MCC and 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 empower the poor and strengthen the investment climate for firms by helping improve access to land for productive use, clarify laws that define property ownership, set up or strengthen the institutions where property rights are recorded, and create record-keeping mechanisms for those rights.
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 space for entrepreneurial activities. A well-functioning land and property rights system is equally essential for investors and companies large and small to have the confidence to invest and the ability to efficiently and predictably obtain the land they need to start and expand businesses, including in services and manufacturing. Successful land projects can have systemic and long-lasting impact on economic growth and poverty reduction.
To generate these impacts, MCC’s partner countries have used MCC land funding to:
- develop and implement new land laws, regulations and procedures;
- formalize land rights for landholders;
- form new land administration institutions or strengthen and streamline the operations of existing institutions;
- decentralize land tenure services to local levels;
- improve the functioning of land markets;
- launch new instruments for recording land rights;
- identify and map boundaries of communities and other jurisdictions;
- complete land use planning to optimize uses of land and access to land resources;
- develop industrial land that better meets the needs of manufacturing firms;
- design and implement national strategies to manage land more productively; and
- pilot improved land dispute resolution processes.
These interventions have been innovative and, in some cases, unprecedented in MCC’s partner countries.
|Benin||$31.0 million||October 2006–October 2011|
|Burkina Faso||$58.3 million||July 2009–July 2014|
|Cabo Verde||$17.7 million||November 2012–November 2017|
|Ghana||$4.2 million||February 2007–February 2012|
|Indonesia||$43.1 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||$25.3 million||September 2008–September 2013|
|Morocco||$170.5 million||June 2017–June 2022|
|Mozambique||$39.5 million||September 2008–September 2013|
|Namibia||$23.1 million||September 2009–September 2014|
|Nicaragua||$7.2 million||May 2006–May 2011|
|Niger||$9.8 million||January 2018-January 2023|
|Senegal||$4.9 million||September 2010–September 2015|
|Liberia||$7.1 million||July 2010–December 2013|
|Zambia||$3.6 million||May 2006–February 2009|
To date, MCC has invested approximately $494 million in land programs across 15 of its 33 signed compacts and two threshold programs. New investments are in development.
MCC’s compact with Morocco includes a $170.5 million Land Productivity Project. This investment comprises three activities: a) a Land Governance Activity, which will support the development and implementation of a long-term land strategy to address governance and land market constraints to investment and productivity; b) a Rural Land Activity, which aims to increase rural productivity by streamlining the process for privatizing collective lands, while making it more inclusive and more protective of the rights of land holders, including women; and c) an Industrial Land Activity to transform the current state-driven process for developing industrial land to one that optimizes public investment and attracts private sector participation in the financing, development, management and operation of industrial zones.
MCC’s compact with Niger is expected to increase rural incomes by increasing the production capacity and sustainability of natural resources, and by improving select links of key agricultural product value chains. The compact will invest in integrated water management; new infrastructure, including small- and large-scale irrigation systems, market platforms and improved roads; sustainable management of natural resources; and sustainable agricultural production. These activities will benefit rural producers whose livelihoods are derived from the agriculture and livestock sectors. Central to the compact is a land tenure security component to help farmers and pastoralists have reliable, inclusive and long-term access to land improved under the compact. A transparent, participatory and fair allocation strategy of lands improved under the compact is essential to reduce the risk of land conflict. Activities to reinforce local land governance include, (i) development of local land tenure profiles, including mapping of land rights, (ii) development by local stakeholders of criteria for land allocation, (iii) formalization of the allocated land rights by obtaining the appropriate land titling instruments, iv) building capacity of local land governance agencies, v) development of local land use plans, and vi) reinforcement of mechanisms to improve management and resolution of land conflicts.
Closed Compacts and Threshold Programs
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. 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 $31.0 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.
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 to make the land more productive. A new rural land tenure law, supported by the $58.3 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.
In Cabo Verde, attracting foreign investment in the tourism industry has been hampered by unreliable land registration data and uncertainty about land rights. The $17.7 million Land Management for Investment Project digitized and indexed core documents within the registry to enable faster search of property records, and linked 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.
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.
In Indonesia, lack of clarity regarding licensing of land use rights and other natural resources and disputed village boundaries significantly hinders government land use planners and service agencies from effectively managing critical natural resources. This, in turn, deters sustainable investment. The Indonesia Compact included a $43.1 million participatory land use planning activity that invested 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.
In Lesotho, rapid growth and uncontrolled expansion of informal housing in urban and peri-urban areas resulted in large numbers of residents with clearly defined property rights. The $17.9 million MCC Land Administration Reform Activity provided legal title to the occupants of these parcels at no cost, bringing them officially into the formal sector. The occupants are possess a formalized property asset whose value is expected to appreciate substantially, 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 regularization. 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 holdings and transactions, allowing women to have the same rights as men to possess, inherit, buy and sell land for the first time.
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.
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.
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.
In Mongolia, an outdated land registration system took months or 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 $25.3 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 facilitated linkages between land mapping and property registration systems and simplified the process by which urban residents could become land owners. The project also developed and implemented a system whereby groups of herders in peri-urban areas could lease pasture land. This system replaced the practice of treating all land as a communal resource, which was contributing to overuse and degradation of pasture lands. This new system of leasing helped improve livestock productivity and sustainable use of rangeland resources.
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 $39.5 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 with informal holdings of land.
In Namibia, open community access to common pasture land and poor land management led to over-grazing and land degradation. This threatened rural livelihoods, particularly those of the poor, many of whom depended on common lands as their only land resource. MCC’s $23.1 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 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.
In Senegal, the $4.9 million Land Tenure Security Activity strengthened capacity of the local institutions responsible for land administration in the zone targeted by the Irrigation and Water Resource Management project. Reinforced local capacity improved land administration and mitigated the risk of conflict arising from increased demand for irrigated land. At the same time, the activity laid the foundation for transparent, fair and effective procedures for allocation of land rights in project zone and elsewhere in the Senegal River Valley.
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.