Property Rights and Land Policy

  • 384land administration offices established or upgraded
  • 75,522stakeholders trained
  • 329,659parcels corrected or incorporated in the land system
  • 312,381land rights formalized

As of 3/10/17 2:41 pm

MCC and many of its partner countries have invested in land and property rights projects because of the critical role that land, natural resources and other property assets play in economic development. These projects help improve access to land for productive use, increase security of property rights and improve land governance and administration.

Access to a small farm plot can be vital to the day-to-day survival of a rural family, providing family members with food, household income and the possibility of lifting themselves out of poverty. Access to well-managed grazing areas can support livestock for entire rural communities. In urban or peri-urban areas, ownership of a small building or other property asset can provide a poor family with shelter or a space for entrepreneurial activities. A well-functioning land and property rights system not only helps the poor, but it also helps investors and companies obtain the land they need to start and expand businesses. Successful land projects can have systemic impact on economic growth and poverty reduction.

MCC’s partner countries have used MCC land project 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; transform 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.

Summary of MCC’s Land Projects—Compacts
Country Program Amount Time Frame
Benin $31 million October 2006–October 2011
Burkina Faso $58.4 million July 2009–July 2014
Cabo Verde II $17.3 million November 2013–November 2018
Ghana $4.2 million February 2007–February 2012
Indonesia $25.0 million April 2013–April 2018
Lesotho $17.9 million September 2008–September 2013
Madagascar $29.6 million July 2005–August 2009
Mali $0.9 million September 2007–August 2012
Mongolia $28.5 million September 2008–September 2013
Mozambique $40.1 million September 2008–September 2013
Namibia $23.3 million September 2009–September 2014
Nicaragua $7.2 million May 2006–May 2011
Senegal $3.8 million September 2010–September 2015
Summary of MCC’s Land Projects—Threshold Programs
Country Program Amount Time Frame
Liberia $7.1 million July 2010–November 2013
Zambia $3.6 million May 2006–February 2009

Country Programs

To date, MCC has invested approximately $298 million in land programs across 13 of its 32 signed compacts and two of its threshold programs.

Active Compacts

Cabo Verde Compact

In Cabo Verde, attracting foreign investment in the tourism industry has been hampered by unreliable land registration data and uncertainty about land rights. The $17.3 million Land Management for Investment Project will digitize and index core documents within the registry to enable faster search of property records, and will link these files to municipal-level property information. The computerized system will improve the reliability of land information, increase the efficiency of transactions, clarify parcel rights and boundaries and strengthen protection of land rights, especially for targeted islands with high investment potential. This is expected to attract more large and small investors and reduce time and cost of procedures.

Indonesia Compact

In Indonesia, lack of clarity regarding licensing of land use rights and other natural resources, as well as disputed village boundaries, contribute to uncertainty that significantly hinders government land use planners and service agencies from effectively managing critical natural resources. This, in turn, deters sustainable investment. The Indonesia Compact includes a $25 million participatory land use planning activity that will invest in administrative boundary setting, updating and integration of land use inventories, as well as enhancing spatial plans at the district and provincial levels. Clear maps and community-generated natural resource use plans will set the stage for sustainable land management and a more predictable and stable investment environment.

Senegal Compact

In Senegal, the $3.8 million 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 arising from increased demand for irrigated land. At the same time, the activity is laying the foundation for transparent, fair and effective procedures for allocation of land rights in project zone and elsewhere in the Senegal River Valley.

Closed Compacts and Threshold Programs

Benin Compact

In Benin, two parallel systems of land rights—a generations-old customary system, and a colonial statutory system—have made the process of registering, buying, selling or claiming land confusing and sometimes impossible for the average landholder. People who had traditionally used a parcel of land and had passed it down for generations, were not always assured that it was legally theirs under statutory law. As a result, they had difficulty selling or leasing it, and were reluctant to invest in it. 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. It established written documents, like a rural landholding plan and rural landholding certificate, as legal instruments for assertion and protection of these rights. The $31 million MCC-funded Access to Land Project produced rural landholding plans in more than 295 villages, officially documenting and registering customary land rights and allowing them to be recognized and protected in courts of law and used in contractual dealings with third parties. Landholding plans were produced using newly installed continuously operating reference stations (CORS) to collect and record data in an automated manner, allowing for data to be easily accessible and for surveyors to work more quickly and precisely.

Burkina Faso Compact

In Burkina Faso, the lack of titles and registration of land parcels created a situation where people were never sure that their land rights were secure, and therefore were reluctant to make investments that would make the land more productive. A new rural land tenure law supported by the $58.4 million Land Project within the compact included measures to enhance access to land tenure services by decentralizing aspects of land management to local communities and provided tools for legal recognition of legitimate but previously unrecorded and undocumented rights to land that were rooted in traditional tenure systems. Extensive outreach to project beneficiaries and stakeholders supported enhanced understanding of new land legislation, increasing awareness of the project’s rural land governance activities and benefits.

Ghana Compact

In Ghana, the $4.2 million land activity within the compact included a pilot project to map and survey more than 2,500 hectares of land on which inhabitants did not have formal land rights. Neighboring communities observed the success of the project and have requested similar formalization of the land parcels, jump-starting work in an area that had been at a standstill for years. The government is now better trained and equipped to carry out new formalization efforts. More than 25 percent of land titles were issued to women, consistent with the level of women’s ownership reported in recent World Bank studies. These results did not require legal action, but rather were achieved through public outreach campaigns that emphasized gender equity. These campaigns were reinforced by gender specialists included in community outreach teams.

Lesotho Compact

In Lesotho, rapid growth and uncontrolled expansion of informal housing in urban areas caused large numbers of residents to lack defined property rights. The $17.9 million MCC Land Activity provided legal title to the occupants of these parcels at minimal or no cost, bringing them officially into the formal sector. The occupants are now proprietors of an asset whose value is expected to appreciate substantially with formalization, and will have new incentives to invest in their homes. The 2010 Land Act, passed with assistance from MCC, establishes greater land tenure security for all land occupants, helps protect against arbitrary land seizure and establishes a simplified framework for systematic land registration. In addition, new legislation and MCC compact support established a new professional land administration authority that is autonomous in operations, self-sustaining, and provides efficient and cost-effective land administration services to public and private users. Finally, the Legal Capacity of Married Persons Act, adopted as a condition to the MCC compact, enhances gender equity in land ownership and transactions, allowing women to have the same rights as men to own, inherit, buy and sell land for the first time.

Liberia Threshold Program

In Liberia, the general public was poorly informed of how their traditionally held property rights fit into the legal system. MCC’s $7.1 million Land Project helped develop a new national land policy, clarifying harmonization of customary land tenure systems with statutory law. A multi-media public outreach program increased public understanding of property rights issues and informed the public of the importance of registering deeds and methods to avoid fraud and other abuses. The program sought to rebuild public confidence in the system of land administration.

Madagascar Compact

In Madagascar, the national land registration system was in serious decline and could not meet the needs of citizens to register their land or resolve land disputes—decaying paper records were in such poor condition that they could not be easily used for reference. Moreover, centralized land registry offices were inconveniently located and were inaccessible to most people. To solve this problem, the $29.6 million Land Tenure Project opened new decentralized land offices 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 serve the communities’ needs.

Mali Compact

In Mali, the Alatona Irrigation Project built a 5,000-hectare perimeter of irrigated land suitable for rice production. In order to assure that these newly irrigated parcels would be allocated fairly and transparently, a new branch of the local property registration office near the irrigated areas was established and equipped to prepare and issue titles to the land through the $900,000 Land Allocation Activity. Strong efforts to encourage women to participate in the MCC project led to significantly greater rates of joint titling of five-hectare farms in the names of both husbands and wives than was anticipated. 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.

Mongolia Compact

In Mongolia, an outdated land registration system took months or even years to process simple transactions like buying or selling land or obtaining building permits, and could not keep up with land transactions that were actually taking place. MCC’s $28.5 million Property Rights Project supported improvements to the system, making it more accurate, accessible and efficient, allowing Mongolians to feel more secure about making longer-term investments in their homes and businesses. The improvements were further supported by changes to laws and regulations that facilitate linkages between land mapping and property registration systems and simplify the process by which urban residents can become land owners. The project also developed and implemented a system whereby groups of herders in peri-urban areas could lease pasture land instead of treating all land as a communal resource, which was contributing to overuse and degradation of pasture lands. This new system of leasing will help improve livestock productivity and sustainable use of rangeland resources.

Mozambique Compact

In Mozambique, there was no digitized system of maps and property records that could be used as a reference when citizens wanted to register land transactions or resolve disputes. The $40 million Land Tenure Project supported capacity building for cadastral services in four northern provinces and a reconfiguration of the national Land Information Management System. MCC funds provided equipment and technology for cadastral offices, training of provincial district and municipal cadastral employees and technical assistance to cadastral offices to implement new technology and streamlined procedures. Once these technologies were in place, the project completed systematic land registration and titling for more than 250,000 households.

Namibia Compact

In Namibia, open community access to common pasture land and poor land management have led to over-grazing and land degradation threatening rural livelihoods, particularly those of the poor, many of whom depend on common lands as their only land resource. MCC’s $23.3 million Land Access and Management Project helped produce registration maps in more than 150 villages showing rights to individual parcels and unallocated pasture land for community members and land administration officials to use as tools to manage the sustainable use of land resources for the benefit of the community. An extensive national and local outreach strategy made citizens aware of their land rights and an automated registration system was developed and installed at the national and local levels to assure access to accurate and secure land rights information.

Nicaragua Compact

Nicaragua had an outdated land registration system that could not keep pace with changes in the real estate market. Few citizens held legal titles, complicating the processes for buying and selling land while creating fear of losing their land among landholders. Through the $7.2 million Property Regularization Project, passage of a public registry general law created the necessary legal framework for to establish an Integrated Cadastre and Registry System, allowing for electronic registration of real estate and reduced processing time. A land titling pilot activity resulted in the distribution of more than 2,800 property titles.

Zambia Compact

In Zambia, the $3.6 million land activity of the country’s 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 fewer 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.