steep hillsides), where neighboring communities might hunt or collect food. Moreover, communities living around plantation areas are frequently the most marginalized in the country. Due to the longer growing cycle of trees compared to agricultural crops, plantation forestry companies will look for long-term land leases. Locking the land up for decades could result in poor community relationships that can place the investment at risk. The length and security of the lease is a key determinate of the value of the timber stand. Companies will therefore have a strong interest in following FPIC norms and continual community engagement to ensure that the operations are not damaging the rights of the community or individuals. Where possible, plantation forestry companies should plan outgrower schemes that respect community and household tenure rights.