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

Turkey: No Ransom Paid for Release of Hostages Held by IS Militants

President Erdogan hails release of hostages as diplomatic success but declines to be drawn on whether their release freed Ankara's hand to take more active stance against insurgents More

Audio Sierra Leone Ends Ebola Lockdown

Health ministry says it has reached 75 percent of its target of visiting 1.5 million homes to locate infected, educate population about virus More

US Pivot to Asia Demands Delicate Balancing Act

As tumult in Middle East distracts Obama administration, efforts to shift American focus eastward appear threatened 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.
Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Towni
X
Deborah Block
September 21, 2014 2:12 PM
A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Alibaba Shares Soar in First Day of Trading

China's biggest online retailer hit the market Friday -- with its share price soaring on the New York Stock Exchange. The shares were priced at $68, but trading stalled at the opening, as sellers held onto their shares, waiting for buyers to bid up the price. More on the world's biggest initial public offering from VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York.
Video

Video Obama Goes to UN With Islamic State, Ebola on Agenda

President Obama goes to the United Nations General Assembly to rally nations to support a coalition against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria. He also will look for nations to back his plan to fight the Ebola virus in West Africa. As VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports, Obama’s efforts reflect new moves by the U.S. administration to take a leading role in addressing world crises.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Militant Assault in Syria Displaces Thousands of Kurds

A major assault by Islamic State militants on Kurds in Syria has sent a wave of new refugees to the Turkish border, where they were stopped by Turkish border security. Turkey is already hosting about 700,000 Syrian refugees who fled the civil war between the government and the opposition. But the government in Ankara has a history of strained relations with Turkey's Kurdish minority. Zlatica Hoke reports Turkey is asking for international help.
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid