Insecure land tenure holding back development

Friday, 28 March, 2014

Following yesterday's article on World Bank support for land citizenship awareness in Uganda, we've picked up subsequent pieces from the same sources on how insecure land tenure is having a detrimental effect on development in post-conflict Societies throughout  Africa.

"A lack of clear-cut and secure land rights," the articles argue, "means people from post-conflict African countries are prevented from getting the most out of the land they rely upon for their survival."

In DR Congo, for example, less than 5 percent of the land is registered because the land registration system is so intricate. The articles - which essentially are reporting goings-on at this week's World Bank conference on Land and Poverty in Washington, DC - are banging the same drum as that reported yesterday: societies across Africa need to start seeing land as an economic good rather than as a social or cultural asset. Only in this way, the argument goes, can development be put on a solid footing. 

An illustrative example from DR Congo:

"The Minister of Land of the DRC, Robert Mbwinga Bila, said that post-conflict countries such his own have had to deal on the one hand with people from villages whose relationship with the land is guided by long-established communal laws and on the other hand with government and development officials who want to install more modern land tenure systems.

The government of the DRC recently introduced a land reform process to secure investment and improve land across the country, but Mbwinga Bila said this has run into resistance from people who could not understand why they need to secure title for communal land. 

[…] "We can't do things differently because there is resistance from local communities," he said. "The reforms that we are rightly undertaking will ensure that the interests of everyone are protected in the same way. There are no separate laws for the towns and for the villages. The law is for everyone."

The article touches on other symptoms of this malaise but also on possible solutions. Highlights include:

- Ways forward for donors and governments to collaborate in designing programmes that benefit everyone, especially women
- Possibilities for development agencies to provide legal and technical support in drafting laws
- The difficulties of adapting the correct approach to different countries and contexts.