Christian Castellanet, initially an agricultural engineer, joined GRET in 1989. Having worked on agriculture and natural resource management, in particular in the Brazilian Amazon, he obtained a doctorate in ecology and subsequently worked as scientific director at GRET headquarters. Based in Laos since 2014, he is currently Deputy Team Leader for the MRLG project, which aims to promote greater fairness and equality of land tenure in South East Asia.
What does the “Mekong Region Land Governance” (MRLG) project consist of?
This regional initiative aims to contribute to better land governance in four countries in the Mekong area: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. The objective is to strengthen customary tenure for family farmers – in particular among ethnic minorities – faced with policies that support the agro-industry. Developed at the end of the 1990s, these policies encouraged large scale land grabbing via concessions intended to attract foreign capital.
The MRLH project works at local, regional and national level to strengthen stakeholders’ capacities for action and reflection by supporting the creation of multi-stakeholder groups, alliances and dialogue involving governments, the private sector and research, by providing funding to conduct innovative actions in the area of land tenure.
Do meetings generated by the project facilitate the emergence of new avenues?
Yes, absolutely. By confronting various points of view, these workshops enable governments to discuss common issues and compare their various policies. This incites them to move forward in new directions.
This was the case during the regional workshop co-organised with the Myanmar ministry of the Environment and forests from 7 to 9 March in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. The event, which focused on the recognition of customary tenure, welcomed 80 participants from civil society, the world of research and the ministries concerned, who came to agreement on a common definition. It is an initial step forward.
New ideas also emerged during this meeting. For example, the possibility of recognising customary territories, as is now the case in the Philippines, where title deeds are established in the name of villages, with an approach enabling collective farming of communal lands. This notion of traditional territory is not limited solely to the village, it covers a much broader scope that also includes natural areas.
What are the next stages?
A new regional workshop on the regulation of land investments will be organised in October. And sharing of best practices and knowledge will be further strengthened with the implementation, in the coming weeks, of a regional electronic platform called “MLike”.
More information :
- Recognition of Customary Tenure in the Mekong Region: An Online Dialogue, Summary Report
- Documenting Customary Tenure in Myanmar: A guidebook (First Edition)
- They Will Need Land! The Current Land Tenure Situation and Future Land Allocation Needs of Smallholder Farmers in Cambodia
- The Political Economy of Land Governance in Viet Nam.