Virtual Learning: My Journey as a Land Portal User
Data, big data and open data can often seem complicated, convoluted and at times, even distant words that have little meaning in our daily lives. More importantly, for the purposes of our work, understanding and communicating how these concepts can lead to better land governance for the rural poor can present some complexities. Through our Impact Stories section, we are looking to document the stories of change that happen around the Land Portal’s initiatives, as minute or significant as they may be.
This story in particular follows the path of Land Portal user Jur Schuurman. His work with LandAc, which works to strengthen the role of knowledge and research in sustainable development, poverty alleviation and international cooperation, is what brought him to the Land Portal. Scroll down to read more of his story.
My journey with the Land Portal began a few years ago, through my previous involvement with Landac as a researcher, at the time when I was still based in the Netherlands. A member of the Land Portal team was present at one of these meetings, and the spirit of innovation sparked my interest in the platform. The topics of online discussions are what really peaked my interest in interacting and finally, getting involved. The first discussions I took part in were the discussions around perceptions of land tenure security, as well as the discussion regarding customary land systems in Zambia. These online discussions afford those working in the land sector, including myself, the possibility to gain a deeper understanding of different topics, to share ideas amongst colleagues and to be on a path of continuous learning. While this can be done in a board room or in an office setting, online tools allow those working around the globe, to chime in, learn and discuss together from our various vantage points. Wider reach and publicity around these initiatives is absolutely necessary, so that as many viewpoints as possible can be included to enrich these debates.
My more recent involvement with the Portal has been via a stand-alone piece called Do We Really Want Peasants?, written with the encouragement of the Land Portal team leader to share my thoughts on the issue of peasant and smallholder agriculture. Being able to write such a piece and have it reach the Land Portal’s wide network is certainly an advantage that I think more colleagues could benefit from. In retrospect and hindsight however, having comments enabled on these types of pieces could be complementary and beneficial to the spirit of learning and sharing which the Land Portal encourages. I, as well as many others I’m sure, would be glad to hear interactive feedback on our work, which could lead to constructive debates.
One of the features of the Land Portal which I use most consistently and will undoubtedly continue to use in the future are the country pages. When I was working in the Ugandan context, reference to the Uganda country page helped to enrich my work and was an important source for the document I was writing. Today, I am living in Guatemala, where I continue to be connected with LandAc, specifically in writing a series of articles on land governance in Guatemala, called “the Guatemala Blog Series”. Here too the country page on the Land Portal has been useful.
Finally, I have worked on a small book, recounting the highlights of Landac from 2010-2016. , one of which is the Land Portal's joining LANDac as a partner in 2016. My experiences as a researcher are diverse and have covered different parts of the globe, at different moments. Having a key repository to come back to time and time again has been invaluable.
I am sure to be able to continue to use the Land Portal as a space to voice my ideas and thoughts on various issues, as well as obtain information which is necessary to my work.