Oxfam's Community Land Rights programme aims to improve land governance and strengthen tenure security at the community level. By applying innovative legal empowerment techniques, communities in Nepal and Kenya are being supported to gain legal protection over their land and natural resources. During this process, the extent to which community land protection mitigates and resolves conflict and affects gender dynamics is being rigorously tested. The programme is funded by DFID's Security and Justice Innovation Fund for a two year period and is being implemented in partnership
with Namati, Kenyan Land Alliance and the Centre for Self-Reliance
The Programme approach is adopted from Namati's Community Land Protection Program. Importantly, it does not focus entirely on obtaining community level land documentation. Such an approach in the absence of transparent, just and equitable management of community resources is an invitation for mismanagement, local elite capture and conflict. Accordingly, the Programme facilitates the establishment of intra-community governance mechanisms that reduce power asymmetries, promote gender equality and increase communities' negotiating power with elites.
These more representative and responsive governance structures are then supported to lead communities through participatory mapping, rule making and dispute resolution exercises. The end result is communities that are aware of the value of their lands and resources and have the capability to manage these lands effectively, inclusively and equitably.
Crucially, the community land documentation process also institutes safeguards to ensure that the rights of marginalised groups - particularly women - are protected and that local elites do not engage in corrupt or exploitative practices at the expense of the wider community.
The programme is the result of a new partnership between Namati - a leading voice on legal empowerment - and Oxfam. Aside from providing the methodology for the protection of community lands, Namati is providing technical advisory support throughout the life of the programme.
Despite growth in legal empowerment programming in recent years, it has yet to gain traction beyond the justice sector. The Oxfam Namati partnership is an exciting one given the potential to integrate innovative legal empowerment approaches into mainstream development programming. It further builds on a commitment to undertake access to justice programming as a central governance strategy within the Oxfam International Strategic Plan 2013-19.
Throughout this initial collaboration, both organisations are keen to learn how they can work most effectively together, draw on their respective strengths and explore opportunities to scale up the partnership in the future.