USAID Impact Photo Credit: USAID and Partners

Archives for Land Tenure

Promoting Peace and Growth in Colombia by Addressing Land Issues

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.

Project Impacting Food Security, Empowering Women Begins With Land

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.

These women and men in Debeso now have secure property rights through a USAID land certificate project. Photo Credit: Gregory Myers, USAID

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.

Page 2 of 2:« 1 2