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Social Case Study

16 December 2016

Protecting Land Rights in Illovo

Protecting Land Rights in Illovo


Through a collaborative approaches and capacity-building programmes, Illovo aims to address local land rights issues in partnership with communities near to its sugarcane estates.

What we did

To Illovo, securing land rights effectively means securing the foundations of the business and thus requires a collaborative and proactive approach. In March 2015, Illovo announced the launch of its Group Guidelines on Land and Land Rights, which takes a zero tolerance approach to land-grabs and land rights abuses. In that time Illovo has engaged widely with stakeholders both nationally and internationally to raise the importance of legal land rights in the business sphere. The company has also developed a comprehensive road map to guide its interventions on land-related matters.

The 10-step road map addresses a broad range of activities including the formation of a Land Policy Roundtable Committee consisting of key Illovo employees, external experts, NGOs and development organisations. The committee communicates regularly to promote transparency and share knowledge and to provide advice on an ad hoc basis.

Effective communication between stakeholders was identified as a weakness. Transparent and accessible grievance and dispute resolution procedures were developed at each site to allow individuals to raise areas of concern or grievances related to land. A plan to address communications at each stakeholder level was implemented and accompanied by the publication of all important documentation in local languages.

The project commenced with a workshop to raise the awareness of Illovo staff whom engage regularly with farmers and communities of the wider subject of land rights, particularly through the gender lens and prompted them to consider their own situations in country. The workshop went on to assist the team to identify potential routes of communication and grievance mechanisms using the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) and analytical framework to guide development.

The next priority was to understand what land conflicts apply to Illovo’s own land or that of its growers. To do this, Illovo documented all known grievances within its operations and will be undertaking self-assessments on land matters at each of its operations with the assistance of external experts and input from relevant stakeholders. The assessments seek to further promote communication between stakeholders while identifying current and potential problems that require further investigation or verification by an independent third party, as well as identifying potential interventions to resolve these issues. The findings from these assessments along with any proposed interventions or measures to address land disputes will be published, in line with transparent best practice.

Turning Commitment into Practice

Illovo has partnered with Landesa, an international NGO specialising in land rights. This has allowed Illovo to secure funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID) to implement a project aimed at addressing capacity both internally and externally within local communities, growers and civil society organisations.

Illovo is also engaging with USAID and Indufor to take the land rights programme one step further in Mozambique to assist the outgrower farmers to manage their own land rights and acquire formal documentation for their land thus enabling them to develop land use plans and invest sustainably into their land.


Understanding of land and land rights around Illovo’s estates has improved. In addition a comprehensive, implementable system for addressing land rights in a manner within the business going forward to reduce risk to all stakeholders has been implemented.

The commitment to practice project will enable Illovo to implement the road map in a much more comprehensive and inclusive manner. The engagement with and capacity-building of communities and civil society organisations through the project aims to address some of the trust and communication issues between Illovo and its neighbouring communities facilitating improved relationships.

Illovo has embedded the land guidelines into its operational procedures and policies underpinned by the introduction of Ethical Cane Guidelines which support the implementation of land and other human rights policies.

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