ISLAMABAD — The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the National Centre for Rural Development (NCRD) held a three-day workshop on the international Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Land Tenure from 25 to 27 November in Islamabad.
The workshop was attended by the representative from the federal, provincial and regional government, civil society and academia. The Federal Minister for Food Security and Research, Sikandar Hayat Bosan was the chief guest at the closing session of the workshop. While talking on the occasion, the honourable Minister said that “the Government of Pakistan is firmly committed to improving the standing of the small farmers, fisher folks, communities whose livelihoods is based on forest resources and pastoralist communities, and will consider the recommendations from this workshop and future activities related to these issues”.
The Voluntary Guidelines represent an unprecedented international agreement on the governance of tenure, which places secure access to land, fisheries and forests firmly in the context of food security. They provide the first global consensus on universally applicable standards for the recognition and protection of tenure rights. These guidelines were officially endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security at its 38th (Special) Session in May 2012, and all member states made a strong commitment to implement them. Since then, implementation of the guidelines has been encouraged by the UN General Assembly, Rio+20 Declaration, G8, G20, l’ Ássemblée Parlemantaire de la Francophonie and the Berlin Summits of Agricultural Ministers.
Workshop participants discussed how the Voluntary Guidelines could be implemented in Pakistan to ensure a more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable way to manage the land, fisheries and forests of the country. “FAO believes that it is important to build the capacity of governments and other stakeholders to support the implementation of the voluntary Guidelines. In Pakistan, this will play a vital role in assuring food security for the people of the country”, said FAO Deputy Representative to Pakistan, Mr. Francisco Gamarro.
Land ownership is very uneven in Pakistan; most farms are very small and split into several pieces of land. More than 60% of the rural households are landless farmers who work as tenants or labourers for owners of large landholdings. Such large landholdings constitute 38% of the agricultural land, while the remaining land belongs mostly to small farmers who own less than 12 acres of land each. Without secure access to land and other natural resources, people are forced to live a life of hunger and poverty. In contrast, secure tenure rights may help vulnerable families to produce food for their consumption, and to increase their income by producing a surplus for sale in markets, and a valuable safety net in times of hardship.