Property Rights and Land Policy
Many country governments, in consultation with citizens, civil society and the private sector, have sought MCC investments in property rights and land policy (PRLP) because of the central role that land, natural resources and other real property assets play in each country’s economic development.
- For a poor rural family, access to a small farm plot can be vital to day-to-day survival, providing family members with food, household income and the possibility of working their way out of poverty.
- Access to well-managed grazing areas can support livestock for entire rural communities.
- In urban or peri-urban areas, a small building or other real property asset can provide a poor family with shelter or a space for entrepreneurial activities essential to survival and economic growth.
A well-functioning PRLP system can not only help the poor, but can help investors and companies obtain the land they need to start and expand businesses.
Access to land, natural resources and real property assets, however, is not itself sufficient to spur economic development. If rights to these assets are not secure and well-understood, people and firms may be less likely to make long-term investments in their property. If there are too many barriers to transferring these assets to others, then they will not be available to the individuals and firms who would put them to their most productive uses.
MCC has supported ambitious PRLP projects because they can have game-changing effects on economic growth and poverty reduction. MCC’s partner countries have used MCC PRLP funding to
- Develop and implement new land legislation;
- Form new land administration institutions or strengthen the operations of existing institutions;
- Establish new, decentralized land tenure services;
- Launch new instruments for recording land rights and land registry systems;
- Completely transform their geodetic infrastructure;
- Formalize land rights for thousands of landholders; and
- Pilot improved dispute resolution processes.
These interventions have been innovative and, in some cases, unprecedented in MCC’s partner countries. To date, MCC has invested approximately $259 million in PRLP reforms across 13 of its 25 active and closed compacts and two of its Threshold Programs, and PRLP activities make up an important part of the recently-signed Cape Verde second compact.
Legal, regulatory and policy reforms have been or will be adopted in most PRLP projects, allowing for more equitable access to secure rights.
The following six examples are among the more than fifty reforms that have been adopted to date as part of PRLP Projects. Further reforms are expected over the coming years in countries with ongoing legal, regulatory and policy reform activities such as Namibia and Mozambique.
In Benin, passage of the Benin Rural Landholding law of 2007 enacted the principle of recognition of customary rights in land as equal to civil law property rights and provided written documents such as the rural landholding plan and rural landholding certificate as recognized instruments for assertion and protection of these rights.
In Burkina Faso, the new Rural Land Tenure law includes measures to enhance access to land tenure services by decentralizing aspects of land management to local levels, and provides tools for legal recognition of legitimate but previously unrecorded and undocumented rights to land that are rooted in traditional tenure systems.
In Lesotho, the new Land Act 2010 establishes greater land tenure security for all land occupants, helps to protect against arbitrary land seizure, enhances gender equity in land ownership and land transactions, and establishes a simplified framework for systematic land registration. In addition, new legislation establishes a new land administration authority (“LAA”) that is professionally managed, autonomous in operations, self-sustaining, and provides efficient and cost-effective land administration services to public and private users.
In Mongolia, the MCC program is promoting changes to numerous laws and regulations that will facilitate linkages between the land mapping and property registration systems and simplify the process by which urban ger-area-dwellers can become land owners. (A ger is a traditional form of housing used by Mongolian herders.)
In Nicaragua, passage of the Public Registry General Law created the necessary legal framework to establish the Integrated Cadastre and Registry System (SIICAR), allowing for electronic registration of real estate and reducing processing time.
Public outreach campaigns are an important part of all MCC PRLP projects, informing citizens of their legal property rights and strengthening the capacity of local authorities to respect and enforce these rights.
The following are just a few examples of outreach activities within MCC PRLP projects:
In Liberia, MCC’s Threshold Project aims to increase clarity and public understanding of property rights issues, clarifying in particular the harmonization of customary land tenure systems with statutory law. A multi-media public outreach program will inform the public of the importance of registering deeds and how to avoid fraud and other abuses and as a result will rebuild public confidence in the system of land administration.
In Namibia and Mongolia, outreach activities support community-based rangeland and livestock management programs, helping to mitigate problems of over-grazing, degradation of resources, and land disputes.
In Burkina Faso extensive outreach to project beneficiaries and stakeholders supports enhanced understanding of the newly-adopted land legislation, and increased awareness of the project’s rural land governance activities and the benefits they are expected to bring.
In Mali and Ghana, the strong efforts to encourage women to participate in the MCC projects led to high levels of involvement of women in property registration activities. Mali achieved significantly greater rates of joint titling of five-hectare farms in the names of both husbands and wives than was anticipated. In Ghana, over 25% of the titles issued were to women, which is consistent with the level of women’s ownership reported in recent studies. These results did not require legal change, but rather were achieved through public outreach campaigns that emphasized gender equity, reinforced by gender specialists who were included in the community outreach teams.
In Indonesia, lack of clarity regarding licensing of rights to use land and other natural resources and unsettled village boundaries contribute to “spatial uncertainty” which significantly hinders government land use planners and service agencies from effectively managing critical natural resources and deters sustainable investments. The Indonesia Compact will involve a participatory land use planning activity that will invest in administrative boundary setting, updating and integration of land use inventories and enhancing spatial plans at the district and provincial levels.
Local and national land administration agencies have benefited from the upgrading of records management systems and geodetic infrastructure and the training of agency officials on efficient registration processes.
In Madagascar, new decentralized land offices were opened in municipalities in targeted areas of the country. These offices gave municipal governments the tools and human resources to issue land certificates providing legal recognition of traditionally-held rights, in a manner more accessible to the population than traditional land titles. At the same time, regional land administration offices were rehabilitated or constructed and a major document conservation and archiving initiative was undertaken, improving the ability of the existing regional land administration institutions to perform land titling-related functions.
In Mozambique, the Compact supports capacity building for cadastral services in the four Northern Provinces and a reconfiguration of the national Land Information Management System. MCC funds provide equipment and technology for the cadastral offices, training of provincial, district and municipal cadastral employees, and technical assistance to cadastral offices implementing new technology and streamlined procedures.
In Mali, a new branch of the local property registration office was established and equipped near the Alatona Irrigation Project site to prepare and issue titles to the newly irrigated land.
In Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Lesotho and Mongolia, newly installed continuously operating reference stations (CORS) collect and record GPS data in an automated manner, making the data more easily available and allowing surveyors to work more quickly and with improved precision.
In Senegal, the Land Tenure Security Activity will strengthen capacity of the local institutions responsible for land administration in the zone targeted by the Irrigation and Water Resource Management project. Reinforced local capacity will improve land administration and mitigate the risk of conflict that could accompany modernization of the agricultural sector and would result from increased demand for irrigated land. At the same time, the activity will lay the foundation for transparent, fair and effective procedures for allocation of land rights in the Senegal River Valley.
In Zambia, the MCC Threshold Program enacted a series of measures that streamlined and improved the transparency of the land registration process, reducing the median length of time to process a sale-transfer of commercial property from 70 days to less than 30 days. To achieve this increased efficiency, the project reorganized the Lands and Deeds office, installed modern scanning and indexing equipment and computerized portions of the cadastral index mapping.
In Cape Verde, the newly-signed second compact will digitize and index core documents at the Ministry of Justice registry to enable faster search of property records, and will link these files to municipal-level information about properties. In addition, the project will develop computerized information systems to link tasks and information across separate institutions, prioritizing functions fundamental to increasing clarity about parcel rights and reducing time and cost of procedures.
Large-scale land mapping and registration campaigns allow citizens to formalize their property rights, often for the first time.
In Benin, citizens’ agricultural fields were surveyed and mapped and their customary rights were described in written form. This work resulted in village landholding plans that formalize land rights and give each citizen the right to receive a certificate, allowing customary rights to be recognized and protected in the courts and to be used in contractual dealings with third parties.
In Ghana, a pilot project mapped and surveyed more than 2,500 hectares of land whose inhabitants had never had formally recognized land rights. Neighboring communities who saw the registration process have requested similar formalization of their land parcels, jump-starting work in an area that had been at a standstill for years and which the government is now better trained and equipped to carry out.
In Lesotho, rapid growth and uncontrolled expansion of informal housing in cities have created a situation in which large numbers of residents lack defined property rights. The MCC project is providing legal title to the occupants of these parcels at minimal or no cost and bringing them into the formal sector. The occupants will become the proprietors of an asset whose value is expected to appreciate substantially with formalization, and will have new incentives to invest in their homes.