Written by Eric Postel, Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade and Raja Jandhyala, Deputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Africa
South Sudan, the world’s newest nation, faces many challenges, including land use policy. A continuing focus of USAID’s work in South Sudan is land tenure reform, an important strategy for improving economic growth and food security and for reducing conflict.
Drafting the policy involved extensive research, formal consultation workshops with citizens, and training and capacity building of government officials. In February 2011, the Republic of South Sudan (RSS) received its draft Land Policy, which is now under final review. Once approved, the RSS will define, test, and implement the laws and regulations, and institutions needed to guide the administration and management of land and property rights.
The draft Land Policy calls for a number of actions to ensure equality of land rights for women and men. While it recognizes the continuing value of customary tenure arrangements, it takes the important step of providing women and men with equal rights to customary allocations. This is especially relevant now because nearly half of the families that have returned to South Sudan are headed by women.
USAID will also take a lead role in helping develop land use planning and land administration and management systems in three counties of South Sudan. This effort can then be replicated in the remaining seven states of South Sudan.
A comprehensive approach to land tenure and property rights (LTPR) is critical because it addresses, and seeks to resolve, different expectations about land use at all governance levels, from the national government down to communities.
Historically, people in rural South Sudan accessed land through traditional means – the customary systems mentioned above. Families were entitled to land by virtue of their membership in a particular community, which could be based on clan, tribe, or other ties. This approach has certain benefits – land is available free of charge and acts as a security net for community members. However, customary systems tend to limit the land rights of unmarried women and widows by making women’s rights subsidiary to men’s rights. The new Land Policy changes this approach.