News / Africa

Development Groups Work to Secure Land Rights for Africa’s Poor

One option, ‘property ladder,’ offers range of possibilities, from community tenures to individual ownership

William Eagle

In Africa and elsewhere in the developing world, less than a third of people living on the land actually own it or have any officially recognized right to it.

Development experts say gaining land rights is important for reducing poverty, since it offers poor people collateral they can use to get loans to improve the land.  Without legal recognition, some tenant farmers receive only a fraction of the earnings as their share of the harvest.

Securing land rights through, for instance, land recordation and registration also promote economic growth.  They assure foreign investors that the land, and the rights of those on it, are secured under some form of legal framework .

Clarissa Augustinus is the chief of the Land, Tenure and Property Administration Section of UN-Habitat in Nairobi, Kenya.

Clarifying land rights

"When an investor goes to the government and says, ‘I want a piece of land,’ the government looks at its maps which show that that particular piece of land is empty, and they give it to an investor," she said. "But the investor goes there and it’s occupied by a tribe or maybe families. It then becomes problematic for the investor to take over that land because it can cause what European investors call ‘reputation risk.’ If they evict people, and it gets to the newspapers, it can affect the reputation of the investors."

But Augustinus says surveying, establishing boundaries and registering land and issuing deeds are expensive.

"You could be talking of a couple of hundred dollars to create a deed or a title," she said. "Most countries cannot afford to give the majority of citizens at this point in time ownership rights because of the cost of creating, managing and updating it, and most individuals can’t afford to subsidize it."

Augustinus recommends an intermediate form of tenure that can build the assets of the poor.

"It could start," she explained, "with something as basic an intermediate form as a politician saying, ‘I’m going to protect this informal settlement. You are not going to get moved, you’re not going to be evicted.’ It could include family rights and group rights as you find in customary tenure. It could be a lease. In cities, 60 percent of people are renters, so these are all intermediate forms of tenure that have to be formalized or put on some form of ladder where people can climb up over time.

Augustinus says one approach supported by UN-Habitat is the creation of what she calls a “property ladder,” or “continuum” of land rights. Under the arrangement,tenants could receive a simple certificate or starter title to the land and continue on to more sophisticated forms of recognition, including what she calls the “Mercedes Benz” of individual ownership.

A scale of rights

She says at least 23 countries use a property ladder, including Namibia, which grants a starter title.

"In terms of starter title," said Augustinus, "people would be safe within that community. They would not be under any form of threat, eviction by the state, which is common, or by wealthy people buying that piece of land. That piece of land itself would be considered for informal settlement and people there would have starter title. That title would give them very few things: they’d be able to leave their land to their children, which is important to the poor, and be able to sell that piece of land within the community. But there would be no planning and no services [like electricity or water]."

Further up the ladder of land rights, would be a form of lease, which gives inhabitants more security. With a lease, the bank could allow people to mortgage the land. In the last step up the ladder, a majority of a community could decide to convert the land to individual ownership, or title.

Besides Nambia, other countries adopting the property ladder approach include Uganda, Tanzania and Zambia.  Augustinus says Ethiopia has already delivered 20 million land certificates on the lower end of the property ladder, for about $1 US each.  She says it’s one of the most successful certification programs in Sub-Saharan Africa.

New and alternative ways to registering land, like the land ladder, are important to both rural and urban areas.

UN-Habitat notes that Africa’s urban population is expected to increase fourfold between 1990 and 2020. Today more than a quarter of the 924 million slum dwellers worldwide live in Africa. Granting them security of tenure is an important way of meeting the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, which call for eradicating hunger and poverty and improving the lives of 100 million slum dwellers.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More