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This piece has been co-authored by the Land Portal Foundation, the GFAR, ANGOC and ALRD. 

Land tenure security is one of the best incentives for the rural poor to adopt measures to mitigate and adapt to climate change.

The lasting effects of ‘natural’ disasters are not exclusive to those who are tenure insecure.

When Kavita Sakar’s husband died in May 2009, she inherited an acre of farmland in their village in southern Bangladesh. It was small, but still a key asset and source of income for the mother of four. Unfortunately, she now only has a third of it left. 

She was forced to sell parts of the land to renovate her home after Cyclone Aila hit a few days after her husband’s death. Tidal surges and river erosion have also eaten away at some of it. And for the past three years, she has not been able to cultivate anything because it was submerged in saltwater following 2020’s Cyclone Amphan.  

“Natural hazards have increased our struggle for livelihood. I can’t depend on the land even if I have it,” she told us. 

Kavita’s plight is a testament to the long-lasting effects of ‘natural’ disasters, which are anything but. Even though she had secure tenure, she is now facing the prospect of losing her home and livelihood. This is neither a new nor isolated experience, but it is now compounded by the increasing frequency and severity of weather-related disasters, which scientists say is a consequence of climate change. 

How disasters magnify tenure insecurity

Weather-related disasters have long infringed on people’s rights to land, particularly those like Kavita who are living in rural and marginal areas. In fact, many others fare far worse. 

In 2013, weeks after Typhoon Haiyan devastated central Philippines, local media reported that thousands of families were blocked from rebuilding their homes after the land was claimed by a developer. The Stockholm Environment Institute also documented how feelings of land insecurity “dramatically increased” for farmers in some of the worst-affected areas, with some people struggling with an endless cycle of displacement. 

The impacts are not limited to developing nations either. 

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which overwhelmed New Orleans’ flood protection system in 2005, inundating 80% of the city, a lack of clear land titles shut out tens of thousands of people from accessing government support or rebuilding their homes. 

On the other hand, we know that land tenure security increases the resilience of communities, whether they are living in densely populated urban centres or vast, open rural areas. 

Read full article on the Landportal website.