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Land and Property Rights

  • 135
    legal and regulatory reforms adopted
  • 399
    land administration offices established or upgraded
  • 325,778
    land rights formalized
  • 364,495
    parcels corrected or incorporated in land system

As of Sep 10, 2023

Land is fundamental to investment and economic growth. For this reason, MCC supports partner country investments that help secure and protect land and property rights, enable both rural and urban land to be more productive and better managed, and make land markets and other land-dependent markets function better. These projects empower the poor, strengthen the investment climate, and contribute to job and wealth creation. As a result, successful land projects can have deep, systemic, and long-lasting impact on economic growth and poverty reduction.

Why Does Land Matter to Poverty Reduction and Economic Growth?

Land and land markets play a central role in every economy. They are fundamental to household wealth and incomes; to the productivity of firms engaged in manufacturing, agriculture, or services; and they impact the availability and costs of essential human needs such as food, transportation, water, energy, and housing.

The income and productivity of individuals, households, and firms depends on how well their own and others’ land rights and access are secured and protected, how confident they are that they will reap the benefits of their land improvements and investments, how easy it is to access or transfer land through sales or rental, and how well broader land use regulations promote efficient and compatible land uses.

Individual, firm-level, and public land uses are also part of larger land markets, which become distorted when they are not supported by governments through effective policies, laws, regulations, institutions, and incentives. These distortions can result in extra costs, inefficiencies, and inequities appearing in a variety of other sectors – including agriculture, transport, water, power - that can negatively impact growth, worsen poverty, undermine access to goods and services, and aggravate social exclusion.

In many developing countries, the lack of secure land rights can arise from an ongoing transition from traditional to modern market economies. These changes can pose challenges to land uses only secured by traditional, undocumented rights, and aggravate pressures on land supply and scarcity. With formal systems often not fully functional and traditional systems no longer functioning as before, existing and new land users face a higher risk of conflict, which yields insecurity and can further dampen productivity and investment. Climate changes can also contribute to land pressures, which similarly can escalate social tensions and conflict.

When Does Land Appear in MCC Work?

MCC’s programs are designed to reduce poverty and promote economic growth, and land may be an aspect of these programs or their supporting analysis in several ways:

Stand-alone land projects: In these cases, land is identified as a major limiting factor or “binding constraint” to a country’s economic growth. If partner governments and MCC agree to address the land constraint, stand-alone projects typically address topics such as land administration improvement, expansion of land access or allocation, formalization of land rights, improvement of land tenure security, or expansion of land planning and management. These projects can include rural, urban, or industrial areas.

Land as a necessary complement to a project in another sector: In these cases, accompanying land activities are added to a non-land project to ensure that land problems don’t limit the project’s impact and sustainability. A primary example is in MCC’s irrigation projects, where transparent, participatory, and fair land allocation processes are vital to achieving the expected agricultural productivity, farm income, and social impact results of MCC’s investments.

Land as a dimension of MCC’s environmental and social performance standards: MCC’s adherence to the IFC Performance Standards means that land – particularly land acquisition and resettlement – can play a potentially decisive role in the sound implementation of projects in other sectors. While MCC’s environmental and social practice leads all matters related to the Performance Standards, a land and property rights perspective can be useful in accomplishing key requirements.

Land as a root cause of a constraint or problem in another sector: Land and land market dysfunctions and inefficiencies can contribute to constraints or problems in other sectors such as transport, water or power, and can influence performance of industrial and logistics sectors. For example, urban planning, property rights, or land management challenges could contribute to high costs of water supply or to high transport costs for people and goods.

Land as the driver of economic benefits in another sector: Sometimes quantification of benefits to investments in other sectors hinges on changes in land market activity – particularly increases in land sales, leasing values, or leasing incidence that unlock value in land. For example, in both Tanzania and Senegal II, land value increases were the primary economic benefit calculated for certain power sector investments.

What Principles Drive Our Land Project Work?

Where MCC invests in land, our work varies depending on the country and issues, but our collaboration with all partner governments centers on the following key principles:
  • Policy and institutional reform: Resolution of land-related problems often requires meaningful reform. This usually focuses on improving land laws, regulations and procedures, reorienting land institutions to better serve public needs, achieving balance between land governance policies and the capacity to apply them, supporting a stable investment climate, and ensuring efficient land market functioning. MCC supports partner countries to achieve reform that might not be possible without donor resources.
  • Strong legal rights and access to land for women: Strong and enforced legal rights are a foundation for women’s economic empowerment. We work to understand with country partners to understand and reduce the barriers that current statutory and customary regimes and cultural norms pose for women’s equal access to land, land rights and land governance participation. We pay specific attention to ways women obtain rights to land, independently as well as through inheritance and formal and informal marriage. We also identify the implications for the strengthening or weakening of those rights because of potential MCC investments.
  • Mobilize MCC funds smartly: We will ensure that land project implementation welcomes innovation in procurement and payment, and where applicable will explore tools that can boost project performance such as results-based financing (RBF) approaches and public-private partnerships (PPPs) in collaboration with other MCC teams.
  • Appropriate technology: Our land investments promote use of the most appropriate technology to solve specific problems. To ensure long-term impact and sustainability, we ensure our investments put countries on the path to valuing new technology more broadly while building both the commitment and capacity to sustain these investments. Within this process, we pay close attention to the alignment of partner country legal and procedural standards for technology tools and their alignment with market developments and cost-efficiency.
  • Flexible, citizen-oriented tenure options: Where we focus on localized land tenure security operations, we seek to secure commitments to flexible approaches. This includes development of uncomplicated and low-cost titling instruments; using easy, low-cost mapping tools, and broadening the universe of stakeholders who can meet partner government standards for information gathering and management.
  • Demand and private sector engagement: We support interventions that respond to existing demand of citizens or the private sector for land and land administration services, or have the ability to generate demand. We will advocate for the role of the private sector in delivery of land-related services, recognizing the market as a force for technology change to increase citizen orientation and reduce the cost and complexity of land administration services.
  • Challenges of planning and land markets, both rural and urban We build understanding of the reach and limits of land use planning and urban planning investments without strong property rights systems, incentives, regulation and enforcement, and effective frameworks for inter-institutional decision making on public investment, such as infrastructure. We work to ensure understanding of the role of land markets in both enabling opportunity and underpinning exclusion.

What Do MCC Land Projects Do?

Since our first compact in 2005, MCC’s partner countries have used land funding to:
  • Design and implement national policies and strategies to manage land more productively;
  • Develop new land laws, regulations and procedures, or update and improve existing ones;
  • Formalize land rights for landholders, including outreach and training so landholders are fully empowered in their rights;
  • Form new land administration institutions or strengthen and streamline the operations of existing institutions;
  • Improve access to land for investors and private individuals;
  • Decentralize land tenure services to local levels;
  • Launch new instruments for recording land rights;
  • Identify and map boundaries of communities and other jurisdictions;
  • Land use planning to optimize uses of land and access to land resources;
  • Develop industrial land that better meets the needs of manufacturing firms;
  • Create or upgrade land information systems;
  • Pilot improved land dispute resolution processes.
Beyond these types of program investments, MCC also explores critical emerging themes that may be relevant for a given country program. These currently include: AI and machine learning; property taxation and other land-based revenue; community land, forest land, and pasture and landscape management; sector trends in systematic rights formalization operations; land fragmentation and generational land challenges; information access as well as information privacy; climate, conflict and security; social media; youth engagement; and market demand for agricultural products from tenure-secure parcels.

Country Programs

To date, MCC has invested over $500 million in land programs.
Summary of MCC’s Land Projects—Compacts
Country Amount Time Frame
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
Summary of MCC’s Land Projects—Threshold Programs
Country Amount Time Frame
Liberia $7.1 million July 2010–December 2013
Togo $8 million February 2019–February 2023
Zambia $3.6 million May 2006–February 2009

Active Programs

Morocco Employability and Land Compact

MCC’s compact with Morocco includes a $171 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.

Flag of Niger

Niger Compact

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.

Flag of Togo

Togo Threshold Program

MCC’s threshold program with Togo includes an $8 million Land Reform to Accelerate Agricultural Production Project that will support the establishment of a regulatory framework to implement the new Land Code. It will also field-test cost effective procedures and technologies for land formalization to provide Togolese farmers with the security necessary to make long-term investments in their land.

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. 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.

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 to make the land more productive. A new rural land tenure law, supported by the $58.3 million Rural Land Governance 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.

Cabo Verde Compact II

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 clarified plot-level property rights and boundaries, digitized, indexed and updated core documents within the registry to enable faster search of property records, and linked these files to municipal-level property information. Updated records and a computerized system will improve the reliability of land information, increase the efficiency of transactions, and strengthen protection of land rights, especially for targeted islands with high tourism investment potential. This is expected to attract more large and small investors and reduce time and cost of procedures.

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.

Indonesia Compact

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’s Green Prosperity Project 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. The upgraded maps and community-generated natural resource use plans will set the stage for sustainable land management and a more predictable and stable investment environment.

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 Lesotho Compact’s Private Sector Development Project included a $17.9 million Land Administration Reform Activity that provided legal title to the land-parcel occupants 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 2006 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. Finally, the program made an important contribution along to road to adoption of the groundbreaking Land Rights Act in 2018.

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 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 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.

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 $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.

Namibia Compact

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 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.

Senegal Compact

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.

Zambia Threshold Program

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.