Archives for Land Tenure
My travels to Rome, Brussels, Ottawa, Tokyo and East Africa over the past year have focused on promoting a broad discussion on the necessity for good land governance to promote food security. Partners have repeatedly stressed to me the importance of land governance systems to promote investment and more transparent land transactions. These conversations are taking place parallel to increased media coverage of land issues, the G8 and G20’s focus on land and property rights, the UN Committee on World Food Security’s adoption of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (commonly referred to as the VGs), the UN’s post-2015 Development Agenda planning, and the forthcoming negotiations for the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment. Together, these highlight a clear message: property rights are central and vitally important to global development.
As a global leader on supporting resource governance rights, USAID is out in front on this issue. Along with the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), the State Department and other U.S. Government agencies, we are working together with many stakeholders to improve land and resource governance systems in many countries. While USAID and MCC’s investment of more than $800 million in 32 countries are among the largest in the donor community, we seek to coordinate our efforts with partners so that the maximum benefit can be realized.
An important step in coordinating and refining our efforts will occur next week at the World Bank’s annual Conference on Land and Poverty in Washington D.C. Over 800 participants from governments, donors, academia, the media, the private sector and civil society will gather for an intense week of conversations focused on research and policy solutions to strengthen property rights for many of world’s poorest people.
In order to eradicate extreme poverty, address global climate change, and increase food security, we must secure property rights for all producers and create conditions that enable private investment to take place so that small, medium, and large producers can benefit from their investments. USAID will advance this position and play a key role next week to lead the global community towards implementing programs that reflect best practice and greater stakeholder coordination.
To follow the proceedings from next week’s conference, I welcome you to follow my comments and reactions to the more than 300 papers and presentations through my personal twitter handle, @Gregorywmyers. Additionally, you may follow reactions to the conference from our many partners by searching #landrights on Twitter.
This is part of our FrontLines Year in Review series. This originally appeared in FrontLines July/August 2012 issue.
Property rights are proving to be a solid foundation for economic empowerment for individuals, corporations and nations, and a potential solution to shore up food security in developing countries. International guidelines adopted earlier this year address this issue.
New international guidelines adopted earlier this year are expected to pave the way for “landowners” to establish clearer rights to land and other resources in developing countries. That seemingly simple act—multiplied many times over in countries across the globe—could have profound consequences for the economies of developing countries, and reverse the trend of speculators snatching land without permission from the people who have historically considered it their own.
Land grabbing, as it is often called, happens every day in the developing world where weak laws and policies allow businesses and governments—through naiveté or outright greed—to latch on to property that belongs to someone else, and to sell or lease it to the highest bidder.
Adopted in May by the U.N. Committee on World Food Security, the 35-page document (PDF) sets out principles to guide countries in designing and implementing laws that govern property rights over land, fisheries and forests for agricultural and other uses.
As it is officially known, the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security is designed “so that both investors can invest with some kind of certainty that their investments will be secure and, at the same time, those people who hold the resources or the assets—the people who have the land in the countries where we work—will also have some certainty that they will be able to benefit from the investments that are made,” says Gregory Myers, USAID’s division chief for land tenure and property rights and chair of the negotiations for the guidelines.
USAID is keenly interested in the guidelines, not only because of the inherent economic benefits of secure property rights for individuals and communities, but because of what that can mean for the Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. Government’s effort to ramp up agricultural development in food-insecure countries.
“In many ways, that’s really at the heart of our (Feed the Future) strategy—on one hand encouraging the private sector, and on the other hand supporting smallholder farmers,” Myers said.
“Between 800 million and a billion people go to bed hungry at night, and the number is growing,” he explained. “Clearly, we need to do something to promote agriculture … but that means there has to be investment in agriculture. So the bottom line is that we have to find a way to bring private-sector investment into this equation. And the only way that’s going to happen sustainably and in a way that’s not going to lead to a lot of violence or conflict is that we’re going to have to address the issue of property rights.”
Read the rest of the article in FrontLines.
- USAID Securing Land Tenure and Resource Rights
- Land Tenure: from ImpactBlog
- International Land Coalition
- Video on USAID’s land-tenure work in Ethiopia
A nation formed just 10 years ago, Timor-Leste struggles to overcome complex challenges of land ownership and use rights that were created under Portuguese and Indonesian rule. Competing land claims between individuals, and between individuals and the state, are quite common and occasionally result in armed conflict and deaths. Complicating the problem is the absence of a property rights legal framework in which to address land matters. Many hope that a new land law that will be introduced to Parliament at the beginning of 2013 will help address many of the ambiguities currently present in the land and property sector.
This month, experts from USAID’s Land Tenure and Property Rights Division in Washington are in Timor-Leste to help advance work in the land and property sector. Their work builds upon nine years of engagement in the land sector by the U.S. Embassy and USAID Mission in Dili.
“Establishing a clear, predictable land tenure system is essential for Timor-Leste’s development as it will provide a means to resolve disputes without violence and set a sturdy foundation for economic growth,” explained U.S. Ambassador to Timor-Leste, Judith Fergin.
USAID is currently assisting the Government of Timor-Leste as it develops provisions in the draft land law that promote and clarify the property rights of communities and individuals. Meetings with government officials and members of Parliament revealed solid commitments to promote ownership rights and fairness. Once a land law is in place, residents will finally be able to obtain legal security of land holdings or use the legal framework to contest competing claims and settle disputes. Parliamentary and government leaders have said that passage of the land law is a top priority in 2013.
In anticipation of a national land law, USAID began a project in 2007 that strengthened the country’s cadastral and land registration systems. The project, branded Ita Nia Rai, which in Tetum means “Our Land,” also increased people’s understanding of their rights and responsibilities through public information awareness activities. The project registered more than 50,000 claims to urban land in all 13 districts across the country. After the claims were recorded, communities were given the opportunity to confirm or contest the claims in the area. Uncontested claims to property are eligible for property claims certificates from the government. According to the most recent version of the Land Law before Parliament, certificates issued by the government under the project will mature into a full title after five years. Certificates already issued have reduced conflict, promoted investment and strengthened governance. The transparent process has established a rich database that will form the basis of a national property cadaster.
When the project ended in September 2012, the Ministry of Justice, through the National Directorate of Land, Property and Cadastral Services, requested the transfer of ownership for Ita Nia Rai and is working to integrate the community-driven process into its business operations. The directorate, recognizing the benefits to Timorese, plans to expand the claims registration process to other high priority areas throughout the country in the coming years.
USAID Mission Director in Timor-Leste blogged on this topic last year.
For more information on land tenure work in Timor-Leste, visit the USAID Land Tenure and Property Rights Portal.
This originally appeared in FrontLines, November/December 2012 issue.
With the groundbreaking election of 11 female village elders, a USAID-backed pilot project seeks more equitable governance and protection of women’s assets.
Parakuo Naimodu is an unlikely success story. A mother of 11 children, she has lived in the town of Ol Posimoru in southern Kenya for years—at one time, with a husband who beat and verbally abused her. Only five of her 11 (four sons and one daughter) children finished school.
To resolve her domestic troubles, Naimodu sought the help of the local elders. Elders traditionally hold the authority to decide disputes that bind both men and women in Kenya’s villages. Naimodu hoped they would help intervene to stop her husband’s beatings. But the elders, all men, sided with her husband. And bringing a case against him only led to more abuse when she returned home.
The couple eventually separated, but Naimodu’s husband continued to verbally abuse her whenever they passed in the village.
This all changed on July 10, when Naimodu and 10 other women in Ol Pusimoru, an area with a population of about 2,500, were formally elected as elders.
Elders meet on an as-needed basis to resolve land and other disputes, including family problems. They help to resolve everything from boundary disputes and trespassing to cattle rustling and criminal cases, including rape. Depending on the case, hearings are held with testimony by both parties and witnesses, and site visits help the elders to gather information. Elders may impose various penalties, including fines in the form of livestock or chickens, apologies to the aggrieved party, and other forms of punishment. Decisions may be appealed to a government court, but the court system is expensive and often intimidating for women.
Once Naimodu became an elder and an expert in her legal rights, her life dramatically changed. Her husband stopped harassing her. She says that he heard she was trained in women’s constitutional rights and a recognized member of the dispute-resolution system. “[H]e knows he cannot interfere with my life anymore without facing the consequences,” she explains.
Naimodo and her sister elders are all beneficiaries of USAID’s pilot project, the Kenya Justice Project (KJP), designed to help village elders and other justice officials support and enforce women’s rights to land and to have a say in how forest resources are governed.
The 11 woman elders have broken the mold in a country where women’s rights to equal participation in society are still very fragile, according to Deborah Espinosa, Africa program director for Landesa, the implementing NGO that works to secure land and property rights for marginalized groups around the world.
“Thanks to Kenya’s new constitution, gender equality is now a legal requirement. Women have greater legal protection of their rights to own and inherit property and to share in marital property,” says Espinosa. “The important challenge now is for Kenyans to know about these rights and to protect and enforce them in a country where women are not traditionally property owners,” she says, explaining that male relatives frequently sell family land without consulting women; and that women are routinely thrown out of marital homes by in-laws when husbands die, plunging them and their children into dire circumstances.
This kind of family-based “land grabbing” is widespread in Kenya, Espinosa says. “With their male counterparts, the women elders may help to bring an end to these harmful practices by enforcing the law.”
“The [Kenya Justice] project helps women and girls learn about their legal rights and it builds skills so that they can take on a bigger role in decision making in their homes and in their communities. This project also works with men and boys so that they understand how women contribute to the community,” says Achieng Akemu, senior rule of law adviser at USAID…[continued]
Read the rest of the article on FrontLines.
Last week I had a chance to spend a day in Cartagena, Colombia with Assistant Administrator Mark Feierstein, USAID Colombia Mission staff, host government personnel and implementing partners. Together, we looked at USAID’s technical assistance programs which support the Government of Colombia’s efforts to restitute land, formalize property and implement rural development.
Colombia is slowly emerging from decades of violent internal conflict and instability, which exacerbated existing social and economic disparities. Over the course of the conflict, armed groups, including the FARC guerillas, right-wing paramilitary forces, and private militias of drug lords used violence and intimidation extensively to force people from their lands and homes. As a result, there are 3.9 million officially registered Internally Displaced Persons in Colombia and over 9.8 million acres of land were abandoned due to forced displacement.
The current administration of President Juan Manuel Santos believes that an integrated program of securing access to rural land combined with comprehensive rural development will create the conditions necessary for lasting peace. In the next ten years, the Government of Colombia intends to resolve 360,000 restitution cases, restoring rightful ownership of land to those who were violently displaced or who abandoned their land due to the conflict. During my visit, I met with villagers who were forced from their homes 12 years ago on 12 hours’ notice—women like Aura who was forced to flee Las Brisas in Toro County with her three small children.
To help families like Aura’s, President Santos signed the Victims’ Law and Land Restitution Law to settle the country’s outstanding historical debts and establish a legal framework to support the process of land restitution and address root causes of the conflict. The law provides comprehensive assistance and reparations for over 3.6 million victims and includes an ambitious program of land restitution for those whose land was violently seized by illegal armed groups or who had to abandon their land due to the conflict. Simultaneous to the restitution efforts, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development is implementing an ambitious project to strengthen the land rights of smallholder farmers, indigenous, and Afro-Colombian communities by issuing formal titles guaranteeing individual and collective rights.
As a result of these reforms, Aura’s community filed a legal case and she will soon receive financial compensation for herself and each of her children. She also will receive a rural plot of land and plans to rebuild a home and raise cattle in the area she once lived in.
Stories like Aura’s illustrate how USAID plays a role in keeping America’s long tradition of helping those who are less fortunate than us. Even modest amounts of assistance from the U.S. to the Colombian Government to support of land tenure programs help build peace and security in the country.
The kebele of Debeso, a majority Muslim community in southern Ethiopia, faces many of the same challenges one encounters across the country. Scarce water resources, near exclusive economic dependence on agriculture, and a government that owns all land in the country, create feelings of insecurity and hardship among rural Ethiopians, who represent about 85% of the total population. Located in the Southern Nations, Nationalities and Peoples region, Debeso is one place where USAID is working to address some of these challenges. Through a project centered on surveying land parcels using GPS technology and issuing land certificates to those occupying the land, USAID and the Government of Ethiopia help secure property rights so that residents can focus on investing in production and limit conflict.
Two weeks after receiving their certificates, some Debeso residents are already planning to use it as an assurance for creating rental and sharecropping agreements. A month ago they would have hesitated to make these types of arrangements for fear that those farming the land would claim it as their own. The certificate, accompanied by a parcel map, also gives land holders accurate measurements of property which help them set fair prices for use agreements, improve economic benefits, and avoid boundary disputes.
The land certification project provides equal benefits to men and women. Married women are listed as rights’ holders on the certificates along with their husbands, and certificates can be issued to an individual woman. Before certification, individual women were vulnerable to claims from others and could spend a large amount of time disputing a border; now they feel safer and can justify a claim quickly.
Both men and women in Debeso expressed a desire to use the certificate to access microcredit loans. One gentleman noted that with certificates from a previous project, about 50 land holders were able secure loans of as little as 55 US dollars, up to 300 US dollars. This credit allows land holders to invest in fertilizer and other technologies to increase production.
Just 20 years ago, the idea of smallholder farmers having secure land over time was unthinkable in Ethiopia. Under the Derg government, in power from 1974 to 1991, land boundaries were allocated and modified by the state frequently. Based on the outcomes of USAID’s land certification demonstration projects, the government’s approach to land rights is changing and communities are finding their own ways to solve some local food production challenges.