The landscape of land data is different from many other types of data held by governments because land tenure systems are social, political, and economic in nature. Land tenure systems determine how land can be used, controlled or transferred, and for how long, for what purposes and under which conditions. Having secure land rights supports land holders’ access to markets, loans, and investments, but also cultural heritage, housing, and livelihood. This makes land tenure data and information crucial when addressing agriculture and nutrition issues in a wider sustainable rural development context.
The lack of fundamental data and information on land use and ownership for much of the world’s land is a serious issue when it comes to achieving food security and more sustainable agricultural practices and development.
This incomplete and fragmented nature of the global landscape of land data is not only due to technical challenges of expensive surveying techniques. Land data, especially those related to tenure and ownership, are intensely political, and are tied to emerging and long-standing conflicts and struggles.
In the last few years a great deal of effort has been made to collect land data relevant for monitoring the SDGs. Officially the data collection for the SDGs follows a strict process that involves the National Statistical Offices and the Custodian Agencies. Infomediaries in the land sector have played a critical supporting role throughout the process. There is a positive drive within global and local civil society to contribute to this official process through advocacy, data collection, and international monitoring efforts.This is where the Land Portal operates – we seek to democratize the land information ecosystem. With our focus on open data, we complement the work of our partners who collect land data by focusing on making the information findable, accessible, interoperable, and reusable. These terms make up the FAIR principles, foundational to the open data revolution.
Making data findable means that the Land Portal strives to make land data more discoverable and seeks to reduce data fragmentation. We focus on providing land data with unique, consistent, and structured identifiers (metadata) to ensure machine readability. This allows data to be searchable and easily findable on the internet. Metadata is so important to making data visible that we invested in the development of a “controlled vocabulary” – LandVoc – that allows us to tag every dataset and information asset that we ingest into the Land Portal with specific terms.
Data and information may be available, but are they accessible to people who don’t know where the information is being stored? We support data management practices that increase actual accessibility of data and information about land. This is done through initiatives such as the Open Up Guide for Land Governance that improve data literacy and raise awareness about the importance of opening up data to improve access and support the opening up of information and data at country levels. Our website also serves as a critical hub for providing increased access to information and data, with a focus from under-represented sources in the global south.
Making data interoperable means government and other data producers use and apply global standards that make the same data “work” in different contexts. We support capacity building measures to improve data management practices at the operational and policy levels.
To ensure that the Land Portal data is reusable, we use and encourage the use of Creative Commons Licenses that provide accurate information on the types of reuse allowed. This facilitates the legitimate re-use of data by consumer communities. The Land Portal also supports the re-use of data by providing improved visualisations and data stories that re-interpret data. It is equally important to enrich data with metadata, which provides opportunities for re-use by others, and provide support to the presentation of key statistical indices and land monitoring.
This blog is part of the GFAR Partners in Action series, celebrating the achievements of our diverse network of partners who are working together to shape a new, sustainable future for agriculture and food. Each month we will be showcasing stories related to a key theme in agri-food research and innovation. The theme for January is ‘Soil and land data to support improved sustainability and FAIR access’.
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