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Influence of land tenure interventions on human well-being and environmental outcomes


Land tenure security is increasingly recognized as a foundational element for advancing global sustainable development agendas, but questions remain about how it affects human well-being and environmental outcomes. We identify 117 studies that aimed to estimate the causal effect of land tenure security interventions on these outcomes. Approximately two-thirds of these studies reported positive links between improved tenure security and human well-being or environmental outcomes. Close to half of the studies that examined social and environmental outcomes reported positive impacts on both. The majority of studies assessed government-implemented interventions that statutorily recognized rights through land titling and formalization in the 1990s and 2000s. More research is needed to bolster the body of evidence on the effects of non-technical interventions (for example, capacity building and awareness raising) and the devolution of rights to inform future land policy efforts and accelerate sustainable development.

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Fig. 1: Global distribution and characteristics of the studies and land tenure interventions included in this analysis.
Fig. 2: Changes in de jure and de facto tenure status and in tenure form before and after interventions of the studies reviewed.
Fig. 3: Distribution of human well-being and environmental outcomes from the reviewed studies.

Data availability

The data sets generated and/or analysed during the current study are available on reasonable request.


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This research was supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation (2018-67261). W.Z. is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions and Markets.

Author information




Y.J.M., B.E.R. and T.-W.J.T. designed the research. T.-W.J.T. collected, compiled and coded the data. Y.J.M. and B.E.R. reviewed data coding. Y.J.M., B.E.R. and T.-W.J.T. conducted the data analysis and synthesis. T.-W.J.T. wrote an initial draft of the paper, Y.J.M., B.E.R., M.F.B., A. BenYishay, A. Blackman, T.B., M.C., M.B.H., T.K., B.L., M.D., L.N., T.R., J.S., P.S., P.V., W.S. and W.Z. reviewed and revised the paper.

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Correspondence to Yuta J. Masuda.

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The authors declare no competing interests.

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Peer review information Nature Sustainability thanks Tim Balint and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Supplementary Information

Supplementary background information, Tables 1–10 and Fig. 1.

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Tseng, TW.J., Robinson, B.E., Bellemare, M.F. et al. Influence of land tenure interventions on human well-being and environmental outcomes. Nat Sustain 4, 242–251 (2021).

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