Agrarian Trust

Featured Resource: LandPortal

From the LandPortal website:

The Portal allows for the collection, sourcing, and searching of otherwise fragmented and inaccessible data and information on land governance and land use from diverse sources, produced by governments, academia, international organizations, indigenous peoples and NGOs. Besides documenting land rights, the Portal also encourages social information exchange, debate and networking.

Vision, values, activities and theory of change


The vision of the Portal is to improve land governance to benefit those with the most insecure land rights and the greatest vulnerability to landlessness through information and knowledge sharing.


The goal of the Portal is to become the leading online destination for information, resources, innovations and networking on land issues. Through this it will support more inclusive and informed debate and action on land governance and will increase adoption and up-scaling of best practices and emerging innovation on land tenure.



  • Multi-stakeholderism and partnership – the Portal will work across stakeholder groups, and will promote recognition of the importance of multi-stakeholder participation in land governance. The Portal will be an unbranded partnership project.
  • Open development – the Portal will be based on open source, open data and open content. It will promote open approaches with partners, seeking to catalyse and support greater sharing, collaboration and innovation in the land governance community.
  • Local ownership – the Portal will move towards a decentralised and distributed structure, in which content creation and dissemination takes place through local partners, groups and networks, supported and facilitated by a core Land Portal team. This will involve building grassroots capacity to engage with the Portal and land governance information.


Target audience

The portal has four main target user groups:

  • Practitioners and policy makers;
  • Land activists;
  • Researchers;
  • Media professionals and journalists.



The specific objectives of the Portal are:

  1. To increase access to information for all land governance stakeholders, with a particular focus on those in the global South, leading to more informed debates and innovative solutions on land governance at the local, national, regional, and global levels;
  2. To facilitate diffusion and up-scaling of best practices on land tenure;
  3. To support improvements in land rights monitoring;
  4. To increase understanding of the inter-connections between land and development issues;
  5. To identify and address land governance information gaps.



The portal will be based around five core services:

  • Land Portal Hub – a central entry-point into the Land Portal, providing user sign-up, cross-site search, newsletter subscriptions, news and events information.
  • The Land Library – aggregating and indexing key research and publication on land governance from a wide range of partner organisations, and providing intuitive access to this.
  • The Land Book – providing a thematic, regional and country-level overview of key contextual and actionable land governance information, revealing both trends and gaps in available information, visualised through an interactive world map.
  • The Land Debate Institute – an open discussion forum catalysing and curating dialogues and high-level debates amongst land experts and practitioners. Hosting a central debate space, and providing the platform for bespoke thematic, personal or event-specific blogs.
  • the Land Journal – an academic peer-reviewed periodical related to land made available online to the Land Portal users without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The journal will be licensed under the Creative Commons open licence and will gain from the knowledge and expertise of the whole land governance community represented on the Land Portal.



There is a wealth of information and data online about land governance. However, much of this content is fragmented and difficult to locate, and often it is not openly licensed to enable wide dissemination and reuse. Grassroots knowledge may be particularly hard to find, or may not be available online, and the data and information available is often not presented in ways that are accessible to grassroots communities, media and organisations. Bringing this information together in one place through the Land Portal, actively addressing gaps in the available information, and providing a range of ways for the information to be accessed and shared will increase the use and usefulness of the available information. This will support more informed debates and policy making, and greater adoption and up scaling of best practices and promising innovations, leading to improve land governance practice. Through a focus on localisation of content creation and use, the Land Portal will contribute to the curation of information and creation of interfaces and tools that help tip the balance of power towards the most marginalised and insecure, promoting greater social justice in land tenure practices.


The Land Portal strategy places open development at the heart of our work. Smith and Elder define open approaches to the use of ICTs in development as those that favour:

  • Universal over restricted access;
  • Universal over restricted participation in informal and formal groups/institutions; and
  • Collaborative over centralized production

Such approaches, drawing heavily upon examples from open source software, challenge top-down and proprietary notions of development . Instead of large centrally directed projects, open development envisages the creation of lightweight platforms and components: “small pieces loosely joined” that can be reconfigured to meet different needs. In practice, this means drawing upon ideas and practices from:

  • Open source: using existing open source tools to build the land portal, and sharing any custom source code written to power the portal; writing and curating code that can be used by others to work with information and knowledge from the land portal;
  • Open content: licensing content in ways that allow it to be freely redistributed and remixed through Creative Commons licenses, or placing content in the public domain;
  • Open data: publishing structured data in machine readable, standardised formats under open licenses that allow anyone to re-use it. Data from the land portal might include meta-data about publications and resources, information about organisations, and country profile data. This can be published as linked open data making use of semantic technologies to enrich and link up data. Open data on land was recognised as a priority in the 2013 G8 Open Data Charter .
  • Open culture and collaboration: ensuring there is capacity for formal and informal collaborations with partners, and engaging in regular interaction with a wide community of stakeholders and interested parties.

Applying open models to the future development of the land portal offers opportunities to increase the reach, relevance and responsiveness of the project. The portal will apply principles of openness in its governance, its use of technology and in its outputs. Openness can be counter-cultural in many settings – but through the pursuit of more transparent and open information on land governance, the Portal seeks to become a leading example of open development in action.


However, the Land Portal will not adopt openness uncritically, but will instead focus in particular on identifying where openness can help tip the balance of power in favour of the marginalised, rather than where openness could ‘empower the already empowered’ . Land Portal activities will ensure a diversity of knowledge is included and represented in the portal, and that those best placed to act in the interests of those with the most insecure land rights and the greatest vulnerability to landlessness have effective access to the open data and knowledge that is made available. This underlines the importance of capacity building work within the localisation activities of the Portal.