Access Rights

The right to enter or be upon land. May or may not be accompanied by a use right.

Affected Communities

All communities and individuals whose land rights, uses and livelihoods may be impacted by an investment.

AU Guiding Principles

Guiding Principles on Large-Scale Land Investments in Africa


Commodity Supply Chain Procurement

Indirectly acquiring or altering the rights to land, such as when a business purchases raw materials or agricultural products through producers or suppliers, where those producers or suppliers acquire rights to land. In this case, the business that acquires the agricultural materials or products may be indirectly acquiring land because it has a strong, causal link to the direct acquisition of land.

Communal Land Rights

Rights that a group collectively holds to occupy, use, access, control, and transfer land. A communal land tenure system can include both individual use rights allocated to households or individuals (such as for agricultural land and residential plots) and common use rights allocated to groups or the community as a whole (such as to pastures and forests).

Community Capacity Assessment

Generally, a community capacity assessment (CCA) is a research tool used to develop a nuanced view about skills, beliefs or attitudes of community members relevant to a specific issue of interest. Within this guidance, the authors discuss CCAs as a tool to examine characteristics and skills that are considered necessary for effective community involvement throughout the investment process.

Community Governance Assessment

Within this guidance, the authors use community governance assessment to refer to an evaluation that assesses the strengths and weakness of the community’s existing governance structures for investment, with the intended purpose of identifying approaches and opportunities to strengthen those structures.

Customary Land Rights

Rights to occupy, use, access, control, and transfer land that are derived from and sustained by the customary norms and practices specific to a community, family, tribe, clan, or other social collective. Although these customary norms and practices are often unwritten, they may have social legitimacy, widespread social sanction, and be generally adhered to by members of a local population.


Desk research

Research conducted remotely and that relies primarily on a review and analysis of secondary sources. Frequently juxtaposed to field research, in which the collection of information occurs outside of the workplace setting and involves the use of predominately primary sources.

Direct Acquisition of Land

Directly acquiring the rights to land, such as through purchase or lease. Direct acquisition is contrasted with the indirect acquisition of land that may be prompted by businesses that are procuring agricultural commodities through supply chains, where the lower-level supplier or producer may directly acquire rights to land.



The illegal or unsanctioned occupation or use of a portion of the land holdings of another.

Environmental and Social Impact Assessment

An instrument to identify and assess the potential environmental and social impacts of a proposed project, evaluate alternatives, and design appropriate mitigation, management, and monitoring measures. In the context of a land-based investment, this assessment identifies and gauges actual or potential impacts from the proposed investment project on the environment and community, and must include impacts affecting land rights, uses and livelihoods. World Bank, The World Bank Environmental and Social Framework 23 (2017), available at


The power of government to acquire land without the willing consent of the rights holders. Most national laws permit the State to acquire land legally when it is for the purpose of public interest and benefit, and when full, just, or fair compensation is timely paid. Expropriation laws typically include requirements for notice, an opportunity to be heard, an avenue for appeal, and a showing of public purpose.


Formal Land Rights

Rights to occupy, use, access, control, and transfer land that are derived from, sustained by, and given documented status under constitutional and statutory law.

Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC)

A human rights standard derived from the right of indigenous people to give or withhold their consent to projects that affect their land and property. The primary requirements of FPIC are Free, Prior, and Informed Consent. In the context of an agricultural land investment, a basic FPIC requirement would call for all land rights holders to give their consent before changing or giving up their land use. For more information refer to our FPIC Primer.


Grievance Mechanism

A grievance mechanism, generally, is a process by which an individual or group may raise a real or perceived wrong, complaint, or protest. Within this guidance, the authors use this term to refer specifically to non-judicial, company-based processes established to receive and facilitate the resolution of land-related grievances experienced by project-affected parties arising in connection with a land investment project. Such grievances may include failure to follow a required process, claims for damages, or breach of contract.


Human Rights Impact Assessment (HRIA)

A process for identifying, understanding, assessing and addressing the adverse effects of programs, projects and activities on the human rights enjoyment of workers, communities, consumers or other rights-holders. Human Rights Resource Center, Human Rights Impact Assessments,


Indigenous Peoples

There is no widely accepted definition of indigenous peoples. However, the following characteristics are often used to describe indigenous peoples: (1) they self-identify as indigenous and in some cases are recognized by other groups, or by State authorities, as having a distinct collective identity; (2) they have historical ties with respect to living in and using a specific territory; (3) their cultural distinctiveness is voluntary and handed down through generations. This may include aspects of language, social organization, religion and spiritual values, modes of production, laws and institutions; and (4) they have experienced or are experiencing subjugation, marginalization, dispossession, exclusion or discrimination. FAO, Free Prior and Informed Consent: An Indigenous Peoples’ Right a Good Practice for Local Communities 12 (2016), available at


Land Allocation

The process of assigning land and rights to that land to a person or group within the rules defined by the land tenure system. In statutory tenure systems, it is the process through which the state distributes land resources and rights. In customary tenure systems, the term refers to the process through which the traditional leader gives land use rights to individuals or families. USAID, Land Tenure and Property Rights Framework 89 (2013), available at

Land Bank

Although there are different types of land banks, for the purposes of the guidebooks, we define land banks as a centralized database administrated by the national government that contains information pertaining to suitable land for agricultural investments (Cotula, 2011). To provide prompt information to prospective investors about the nature, size and location of available land, government will often times conduct a nationwide land inventory in rural areas (Ortega & Griffin, 2009). Lorenzo Cotula, Land Tenure Issues in Agricultural Investment (2011), available at; Celio Ortega & Carlos Griffin, Investment Promotion Essentials: What Sets the World’s Best Investment Facilitators Apart from the Rest (Investment Climate in Practice; No. 6. World Bank 2009), available at

Land Concession

A land concession is a contract between the government and another actor that gives specific rights to control an area of land for a fixed period of time and for the conduct of specific activities in that area. Frequently, rights are given to develop the resources on the land, such as a mining concession, forestry concession, or a concession to build a canal. United Nations Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR), Economic and Other Land Concessions,

Land Governance Framework

The national policies, laws, regulations, and state administrative and judicial systems that govern public and private land rights, rights formalization, transactions in land, and other land-related topics.

Land rights

The rights of people (as individuals and groups) to occupy, use, access, control, and transfer land. These rights may be derived from and recognized by formal and/or customary law. Notably, these rights can overlap, be divided, and held by different people or groups for the same piece of land, meaning that different individuals and groups can hold different rights, which may be acquired in different ways and held for varying durations. This concept is commonly referred as the entirety of the land being a "bundle of rights."

Land Rights Formalization

The process by which landholdings held outside statutory law (meaning informally, without a right to do so recognized by the state) are given such legal recognition by the state. The process usually begins with recognition and is then often implemented through land titling/certification and registration (USAID, 2013). Titling is the process by which states confer land rights upon, or recognize claims to, land rights by occupants or other claimants (USAID, 2013). Registration is the recording of rights to land in some form of public register. Typically the record includes information on the rights, their location and their holders (FAO, 2002). USAID, Land Tenure and Property Rights Framework 89 (2013), available at; FAO, Land Tenure and Rural Development 46 (FAO Land Tenure Studies 3, 2002).

Land Scarcity

Refers to a shortage in the amount of land available for a specific use. Land scarcity may be relative; for example, ownership of resources may be readily available to some but restricted to other groups of people or land itself may be abundant, but there is little suitable for agricultural production.

Legacy Land Issues

An enduring grievance with affected communities or historic land occupants or their descendants related to the terms and processes by which land was previously acquired and subsequently used by a prior actor and which has been left unresolved, in part or in full, by the predecessor or existing project developer (Interlaken Group, 2017). The prior acquisition may have been done by the government (via expropriation or asserting a right to state land) or by another business. The prior acquisition may have been "legal" but may be regarded by displaced land users or the surrounding community as unjust. Interlaken Group and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), Land Legacy Issues: Guidance on Corporate Responsibility 3 (2017), available at:

Legitimate Land Rights

Legitimate land rights are rights to occupy, use, access, control, and transfer land that are either formally recognized under national law or informally under customary practice. This means, for example, that land rights, including use and access rights held by women, short-term rights held by tenants and sharecroppers, and common property rights, are still considered legitimate even if they are undocumented, socially vulnerable, or otherwise less visible, and they must be identified, respected, and compensated for in a responsible investment.


The capabilities, assets, resources, and activities required to make a living. Capabilities and assets include human (e.g. skills and knowledge, health, and labor power), natural (e.g. land, water, and forests), physical (e.g. houses, vehicles, equipment, crops, and livestock), financial (e.g. income and access to credit), and social capital (e.g. status, roles, permissions, and access to social networks). FAO, The Livelihood Assessment Tool-Kit 11 (2009), available at



A person who has moved, either within a country or across international borders, for any reason (voluntary or involuntary). Within the context of land rights, it is important to consider the migrant perspective, as in many places, a community defines itself as comprised solely or primarily of those who were born into the community; people who have moved into a community may face different rules regarding ownership, use, access, control and transfer of rights to land.



A farmer that sells produce to another for resale or processing/milling.

Outgrower schemes

Formalized arrangements between farmers, millers/processors, input suppliers, financial institutions, and others, whereby all the stakeholders formally cooperate in planting, growing, harvesting, transporting, storing, and processing agricultural produce. Outgrower schemes have many variations and configurations. Schemes can be very simple, where a buyer/miller agrees prior to planting or during growing via contract to buy produce at a fixed or even uncertain price if the produce meets specs. Or it could be complicated by such adders as providing inputs to the farmer or to an association or trust, or by facilitating set up of associations or trusts, or by the other things the bullets describe.



The term ‘pastoralist’ can be used to indicate a cultural identity and a production/livelihood system, in which individuals rely on livestock or livestock-related activities for a significant portion of their income. S. Krätli & J. Swift, "Counting Pastoralists" in Kenya (DLCI/REGLAP 2014).


Secondary Land Rights

Rights that are secured from a primary rights holder. They are typically limited in their term or scope of use.


In the developing world, typically a household or an individual producing crops or livestock on two or less hectares. IFC, Working with Smallholders: A Handbook for Firms Building Sustainable Supply Chains 2 (2013), available at

Social License

The measure of trust and confidence society has in a business to behave in a legitimate, transparent, accountable, and socially acceptable way.

Socially responsible land investment

A socially responsible land investment occurs when the legitimate land rights and interests of all women and men who control, occupy, cultivate, or otherwise use and benefit from the land are accurately identified, fully respected, and fairly compensated for in all instances that land is transferred or its use changed.



The relationships and rules that exist between people and natural resources, such as land, fisheries, and forests. In regards to land, it concerns the ownership, use, access, control, and transfer of rights to land as established under formal and/or under customary law.

Tenure security

Secure tenure occurs when an individual or group has a right to natural resources and is confident in the right so that it can be enforced if challenged. Tenure security is thought of as a spectrum of more or less secure rights. Rights are considered more secure when they are (1) more legitimate, legally or socially; (2) less vulnerable; (3) more enforceable; (4) granted for a longer period; and (5) exercised with more independence.


Use Rights

The right to use land, such as for grazing, growing crops, and collecting resources (such as wood, water, and medicinal herbs).



The process of determining the value of real (sometimes referred to as immovable) property. Real property is defined as the land and any immovable things attached to the land, including buildings and natural objects like trees. Real property is contrasted with personal or movable property. In the context of an agricultural land investment, the value of land should reflect the extent to which use of the land by the rights holder provides for some or the entire livelihood of that holder.

Vulnerable Groups

Those who may be more likely to be adversely affected by the project impacts and/or more limited than others in their ability to take advantage of a project's benefits. Such an individual/group is also more likely to be excluded from/unable to participate fully in the consultation process and as such may require specific measures and/or assistance to do so. These individuals will vary by national and local context, but may include women, youth, elderly, ethnic or religious minorities, indigenous people, pastoralists, migrants, and tenants and sharecroppers. Under some circumstances, the land access and uses of members of vulnerable groups may be less likely to be seen, acknowledged, or protected by the larger community, making their meaningful participation in consultation and engagement even more important. World Bank, The World Bank Environmental and Social Framework 4 (2017) available at: