What started as a small pilot project in the remote mining regions of the Central African Republic (CAR) is now influencing the highest levels of government and has the potential to affect historic legal reforms that will improve land and property rights for land holders and miners throughout the region.

There are many drivers of conflict in CAR, including a lack of secure land rights for small-scale diamond mining. Mining is a sought employment because it is a good source of income, and having control over a mine means a better social and economic status. But, when the rights over mines are unclear, disputes often arise between individuals competing for access to the same piece of land.

In August 2012, the Government of CAR decided to amend its property laws with support from USAID’s Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD) program. At the center of PRADD is an effort to clarify and strengthen the property rights of artisanal miners. The program was recently recognized by the Prime Minister and the Cabinet in CAR as an important source of technical authority on property rights. PRADD focuses on the mining sector, but the positive impact of the project is also driving changes in property laws that apply to land, trees and water. USAID is engaged in the reform process and is participating in a committee tasked with drafting a single land tenure code that takes into account the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure adopted by the Committee on World Food Security in May 2012. Negotiations  for law reform will begin in late 2012 or early 2013.

The origins of the PRADD program go back to 2003, when the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS) was established to stop trade in “conflict diamonds,” and ensure that diamond purchases were not financing violence by rebel movements and their allies seeking to undermine legitimate governments. In 2007, in support of the U.S. Clean Diamond Trade Act (PDF), USAID initiated PRADD in CAR to support the KPCS, and started tracking and monitoring diamond sales. Immediately, the program improved the livelihoods of artisanal diamond mining communities.

Since its inception, the project has mapped 3,896 mining sites with GPS coordinates, and worked with the CAR government to publicly validate and issue property rights certificates to 2,849 mining households. The certificates, signed by the Ministry of Mines and delivered through PRADD, are not recognized under CAR’s current legal framework, but they are widely recognized as contributing to decreases in property conflict and increases in local investment. The hope is that with the government’s decision to amend its property laws, this legal gap may close completely, and the communities in CAR will have government support for basic  land ownership rights.

For more information on artisanal diamond mining and PRADD, watch the videos below (also available on USAID’s YouTube channel).