Surveying and delineation for non-surveyors training: Enhancing land rights defenders’ capacities through surveying

Land conflict issues in the Philippines, especially the problem of overlapping claims on land tenure, have greatly affected smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples, and local communities. The country’s complex history of land ownership, coupled with the rush for land, rapid urbanization, and economic development has led to numerous disputes over land rights.

One of the major challenges is the lack of data transparency on land governance. Without accurate and accessible information on land ownership and use, it becomes difficult to resolve conflict and develop effective land policies that address the needs of the marginalized. This lack of transparency slows down, and in some cases even stalls the development of necessary policies that could protect the rights of smallholder farmers, indigenous peoples, and local communities.

These conflicts arise from various factors such as unclear land titling systems, overlapping claims by different individuals or groups, and insufficient recognition of indigenous peoples’ ancestral domain rights. Smallholders, who heavily rely on their land for their livelihoods, often face the threat of eviction or loss of their productive resources due to these conflicts. Meanwhile, indigenous communities, with their deep connection to the land, are particularly vulnerable since many struggle to assert their rights and secure legal recognition of their ancestral lands. Their traditional knowledge and sustainable land management practices are endangered by encroachments from mining companies, commercial plantations, and other external actors seeking to exploit natural resources.

In order to address these land conflict issues, a comprehensive approach which includes transparent land governance mechanisms, data management mechanisms, and the recognition and protection of land rights of farmers and indigenous peoples by all development actors are needed by these stakeholders.

The National Land Observatory Philippines, hosted by Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA), the National Land Coalition Philippines, the Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), the Philippine Association for Intercultural Development (PAFID), and the Ateneo School of Governance (ASoG) has co-organized a training entitled “Surveying and Delineation for Non-Surveyors Training: Enhancing Land Rights Defenders Capacities through Surveying”, from September 19-21, 2023, to be held at the Ateneo de Manila University. The training is a continuation of the Mapping for Land Rights Defenders Training held last June 13-17, 2023.

The goal of the training is to empower advocates to fully understand the principles, mechanics, and processes of surveying for land tenure. This will enable advocates to monitor and ensure the proper conduct of surveys and check the veracity and integrity of survey results conducted by service providers. Methodologies shall include Classroom Lectures on Theory, Process, and Instrumentation. An actual field traverse will be done to conduct a survey using a Total Station, Prism and Chain. The participants shall also be taught on the basics of processing survey results. These skills can be used by organizations in cases of conflict resolution over land governance and management, and help them position the rights and claims of smallholders, indigenous and local communities over disputed land territories.

This training is being conducted as one of the activities of the Land Matrix Initiative (LMI). The LMI is an independent, open-data, land monitoring initiative that promotes transparency and accountability in decisions over large-scale land acquisitions in low-middle income countries. This is done through capturing of land deal data at the global, regional, and national levels. AFA is currently hosting the regional focal point in Asia, and PAKISAMA serves as the host for the National Land Observatory in the Philippines. The LMI is supported financially by the European Commission, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC). The NLC Philippines, is a multi-stakeholder platform composed of civil society organizations, farmer groups, academic and research institutions which builds on the rich tradition of work in pursuit of the rural poors’ access to and control of land and natural resources. The NLC Philippines has also mobilized additional funding support from the International Land Coalition (ILC), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

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