Land Rights

Supporting land rights of the vulnerable

ZOA is committed to work that improves land security by resolving land conflicts, documenting land use or registering rights. We support people with agricultural activities on their land based on improved land security. Securing land rights is part of the foundation to support people who suffer because of armed conflict or natural disasters, by helping them to rebuild their homes and their livelihoods and to live peacefully in stable communities.

What we do

Land Rights for Peacebuilding

For ZOA, Land Rights is a sub-sector under Peacebuilding. Our work on land rights links to the pillars of our peacebuilding work: Strengthening Social Cohesion and Trust; Community based security, conflict prevention and conflict resolution mechanisms and Reducing land and water conflicts as well as Reducing gender Based Violence. However, land rights work also forms part of food security, livelihoods, and shelter projects. Secure access to land and secure use of land, for housing-, agricultural- and other purposes is one of the cornerstones of making sustainable, positive development possible. It is essential for contributing to peaceful and stable communities: the primary objective of our work.

Land Rights for a sustainable way out of poverty

Land and tenure issues are increasingly placed on the global agenda because of their fundamental role in development and peacebuilding. Land rights are for example focused on in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs 1.4, 2.3 and 5.a), the Dutch Policy on Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade and in many international development frameworks. Land tenure issues are assumed to be “at the center of building sustainable communities” (Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, World Bank Senior Director for the Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice).

“Because of the ZOA programme, we retracted our land dispute from the court and went through a mediation. Now we have come to an understanding and can both work on our land.”

— Farmer, returnee from Tanzania, Burundi

Different ways to achieve land security

In many of the countries where ZOA works, tenure security is fragile, land is an issue of conflict and often particularly the most vulnerable suffer because of land insecurity. Lacking land security prevents people from investing in their land, it leaves agricultural land unused because of conflict and creates situations in which people are dispossessed by powerful actors. True tenure security is achieved if rights are not only perceived as secure but are either guaranteed by a third party with the power to enforce legitimate rights or protected by a strong collective (e.g. in a customary setting). Strong communities, which are united and able to manage internal conflicts, will be able to protect collective and individual rights. In other contexts, enabling a discussion around land rights among different actors can already be an achievement. We are adapting our responses to the local context, the needs and opportunities we identify and work with strong, experienced partners.


ZOA cooperates among others with the Cadasta Foundation for land demarcation in DRC, MiParec the Ministry for Peace under the Cross for conflict mediation in Burundi and the International Justice Mission (IJM) around conflict resolution in Uganda.

Relevant networks for us are the Dutch LandAc where we among other things regularly participate at the Annual International LandAc conference and the Land Dialoog by LandAc and MinBuZa. We are also regularly participating at the annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference.
We are involved in the network of the Knowledge Platform Security and Rule of Law.

We received funding for our land rights guidelines by the Knowledge Management Fund.
Our work in Uganda is financed among others by Stichting Pharus and Stichting Dioraphte.
In Burundi and DRC we receive funding from the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.