Land Portal Foundation Newsletter: October-December 2015

Message from the Chair of the Land Portal Foundation

Since the launch of the Land Portal in April 2011 as an online platform that aggregates information on land governance with the aim of improving the monitoring of land rights monitoring, transparency, and the identification of information gaps in land governance, much has changed, both in terms of the visibility of land issues on the global agenda and the technological capabilities available to achieve the aim of the Land Portal.
Today, land issues and land rights are a central part of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the Land Portal is on the path to becoming the key platform that brings together all data and information on land, placing news and information from civil society and grassroots organizations fighting for land rights on the same level as international institutions, thus leveling the playing field.
Having begun as a small project of the International Land Coalition with a dedicated steering committee in 2010 – of which I was a part - more recently it became clear that for the Land Portal to achieve its aim and to grow and develop, it needed to become an independent entity. Thus, the Land Portal became the Land Portal Foundation in September 2014, based in the Netherlands and facilitated by the University of Groningen, with the vision improving land governance to benefit those with the most insecure land rights and the greatest vulnerability to landlessness through information and knowledge sharing. We are proud to say that organizations that originally established the Land Portal are still highly engaged, including the FAO, IFPRI, the World Bank, as well civil society and academia.
With a new board and our competent team in place, we are well-situated to deliver on our goal of becoming the leading online destination for information, resources, innovations and networking on land issues.
I would like to offer a special thanks to the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) for making the transformation of the Land Portal, and in particular the Land Book, possible.
Leon Verstappen

Message from the Land Portal Coordinator

It is an exciting time to be working on land issues. It is becoming increasingly clear that the secure land rights of indigenous peoples, women, pastoralists and other vulnerable communities is not only critical to achieving sustainable development, but that their just treatment on the international development agenda serves as a moral compass of the inclusivity of our efforts.

These factors underpin the basis for the business plan of the Land Portal Foundation, which includes three primary components - multi-stakeholderism and partnership, open development and local ownership, as being fundamental to our success. With our status as an independent foundation and our committed team, we have begun in earnest to make progress in all of these areas. The latest statistics indicate that we are effectively successfully engaging with the land community in developing countries. In fact, 37.85% of those who opened the most recent news digest were from developing countries, amounting to 662 people from 65 countries, while website users in November included 34.65% from 72 developing countries. These are the kind of results we will strive to replicate and build upon.

These past few months we have been busy building serious partnerships. A major focus of our work is the stimulation of improved data collection and use at the country level through interaction with local partners with the objective of raising the capacity of partners to expose information in Linked Open Data formats while simultaneously extending the range of information available on the Land Portal. One example of this is our new partnership with the East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) Open Development Initiative on Linked Open Data and Data Sharing in order to support Open Development Mekong to play a center-stage role in land and related development information. Moreover, we have entered into an exciting new partnership with the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN), which will focus on promoting their Gender Evaluation Criteria (GEC) and giving more prominence to their knowledge products.

The Land Portal is also now serving as the central hub for news and information for DFID’s Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND) program. You can sign up to receive the LEGEND Bulletin directly from the Land Portal, and also apply for LEGEND Challenge Fund grants, which are focusing on several countries in Africa.

These are just a few examples of the kind of partnerships we are engaging in to support the land rights of the most vulnerable people around the world. In 2016, we will be supporting several regional hubs in the developing world to further build capacity among developing country partners to share data and information related to land with an open development approach.

After an extended period of significant technical development of the Land Portal, our next step is to re-engage with our community of supporters. We have recently launched a survey to make sure the information we are providing is indeed useful to land stakeholders, and we encourage you to participate so we can ensure we are responding to your needs.

We look forward to your continuing support and engagement in the coming year.

Laura Meggiolaro

Survey to Improve Land Portal Country Profiles and Indicators

In an effort to better meet the needs of stakeholders interested in obtaining information on land through country pages on the Land Portal, we recently launched a survey to get the feedback of on the importance of qualitative and quantitative indicators on the Land Book country pages. We are exploring user preferences for indicators on land tenure, land use, gender and land rights, food security and the socioeconomic conditions in each country. Please help us to meet your expectations and preferences for what should be included on each country page by responding to the survey. We will be using the result to adjust the country pages and highlight the information that is most relevant to your work.

Take the survey now:

Establishment of the first Open Data Hub with Open Development Mekong    

As the first pilot hub in our new grant program, this collaboration between the East-West Management Institute’s (EWMI) Open Development Initiative on Linked Open Data and Data Sharing aims to build up the foundation for Open Development Mekong to play a center-stage role in land and related development information flows in Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam via its platform and data hub for the Land Portal Foundation, thereby providing information for the Land Portal and its main target audiences on a global level, as well as developing their information services and expanding users’ access to data in the Mekong region and beyond. The specific objectives of this partnership are to strengthen interoperability among the two platforms by harmonizing the taxonomies of both organizations and translating terms and concepts into local languages, expanding the network of local partners and promoting and supporting the use of Linked Open Data.  This will allow for better exposure and wider use of their data by multiple stakeholders. Stayed tuned for updates on this exciting partnership!

Global call for Linked Open Data partner hubs

A global call for expressions of interest for national or regional hub partners for Linked Open Data on land was widely distributed to partners in the South in English, French and Spanish. Using DFID financing, the Land Portal will support a small number of hubs on the basis of either their geographic or thematic focus. The aim of each hub will be to create a sustainable connection between the collection and use of content at specific locations and the aggregation of content from all levels and promoting its use globally. Their purpose will be to increase the availability and accessibility of land-related content from the global south by developing shared approaches and standards for data sharing and exchange. Many organizations applied, and the Land Portal Foundation will soon be entering into partnerships with several organizations.

Partnership with the Global Land Tool Network (GLTN)

The Land Portal Foundation is pleased to announce its partnership with the Global Land Tool Network Phase 2 Programme (2012-2017), which focuses on prioritizing, pilot-testing and rolling out priority land tools and approaches at country levels. The Land Portal Foundation’s role in this program will be to strengthen land-related policy, institutional and technical frameworks and tools and approaches to address the challenges in delivering security of tenure at scale, to improve global knowledge and awareness on land-related policies, tools and approaches that are pro-poor, gender appropriate, effective and sustainable towards securing land and property rights for all and strengthening capacity of partners, land actors and targeted countries to promote and implement appropriate land policies, tools and approaches that are pro-poor, gender appropriate, effective and sustainable. In order to achieve these goals, we will develop a launching point within the Land Portal’s Land Library with GLTN-related content in order to make this content more discoverable and easily shared among GLTN partners, by land researchers and practitioners and by interested stakeholders. In addition, the Land Portal will be hosting an online discussion on the Gender Evaluation Criteria in January 2016. We look forward to your participation in the discussion!

The LEGEND Partnership

The Land Portal Foundation is a partner in Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND), a new DFID global programme designed to mobilise knowledge and capacity for design and delivery of new country programmes, improve land governance as an essential and inclusive basis for economic development, and strengthen land and property rights at scale.

Through building policy coherence globally and stimulating innovation across civil society, private sector and sector at country and local levels, LEGEND aims to improve the quality and impact of land investments of all kinds so they contribute sustainably to growth while safeguarding rights and opportunities for poor people, rural and urban — and especially women.

Sign up to receive the LEGEND bulletin:

The LEGEND Challenge Fund

KPMG has launched a Challenge Fund on the behalf of the UK Department for International Development (DFID), which supports the development and testing of innovative approaches and partnerships for strengthening land governance, with a specific focus on piloting approaches to responsible land-related investments. Two concurrent funding windows are now open, details of which can be found at:

The Challenge Fund is launched under DFID’s Land: Enhancing Governance for Economic Development (LEGEND) program, which aims to improve land rights protection, knowledge and information, and responsible land investment.

Applicants can apply through the LEGEND Challenge Fund webpage, hosted by the Land Portal. Deadline for applications is the 26th February 2016.

Land Portal Foundation Board

Leon Verstappen - Chair
Prof. Dr. Mr. L.C.A. (Leon) Verstappen, a Dutch national, founded the International Alliance on Land Tenure and Administration (IALTA,, and leads a team of 10 researchers working on a wide range of land issues. Since 2010, Professor Verstappen has served as the Academic Director of the Groningen Centre for Law and Governance. Among other positions, he is Deputy  Judge at the Court of Appeals of Leeuwarden and Associate and Adviser of Hekkelman lawyers and notaries in Arnhem en Nijmegen (the Netherlands). He has been engaged with the Land Portal since 2009 when IALTA became a member of the Land Portal partnership.
Francisco Sarmento - Treasurer
Francisco Sarmento, Angolan, is an agronomist with an, MBA, a PhD in the Social Sciences and a Post Doctorate degree in Food System Governance. Mr. Sarmento has 25 years of work experience in the area of food security and rural development, including land related issues. Mr. Sarmento is one of the founding members of "Land", a precursor to the Land Portal, and has served as a member of the steering committee of the Land Portal partnership since its inception. He is currently doing research, teaching, and acting as an independent consultant for national governments in the South and for international organizations such as FAO and the European Commission.
Magdalena Anna Kropiwnicka
Magdalena Anna Kropiwnicka is a food and land policy advisor experienced in governance, advocacy and multi-stakeholder partnerships and projects. In 2010, she founded Food and Climate Consulting, whose clients have included the European Commission, UK’s Department of International Development (DFID), the International Land Coalition, the Representation of the Republic of Poland to the Rome based UN Agencies and various international NGOs. From 2012-2015, she focused on the climate-agriculture nexus in the EU biofuels legislation process, land governance and EU’s policy coherence for development. She is base based in Kampala, Uganda.
Terry Parnell
Terry Parnell is the Open Development Initiative Program Director at the East-West Management Institute (EWMI). She has more than 30 years of experience in development and humanitarian relief programs, including more than 20 years in Southeast Asia, most of that in Cambodia. As Program Director for EWMI’s Open Development Initiative, she leads the regional expansion of the Open Development platform, for which Open Development Cambodia (ODC) was the flagship. The Open Development model was conceived by Ms. Parnell in 2010 as a way to open up access to development information, across sectors and borders, to encourage constructive public dialogue on development trends and plans.
Joan Carling
Joan Carling, Secretary-General, Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), is an indigenous activist from the Cordillera, Philippines. She has been working on indigenous issues at the grassroots to international levels for more than 20 years. Her field of expertise includes human rights, sustainable development, environment, and climate change, as well as on the principles and application of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). She has been elected twice as the Secretary General of the Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP), starting in 2008 and has been representing AIPP’s 47 member-organizations in 14 countries. Ms. Carling was appointed by the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) as an indigenous expert- member of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFii) for 2014-16.

Land Portal Foundation Team

Laura Meggiolaro, Land Portal Coordinator
Since 2012 Laura has been responsible for the overall management, implementation and expansion of the Land Portal as its coordinator. She led the Land Portal through an in-depth assessment that resulted in the formulation of a new development strategy establishing the Land Portal as an independent foundation with the aim of becoming a hub for Linked Open Data and a clear example of innovation and open development in action contributing to policy formulation and better decision making and increasing transparency in the land sector.
Neil Sorensen, Communications and Resource Mobilization Specialist
Neil joined the Land Portals as its Communications and Resource Mobilization Specialist in October 2015. He has extensive experience leading communications for international organizations, developing relationships with civil society, donors, intergovernmental agencies, the media and the private sector. Previously, Neil worked for the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) as a Governing Bodies Officer and Strategic Adviser to the Secretary of IFAD.
Marcello Demaria, Junior Researcher and Data Analyst
Marcello joined the Land Portal in July 2015 as a Junior Researcher and Data Analyst. Previously, he worked at the Italian National Institute of Agricultural Economics (CREA, ex-INEA) for more than three years as data analyst on issues related to sustainable agriculture in the context of both National and EU-funded projects. Marcello is strongly interested in land issues and he joined the Land Portal Foundation with the belief that improving land governance globally is one of the main challenge that the world is facing today.
Jules Clement, Technology Officer
Jules joined the Land Portal Foundation in September 2014 as Technology Officer to take the lead on systems management and technology. Prior to joining the Land Portal Foundation, Jules worked as a System and Technology Officer at the Web Foundation. Jules has a keen interest in the Internet and more specifically the Web, as an Information technology medium and a way to enhance abilities to access information. He also enjoys hacking, particularly Web standards, new technologies and data.
Lisette Meij, Administrative Officer
Lisette joined the Land Portal Foundation as its Administrative Officer in April 2015, and is based in Groningen, the Netherlands. She is a recent law graduate from the University of Groningen, where she specialized in Constitutional and Administrative law. In the summer of 2013, she completed an internship at the Urban Legislation Unit at UN-Habitat in Nairobi, Kenya, where she became familiar with the issues around land and development. Subsequently, she served as an intern for the Land Portal Coordination Unit in Rome, Italy, providing support to the Land Portal Coordinator.
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