The response to our earlier Newsletter has been overwhelming. The positive reaction from researchers and practitioners in land administration and management demonstrates the need for specialists worldwide to communicate and pool their experiences. While issues and problems may be related, each country must address them in a way that accommodates differences in the political, social, economic, and institutional conditions.
We encourage more individuals to join the Global Land Coalition so that our joint efforts may prove to be mutually beneficial to all parties and to developing countries.
The featured article in this Newsletter is about the lessons learned from land projects in Asia and the Caribbean. These lessons can be used to the design more effective land-related projects in the future. They demonstrate the need to look at the issues in a holistic way so that projects produce the desired outcome without violating cultural traditions or institutional constraints.
We hope this edition of the Newsletter will provide information that can be used to generate new and innovative solutions to key problems that confront poverty-stricken people who turn to land for their survival.
Global Land Coalition representatives recently appeared on Tech Talk, a weekly radio program that airs on Washington Post Radio (now 3WT Radio). A. A. Wijetunga, Vice President of GLC, discussed the impact of technology on land use and land use policy.
A. A. Wijetunga on Washington Post Radio
He explained how Global Land Coalition has combined technology with land use, administration and management and has formed a world-wide group of experts and researchers linked by the web. This has permitted the creation of an innovative online training infrastructure to educate administrators and community and business leaders.
He explained why land management is important to a country's economic development. He pointed out that land is the primary resource that people depend on for survival and that land ownership is the key to agricultural entrepreneurship. He further explained that countries with poor land policy (Africa, Asia, Caribbean, Latin America) need to transition from feudal system or state ownership to private ownership. He discussed the impact of Global Positioning Systems (GPS) on surveying and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) on effective land use and planning. Finally, he showed how online education is an effective tool to educate government and community leaders on proper land use policy.
Since the year 2000, the World Bank has invested over one billion US dollars in Land Policy and Administration Projects and a further one billion US dollars in land-related tasks, which were included in other projects. The interest in land-related project investments is high at the present time. These comments are based on discussions with land policy experts familiar with World Bank initiatives.
World Bank Logo
The accomplishments made by the Bank in these Projects vary by region.
Eastern Europe and Central Asia -- Bank investments have produced positive outcomes, primarily due to the fact that they were assisted by changes in the political structure and privatization. The projects were clear in concept and approach. They targeted improvements in property registration procedures, computerization etc. Examples are Armenia, Kyrgyzstan, Serbia, Croatia and Georgia.
Latin America -- There are some success stories such as El Salvador. However, progress in the Brazilian Amazon and Colombia was hampered by the private ownership of large blocks of land. Land distribution and environmental projects were slowed or halted. In Peru, some progress has been made in regularization of informal settlements in the urban areas of Lima.
East Asia -- Indonesia, Lao, Cambodia and Vietnam have mixed results. Thailand is a success story. Vietnam and China are struggling with land market development, state control of user rights and the absence of registries. However, the existing systems are working, particularly in urban areas. In Indonesia, the problems remain in peri-urban land settlements and in rural areas with informal and unclear rights.
South Asia -- India, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan have not received much investment from the World Bank. They have yet to come out of their colonial past in regard to policy and legal reforms. The Bank is now working with specific states, such as Andra Pradesh, to make large investments in land related projects.
Africa -- The situation is dire with regard to community and individual ownership of land. Government institutions do not have the capacity to implement the required reforms. Key problem areas include: pastoral community management, desertification, and natural resource management. Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, South Africa and Ethiopia are making an effort. Zimbabwe has created its own problems which are not easy to address.
Middle East and North Africa -- The old systems remain unreformed. Egypt is experimenting with urban property rights in Cairo and other cities.
The World Bank is far behind in impact evaluation of land-related projects. The reason for this is that land projects are not easy to evaluate, particularly with regard to socio-economic impacts. There is a lack of expertise within the Bank in this field and the few who are available have to cover large number of countries. Most of the impact evaluations are anecdotal opinions of experts in the field. Some objective identifiers of impact have been developed. Positive results have been felt by the middle class and urban dwellers. Very little impact has been felt among rural communities. Linkages between the environment, zoning, land use planning, informal settlements and land administration are not well established.
The Bank has relied on a number of organizations over the years to accomplish its mission.
Global Land Tool Network (GLTN) as a vehicle through which different groups of actors can make their voices heard with a pro-poor focus, low-cost technology, informal cadastral index maps and different levels of formalization. Identification of tools for assessment is a formidable task and WB supports GLTN in this regard for the development of appropriate tools. It also supports governance issues particularly fighting corruption in the land sector, ranging from petty corruption to large scale land fraud.
International Surveyors Federation (FIG) which is setting the standards in place as far as surveying is concerned.
International Land Coalition which is based in IFAD (Rome) is looking at aspects such as social justice, representing the social movements of access to land, land reform and championing the cause of the civil society members.
Commission for Legal Empowerment of the Poor housed in the UNDP New York with Co-Chairs Madeline Albright and Hernando De Soto looks at property rights and labor rights and brings pressure on governments to extend property rights services to the poor. It is a political actor. Naresh Singh a Guyanese is its Director.
Land Thematic Group which is co-chaired by Dr. Claus Denninger and Dr. Malcolm Childress.
Lessons Learned from Land Administration Projects in Asian and Caribbean Countries top A. A. Wijetunga Vice-President, Global Land Coalition Senior Consultant in Land Policy and Administration
Santoy Cooperative members fabricating High Tunnel Greenhouses in Jamaica
Land reform projects have been funded by many institutions over the past twenty-five years. These projects have met with limited success. The lessons learned from both the failures and successes can be used to craft a more effective approach in future land use projects. The conclusions drawn in this paper relate to Asian and Caribbean countries which have been under colonial rule.
This paper attempts to describe primary barriers to land reform that have been observed by the author over the past fifteen years. These barriers can be grouped into three categories: land policy, legal, and institutional deficiencies.
Perpetuation of Land Ownership Restrictions -- Research indicates that people favor freedom from central government restrictions in the areas of ownership rights, transferability, leasing, renting and succession in order to allow them to access capital markets to finance improvements. They favor limited planning restrictions by local authorities to control growth and maintain quality of life. Unfortunately, complete removal of restrictions is rare and, as a result, access to capital markets is limited. In practice, the state continues to impose heavy-handed land administration and management restrictions. Since such restrictions promote bribery and corruption at the field level and provide supplemental income, field officers have little motivation for change.
Population Expansion and Over-dependence on Agriculture -- In most developing countries, the demand for land is extremely high since the rural population is dependent on agriculture for their survival. The land that is available is either of marginal agricultural value or so fragmented that it is not economically viable for farming. Unless a concerted effort is made to expand the employment potential in other sectors of the economy, this downward trend in agricultural earning potential will increase the level of poverty. Furthermore, as the number of landless people increases, migration to remote and environmentally sensitive areas will accelerate. Settlement of environmentally sensitive areas has reduced the watershed and increased runoff, negatively impacting water reservoirs and the rivers that fill them.
Continued Encroachment of State Land -- In countries where the bulk of the land is under state control, encroachment of state lands by farmers and other landless people is rampant and not easily controlled by the state. In fact, the percentage of encroached land grows when the extent of state-owned land is large. This trend is natural since people turn to land as it is the only means of survival. Heavy penalties have not resolved encroachment because they seem so unfair and politicians tend to override them. On the other hand, regularization of encroachments seems only to reward the law breakers.
Improper Land Use – Much work has been done to generate reliable land use data in order to create an optimized land use plan. Unfortunately, this data and the resultant plan (if developed), are rarely used because the lands are already settled before the policy could be implemented.
Lack of Political Will -- Many countries have obtained international technical assistance to develop national land policies. Unfortunately, these policies, which have been based on careful research and in close consultation with all stakeholders, are rarely implemented. This failure can be traced to two groups.
Opposition by Political Parties -- The political parties in power tend to oppose adoption of land policy reforms because they fear loss of power. Any effective policy change must clearly deal with this problem and assist the ruling parties with the development of other forms of power and wealth which are not based on land ownership.
Opposition by Bureaucrats -- The bureaucrats oppose the complete removal of land restrictions because they provide an opportunity for extortion. Bureaucrats will rely on institutional lethargy to slow land reform progress. They are responsible in most cases for derailing the very policy framework that they were tasked with implementing.
Lack of Capacity for Policy Implementation -- Countries which have developed their own land policy are facing the problem of policy implementation. Public agencies that are charged with these responsibilities lack sufficient skilled manpower, infrastructure, and financial resources to complete the task. Thus, while the country has accepted a new policy that promotes investment in land and provides clear ownership rights to land holders, the status quo remains unchanged.
Lack of Legal Framework -- In most of the developing countries, while land use, economic activity, and demography have changed, land legislation remains as it was designed in the early 1900's while under colonial rule. Some attempts have been made to amend legislation in a piecemeal fashion. However, such tinkering with existing legislation has not provided the policy makers with the required framework to address the current situation.
Complex Legislative Process -- New legislation or amendments to existing legislation have to go through a laborious process of initial Cabinet approval, legal drafting, and subsequent approval by the Cabinet and Parliament. This process takes a minimum of two-years. Moreover, most developing countries do not have adequate legal resources to draft such legislation resulting in even longer delays.
Opposition by the Legal Community -- Effective land policy reform requires that the legal fraternity cooperate in the development of new legislation. The legal fraternity is perceived to favor complexity because it increases casework. Involvement of the legal fraternity in legislative development process will tend to reduce their opposition to land policy change. Unfortunately, they do not appear to be guided by the needs and priorities of actual land holders.
Lack of Involvement of Land Owners – Rural people have little knowledge of the legal process. Most legal reforms are undertaken with minimal input from the intended beneficiaries. Hence, the resulting laws do not reflect their true needs and legal requirements. At a minimum, the rural communities want their boundary disputes settled without legal expense, inheritance, leases and informal subdivisions recognized, and reliable land titling. Any effective legislation must accommodate these needs, as well as any other special local needs of the land holders.
Lack of Enforcement Mechanism -- Even after legislation is approved, the institutions charged with enforcing the legislation do not possess the manpower or the resources needed to be effective. Validity of laws depends on the ability of the government to enforce them. Unenforceable legislation would undermine the government's capacity to promote respect for law and order.
Lack of Trained Land Administration Specialists -- While technical departments (such as the Survey and Infrastructure Development Departments) are able to absorb new technology with relative ease, generalists in other land agencies are quite slow in adoption (such as the Lands Department, Title Settlement Department and the Land Registries). These departments perform poorly because there is no specialized training program for the development of staff. These departments tend to be populated by generalists who have little knowledge or interest in land administration. This can only be corrected through the development of a career technical staff training in land administration.
Inadequate Funding for Institutional Reform -- Success of any land administration program depends on a multiplicity of factors such as leadership, organizational structure, delegated authority, clear instructions, training, efficiency and effectiveness of staff and close monitoring of project outputs. These key institutional elements can only be developed with adequate resources. Unfortunately, international funding agencies have concentrated more on supply of technology, equipment and resources to technical departments, rather than on the development of institutional capacity. This funding imbalance must be addressed.
Slow Adoption of Technology in Land Administration -- Transfer of new technology has been achieved without much difficulty to technical departments such as survey. The use of Global Positioning System (GPS) and electronic equipment has quickened the pace of survey work. The use of satellite imagery for developmental work is being undertaken. However, land departments and land registries have been quite slow in absorbing technological innovations such as computerization of land registries and land records, primarily due to the quality of staff and lack of training.
A common reason for failure has emerged from many of these projects. In most cases neither the politicians nor the bureaucrats have the will to fully institute the required reforms to bring about the desired change. The reasons for this lack of commitment are quite apparent. They are caused by: the fear of reduced power and prestige, bureaucratic lethargy and indifference, and lack of capacity of relevant institutions. The bureaucratic indifference is rooted in the tendency of government agencies to promote a ‘dependency syndrome' among the poorer segments of the population, a tradition that dates back to their colonial masters.
Overcoming these barriers requires an innovative approach. Too many projects have made the same errors and produced the same inadequate results. It is imperative that advances in technology, training, and economic development be applied to these age old problems. The effective redistribution of land requires that all stakeholders be suitably rewarded. If any stakeholder loses as a result of redistribution, the entire process is sidetracked and slowed down through administrative and legal actions.
Any effective solution must involve far more than simple land redistribution. It must include economic development initiatives which not only provide power brokers with new forms of income and power, but also provide sources of additional income for the small landholder. The economic development initiative must be based on advances in technology and not only in agriculture.
India has been very effective at leveraging such a shift in economic focus. In Bangladesh, the Grameen Bank has successfully integrated the poorer sections of the community through an innovative micro-credit program which uses advanced communication technology. The Jhai PC and Communication System in Laos has successfully used wireless Internet access, in conjunction with e-commerce sites, to help farming cooperatives reach foreign consumer markets. In addition, such access has permitted the farmers to track the value of their crops on the commodity market to make certain that they were properly compensated.
The disappointing results over the past twenty-five years clearly indicate that a new approach is needed for land administration and management in developing countries. If major stakeholders are not properly compensated, the entire project is slowed because of many of the deficiencies noted above. Only when all stakeholders are properly motivated for change, will the barriers to progress be overcome in a timely manner. Any successful solution must combine effective land use, enabling technologies, economic development, improved infrastructure, and suitable education and training.