ZERO REGIONAL ENVIRONMENT ORGANISATION is one of the 54 members in the International Land Coalition. The International Land Coalition (ILC) is a coalition of civil society and intergovernmental organizations promoting secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men through advocacy, dialogue and capacity building.

Background of ILC

In November 1995 over 1,000 representatives of civil society organizations, governments, the Bretton Woods’s institutions, United Nations agencies and EU institutions came together in Brussels for the Conference on Hunger and Poverty. The conference recognized the importance of equity in access to land for rural development and resolved to create an alliance of civil society and intergovernmental agencies: the Popular Coalition to Eradicate Hunger and Poverty:

“The rural poor must be given access to land and water resources, they must be permitted to participate in the design, implementation and evaluation of rural development programmes…. Growth is necessary but not sufficient; it must be buttressed by equity and, above all, by people’s participation.”

These goals will require: “…policy changes, community capacity building and direct support to innovative actions”; and “…the revival of agrarian reform on the national and international agenda as a necessary condition for empowerment and sustainable development for the poor.1

In 2003 the organization was transformed into the International Land Coalition (ILC) as part of strategic focus on land access issues from the earlier wider mandate. The name reflects our identity (an international organization), our focus (land, which by definition includes natural resources) and our nature (a coalition of organizations).

In 1995 land issues had fallen from the development agenda. ILC responded by promoting the need to put land back on the agenda. It did so by working with its civil society and intergovernmental members to advocate for secure access to land. Today land is not only back on the agenda, it is confirmed to be linked to many development goals, from food security, to conflict prevention, to peace and security, to combating desertification and environmental degradation.

The ILC’s vision for the next four years is captured in the new Strategic Framework for 2007-2011, which sets out how it will contribute to worldwide commitments to reduce poverty by helping poor people improve their secure access to natural resources, especially land. It builds on the lessons learned from working with its diverse membership and partners in over 40 countries; the experience from the previous strategic framework; the findings of the 2006 external evaluation; and the changing nature and rising challenges of land issues for the resource-poor. As the 2006 external evaluation concluded2:

There is now more than ever a “need for effective mechanisms that encourage and foster dialogue about land issues.  Dialogue is particularly needed given the fact that land issues tend to be not only technical questions, but issues with highly sensitive political and social implications. This presents a very positive context for an organization like ILC, whose mission and objectives seem to be even more relevant today than they were a decade ago.

Vision and mission

Ensuring that natural resources, especially land, are accessed and used equitably and managed sustainably is key to enabling poor women and men to exercise their fundamental economic, social, political and cultural rights; especially the rights of everyone to be free from hunger and poverty, and for their dignity and identity to be respected. Development with equity and dignity is essential for building a peaceful world.


 Secure and equitable access to and control over land reduces poverty and contributes to identity, dignity and inclusion.


The International Land Coalition is a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organizations working together to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land for poor women and men through advocacy, dialogue and capacity building.


The goal of the ILC is to enhance the capacities of its members and partners as well as their opportunities, at all levels, for pro-poor policy dialogue and influence to promote secure and equitable access to and control over land and other natural resources that are vital to the livelihoods of poor women and men.

Core values and principles

A rights-based, people-centred approach

ILC aims to ensure that poor and marginalized women and men can exercise their rights. ILC situates land issues in a socio-political framework characterized by asymmetries in power. ILC recognizes land as being more than an economic asset; it contributes to identity, dignity and social inclusion. As part of this rights-based and people-centred approach, ILC promotes gender equality.

Recognizing flexible and plural tenure systems

Land access in rural areas is commonly derived from multiple tenure arrangements in order to accommodate the needs and shared use of the land by different users. These arrangements are flexible and allow for the operation of pluralistic tenure systems. Where individual titling displaces common user practices and realities, the poorest land users may be further disadvantaged, both socially and economically. Security of access to land should be granted in ways that allow overlapping, flexible and plural tenure systems to operate.

Subsidiary and responsiveness

ILC will adopt the principle of subsidiary, ensuring that decisions are taken as closely as possible to the level where impact is felt. This requires willingness by members to engage actively in the decision-making process and to take on responsibilities where they can. It also requires responsiveness on the part of all members and the Secretariat to ensure that actions at the community level are supported by appropriate, coherent and supportive actions at regional, national and global levels.

Mutual learning and accountability

The principle of mutual learning and accountability is key throughout. ILC actions must bring added value over and above what could be achieved by an individual member organization alone. A key factor towards achieving this is the active exchange of experiences and lessons among ILC members to ensure that valuable knowledge is shared for possible replication or scaling up.

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Strengthening of management structures of rural communities in southern Africa in relation to land and natural resources project evolved out of a methodology workshop convened by ORAM-Mozambique from 16-18 August 1999. In this workshop it was observed that rural communities are not empowered to address land and natural resource management problems besetting them. It was also observed that there are some common solutions to the varied problems that rural communities face in our region, these include:

  •  Provision of information on the general land reform programmes
  • Strengthening the abilities of communities to manage their local environments including land and natural resources
  • Strengthening advocating capacities of rural communities

Partners in this project are the Community Internship Development Centre (CIDC) based in South Africa, ORAM from Mozambique, RIIC from Botswana, and the Zimbabwe Women's Bureau from Zimbabwe. 

The year 2000 marks the first year of project implementation and already some exciting work with the rural communities has yielded positive results. Much work revolved around mobilising communities, simplifying land policies, disseminating the information and training communities on local level management systems. Through the PRA exercise with communities the following are the emergent issues.

Although the policy in South Africa allows for restitution of land rights to affected communities, the implementation mechanism has been ill defined resulting in lengthy and cumbersome procedures. In this regard the project focused on transferring land from the state to the residents of Platt Estate. Platt Estate is made up of five wards, which have their own development committees. These wards are Ematendeni, Thaphashiya, Ebholeni, Mnyanyabuzi and Emkhunya. 

Participatory Appraisal exercises for Platt Estate began in March 2000. The first PRA focused on the problems being encountered in the transfer of land from the Department of Land Affairs to the residents of Platt Estate. The Department of Land Affairs (DLA) in South Africa is responsible for transferring land to communities. The meeting agreed that there was need to reformulate the Community Development Committee, as it was not representative of the five wards. It was also agreed that youth and women should be included on this committee. Discussions were also held on the procedures to be followed when transferring land from Government to the community. 

The Government had pledged about R16 000 per household towards the provision of infrastructure and the surveying of sites. The community had also made arrangements for contribution towards provision of water and electricity and were uncertain whether or not the government would still provide the R16 000. The community also requested for training in building up their capacities to manage their environment, as the state would no longer play this role once the land was transferred. Training needs identification conducted by the CIDC then prioritised training in communal gardens, farming skills and the use and management of natural resources.

The PRAs in Mozambique identified the issue of conflicts as critical. It was observed that despite the law allowing communities the right of occupation even without formal title, communities have been disadvantaged through claims to land by former titleholders as well as through government practices of granting concessions on land belonging to communities. The communities often found themselves in a very weak position in the event of a conflict. It was agreed that the project should enable communities to understand the causes of conflict and how to address them by building community conflict management committees. This process was recently started and will be completed in 2001.

Regarding Botswana, the following three activities were deemed critical in the strengthening of community management of land and natural resources:

  • Information packaging,
  • Baseline studies, and
  •  Information dissemination and dialogue with communities.

Much of the work in the year under review centered on collecting and packaging information related to policies and legislation governing land reform, natural resource conservation and utilization. A comprehensive report containing this information has been compiled and plans are underway to translate it into Setswana, the local language.

Analysis of the collected information provided the following specific issues that need to be looked at through dialogue with communities:

  • Community involvement in district land use plans formulation.
  • Mismanagement of grazing lands in communal areas.
  • Are action plans in place for Village development strategies?
  • Are there any land related conflicts and how are these being resolved at community level?
  • Are Land Boards serving the needs of communities? If not what is the problem?
  • How can communities organise themselves to obtain maximum benefits?

In Zimbabwe, the project focuses on strengthening community natural resource management systems in resettlement areas, as these are the areas with the weakest community management regimes. Participatory rural appraisals and questionnaire surveys were conducted in two resettlement areas, Masasa in Marondera District and Nyangoma in Karoi District. Subsequent to these, an analysis of the gaps and constraints to natural resource management was done. The failure by the communities to sustain development initiatives was singled out as the most critical constraint. Future work on the project will therefore explore ways of ensuring this sustainability through the establishment of community trusts


Regional Land reform strategies seem not to have benefited local communities says the 1998 ZERO and IUCN study of five countries in SADC (Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe), yet local communities have considerable knowledge and capacities to manage their resources. The year 2000 marked the end of the first phase of a project designed to understand and document community perceptions and natural resource management systems. Having begun in 1999 with community level assessments and dialogue using PRA, much work centered on analysing and packaging the results of the assessments as well as publishing the results thereof.

The following is a synopsis of the outcomes and lessons that emerged from community assessments and consultations in Zimbabwe.
Given that the President holds communal land in trust for the people. Communal farmers only have use rights (usufruct). Communal farmers are unable to transfer the "ownership" of that land to another person or community. This system of land tenure is in direct conflict with that of ownership where an individual has exclusive, inalienable rights to exchange land for cash. Each system tends to have its own merits and demerits.Customary practices of land occupancy and use tend to be inclusive rather than exclusive. No one who needs land is supposed to go landless. However this practice  works only when there is adequate land. Where there is land shortage, as is the case in the study areas, those who have de facto control over cultivatable land become less willing to make it available to others. The same can be said about private ownership. As demand for land increases, those without land put more pressure on those who own land. The result is usually physical confrontation.

  •  Conflict exists between the traditional leadership system and the decentralised local government system. Under the present set-up, the traditional leadership is subservient to the administrative interests of Rural District Councils. The Communal Lands Act (1982) and the Rural District Councils Act (1988) empower District Councils to administer communal areas. As a result of these legal provisions, administrative decisions are made in a top-down manner. Chiefs preside over their people and their environment. The Chiefs sometimes extend their functions to land allocation in contravention of the Rural District Councils Act. The present customary land tenure is sometimes viewed as collusion between colonial officials and Chiefs. Colonial officials appropriated "traditions" in order to lend an aura of legitimacy over the control of Chiefs and patronage of land. (Colson, 1971; Ranger, 1983)
  •  The ability of village communities to manage their interactions with their social, political, economic and physical environment has been disrupted by centralised, usually sectoral, decision-making structures. These new structures or orientations tend to replace the traditional focus of attention, which places emphasis on the long-term view of the total people environment system. What is also challenged and even compromised is the village people's ability to apply their well-tested indigenous knowledge to farming methods. The knowledge imposition process is often supported and encouraged by state apparatus in the name of technology or improved ways of living. However, changes in resource utilisation and management ought to be in harmony with the total socio-economic circumstances of the beneficiaries.
  •  Village people rarely depend on one activity for their livelihoods. However, most of their activities draw upon primary natural resources. It is unlikely that this will change in the foreseeable future. There is therefore a need for alternative and supplementary livelihood systems in order to reduce pressure on land-based resources. However, diversification control efforts so far used have had a narrow focus on land and natural resources management. The problem is multi-faceted and therefore requires more holistic approaches than has been so far suggested. Therefore emphasis should be on the improvement of family assets.
  •  A needs analysis exercise should be carried out to determine precise needs such as food availability and water as well as to determine people capacities and capabilities. In addition to the needs analysis, a root cause analysis should also be carried out. This analysis assumes that all decisions have a clearly definable cause and that all problems must be torn apart in order to find the root cause. The suggested exercise would involve questioning the reason(s) for trying to solve these problems. The involvement of the people in the analysis of their needs and cause of their problems is of great importance.
  •  The management and control of resources take place in the context of social structures and organisations. Organisations help to determine people's access to resources, allocation and control of resources. Local level organisations, initiated, managed and controlled by the villagers, would ensure that the people's concerns are articulated. Such organisations at the village level are still weak.
  •  There were divergent views on the land reform process. The majority of the wards reported that there existed an urgent need to resettle some people in other areas. Among those singled out for priority resettlements were widows and female divorcees. The current resettlement process was criticized for its slow pace. Only two wards reported that a few people had been resettled.

Conflicts over land and other natural resources have historic significance in Zimbabwe. They are both a pre- and post independence phenomenon says a ZERO study. This study was commissioned by the Ford Foundation with a view to provide an informed analysis of land-based conflicts in Zimbabwe. The study was pre-empted by the desire to provide a holistic analysis of land conflicts on freehold land, communal land, state leaseholds and state lands. In addition, the study looked at the dynamics of inter and intra-conflicts between and within the main land tenure categories. The study also attempted to go beyond the traditional explanation of population-induced scarcity and ethnicity as the major factors in the evolution of natural resource-based conflicts between and within communities.

Detailed case studies were developed in the major land use and land tenure categories in Zimbabwe. Through the case studies, the study unravelled some of the social, economic, political and environmental processes that are at the centre of the development of conflicts in Zimbabwe. A major component of the study was an examination of how the existing policy and institutional framework were fairing (positively and negatively) to the resolution of land-based conflicts. Central to the study were the issues surrounding access to land and other natural resources, legitimacy of boundaries and their role in the evolution and resolution of conflicts and historically based land claims as the “unknown” factor in the development of land conflicts. Land occupations particularly those that happened during 1998 and 2000 was also another interesting issue the study looked at in detail. The study also proposed appropriate conflict resolution mechanisms based on the assessment that would have been made.

A synthesis of some of the outcomes and lessons drawn from the study:

The study basically unravelled the underlying causes of conflicts over land and other natural resources in Zimbabwe. Analysis of land conflicts in the various kinds of land-use and land tenure categories show a variation of the significance of the land conflicts.

  •  Boundaries were more of a problem in the communal areas as compared to the other land tenure categories. Farm occupations were mainly directed to the large-scale commercial farms and other forms of state-lands.
  •  Social processes are important in the development of conflicts in society. Social factors were important in defining the type of conflicts that happened at the local level. Conflicts over land and other natural resources can be just a tip of the iceberg of long-standing social conflicts between households or communities.
  •  Analysis on land occupations revealed that social relations between a farmer and his farm-workers or a farmer and surrounding communities determined whether a farm was to be occupied or not.
  •  Attempts to resolve and manage land conflicts should be premised on the understanding of the underlying social causes of the conflicts.
  •  Political factors alone can lead to widespread conflicts in society, particularly in situations where there are weak or non-existent governance structures at the local level.
  •  Economic factors bring the whole debate of survival in the discourse on conflicts. In most cases it is the ownership and distribution of means of production, particularly land that is at the centre of conflicts among and between nations.
  • Conflicts have many dimensions and conflict resolution therefore requires a multi-stakeholder approach from problem identification right through to the finding of lasting solutions.
  •  It emerged that the stage of development has an impact on the emergence of conflicts in society and vice-versa. What is missing on the discourse on development and conflicts is how the development model itself can be used as a conflict resolution model.
  •  Development brings benefits with it and such benefits need to be distributed in a manner that reduces conflicts between communities affected and the development activity.
  •  Employment creation is a good example of benefit that has the potential to assist communities who have been negatively affected by some development activities.
  •  Some production systems could enter into partnership with communities as way of ensuring that communities benefit from development activities taking place around them.
  •  Partnership with communities in development has been mooted in the area of tourism. A good example is the development of conservancies.
  •  Many other land-uses that are inclusive forms of land-uses could initiate partnership arrangements as a way of reducing the incidence of conflicts that are directly linked to development.
  • Exclusive forms of land-uses such as National Parks have problems in terms of the potential for creating partnerships with communities.
  •  A number of case studies used in this study have shown that the non-recognition of restitution of land rights is part of the problem of land conflicts in Zimbabwe. The analysis observed that such claims do exist and are being made on both state lands and private land.
  •  The year 2000 farm occupations were used by some communities to present their historically based land claims. In this regard relevant policy should be put in place to deal with historically based land claims.
  •  The study suggests the need for an institutional frame-work that could start dialogue on the various aspects of restitution.
  •  Despite the high prevalence of land conflicts, there are no institutions, especially at the Rural District Council (RDC) levels, that specialise in the handling of conflicts. There is therefore need for a purely technical institution that deals with conflicts at least at the RDC level.
  • There is no information system for conflict analysis resolution and management particularly in communal areas. The success in solving conflicts lies in the development of  an information system that captures all land related information and transactions and continuously updates it. 
  • The concept of institutional development should go hand in hand with the development of a land information system.


While, droughts, pests, wars and other man-made disasters pose serious threats to the sustainable utilisation and management of natural resources, the greatest challenge lies in the creation and sustenance of appropriate institutional, policy and legislative regimes that will regulate access and control over resources. There is a highly mobile and interactive population within the vicinity of SADC's borders, which rely on natural resources. Governments in SADC have taken cognisance of the potential conflicts that could arise out of uncoordinated policies and strategies governing the use and management of natural resources. 

To obtain an understanding of the policy conditions that impact on the effective use and management of natural resources in transborder areas, a study was commissioned by IUCN-ROSA under the second phase of NETCAB. The first phase reviewed land reform strategies and community based natural resources management in Botswana, South Africa, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In addition, case studies were conducted in the same countries. 

Under phase two, a detailed literature review analysing land tenure and natural resource management policies in Zambia, Mozambique and Zimbabwe was carried out. More specifically, the study looked at policy and legislation governing the use and management of land, forests, wildlife, water and fishery resources. The intention of this study was to establish how the policy and legislative environment hinders or promotes human security in transborder areas. In addition, to the literature review study PRAs research including some comprehensive field studies will be conducted. In addition to the above activities the study has a training component on conflict management. 

Outcomes and lessons that could be drawn from the literature review study: A synopsis

  •  In some rural communities of Mozambique, frequent land conflicts are associated with the boundaries between plots. 
  • In some Mozambican locations, there were and still are cases of management of natural   resources based on the common property principle by the local communities. In southern  Mozambique, such experiences include the exploration of mussel beds along the coast,   extraction of salt; fish pools and utilisation of traditional water wells, the use of holy places,   use of pasture areas, utilisation of certain fruit trees, cultivation of mushrooms and of   forests. 
  • The current formal system of land tenure and of other natural resources recognises the right   to land through occupation for the local communities and through tenure for all other   individuals, including foreigners. An important aspect of this legislation is that for a person   to get right to use and/or to utilize land in a given area of Mozambican territory, it is   compulsory to present land use plan of the area. Local resident communities have also to   be consulted to verify whether or not the area in question is under use. This creates an   opportunity for the reduction of potential conflicts, common in the past between national,   foreign investors and the local communities. There is a growing inclination towards participatory planning and effective community   involvement in many parts of southern Africa. 
  • There is an absence of a 'demand-driven culture of policy formulation' among communities   of southern Africa. A demand-driven policy obtains where a community or group brings up   specific issues that affect them as well as arguing for specific policy positions which they    regard to support their interests. 
  • In planning and promoting intra and international (transborder) utilisation and management   of resources, tenurial arrangements are central to the designing of sustainable and   acceptable interventions. The policy and legislative regimes of interested or affected states   are also important to the design of appropriate programmes.Perceptions, views and interests of affected communities are critical in the design and   implementation of appropriate programmes and interventions. 
  • Governments should recognise existing indigenous organisations/ traditional institutions   and support their resource management schemes.
  •  Governments should use and build on existing indigenous knowledge systems of   environment and natural resource management. This process can begin by involving the   local communities and their indigenous practices in policy and legislation formulation.
  •  Governments should be ready to establish the infrastructure for marketing natural resources   i.e. wildlife resources, to create incentives (such as subsidies), funds to initiate research   and technical facilities.