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Definition: Land Tenure

by Portal Web Editor last modified Jan 10, 2013 09:47 AM


Land tenure is the institutional (political, economic, social, and legal) structure that determines:

  • How individuals and groups secure access to land and associated manage land resources. resources, including trees, minerals, pasture, and water.

  • Who can hold and use these resources -- for how long and under what conditions. Land tenure may also have both spatial and temporal dimensions and are typically defined through statutory or customary law.


Land policy is the tool employed to outline a set of goals and measures for meeting objectives related to land: tenure, use, management, property rights and administration, and administrative structures.

Land policy has very clear links with key USAID sectors and development goals. It is linked to agricultural policy and production as well as sustainable NRM and resource extraction. More recently, conflict management and mitigation programming is recognizing that land policy and security of tenure and property rights are central to efforts to minimize conflict.

As USAID moves forward to address fragile states and transformational development, it increasingly needs to predicate its efforts on land reform and security of property rights.


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