Myanmar CSOs share experiences and plan new opportunities for documenting Customary Tenure

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Myanmar CSOs share experiences and plan new opportunities for documenting Customary Tenure


09 August 2016

Representatives from 26 CSOs across Myanmar came together for a two-day workshop on customary land tenure, held on 26-27 July 2016 at the Metta Development Training Centre in Bago. Key objectives of the workshop were to share experiences of customary tenure documentation, and generate interest and buy-in from participants for the joint development of a handbook that can serve as a useful reference guide for documenting customary land tenure. Participants also explored key opportunities for collaborative actions aimed at increasing recognition of customary tenure at the policy level.

The workshop was the latest in a series of activities embedded in the MRLG Learning and Alliance group on “Documentation of customary land tenure in Myanmar”. Previous activities focused on training and supporting five youth organisations to pilot customary tenure documentation in different sites in Myanmar. The results of the pilots were presented in posters, case study reports and video, and shared at a workshop on 16 February 2016.

From these activities, it became clear that with growing interest in and support for documenting customary tenure in Myanmar, various experiences and lessons were emerging that could be shared among relevant groups. Moreover, some CSOs faced significant challenges in the documentation process due to limited knowledge of customary tenure systems and experience in grassroots participatory research. Therefore, the idea emerged of developing a simple ‘how to’ guide for documenting customary tenure with the purpose of engaging communities in a joint learning process that serves their own goals and priorities for customary land claim recognition.

To that end, the July workshop brought together CSOs with a broad range of experience in the topic to discuss the guidebook’s purpose and value, and plan its development. The workshop started by reaching a common understanding on what is/is not customary land tenure. Representatives of the youth organisations involved in the MRLG-supported activity and others with experience in participatory research engaged in lively discussion on the benefits, risks and challenges of documenting customary tenure. Participants agreed that developing a handbook that introduces key concepts and provides a step-by-step guide to the research process would be a useful tool for CSOs and communities. A number of organisations expressed interest in providing input into the development and testing of the draft set of guidelines.

Day two of the workshop broadened the focus to examine opportunities for advocacy on customary tenure recognition. Two presentations examined how customary tenure is treated under Myanmar’s laws from a historical perspective and under the recently approved National Land Use Policy. This was followed by a political stakeholder analysis exercise where groups examined potential openings for collective actions on three key themes: reform of the Forest Law, recognition of shifting cultivation and a moratorium of the Vacant Fallow Virgin Law. The two days were productive and will launch a new series of learning and alliance activities.