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Development Account Projects

Strengthening capacities to address land tenure security in Africa through better monitoring and information


Secure land and property rights are critical for reducing poverty and enhancing economic development, gender equality and social stability. When land is poorly managed, the resulting problems often lead to disputes, land degradation and lost economic and development opportunities, as seen in many developing countries. Secure land tenure and property rights can be delivered through a variety of means; they are partly a matter of perception and can be safeguarded through various mechanisms, provided the rights of land users and owners are clear. In addition to formal titles, security can be achieved through long-term rental contracts and the formal recognition of customary rights and informal settlements. This range of possible forms of tenure has become internationally recognized as a continuum, whereby each form of tenure provides a different set of rights and different degrees of security and responsibility.

While some Governments have, to varying degrees, recognized a range of different forms of tenure as legitimate, “tenure security” still tends to be defined strictly, in more secure forms such as individual land titles. This not only fails to take into account the realities on the ground, but also severely reduces the number of women and men, particularly those living in poverty, who can realistically afford such “formal” tenure security. The problem is particularly acute in Africa, where the majority of populations will remain unable to afford such forms of tenure for generations and are increasingly marginalized by market-based statutory tenure systems that emphasize individual rights. At present, it is estimated that more than 70 per cent of Africans live outside the framework of the formal land registry.

Given the limitations of land-titling and the value of an incremental approach to secure tenure, UN-Habitat, serving as the secretariat of the Global Land Tool Network, a coalition of 50 global partners working to enable Governments and partners to implement pro-poor land policies, advocates the use of a variety of alternative tenure options that can be more easily adapted in developing countries. While the continuum approach is increasingly being endorsed, important work is still required in order to change deeply ingrained mindsets regarding what secure tenure entails.

While tenure security in Africa needs to be addressed at many levels, the project is focused specifically on enabling land practitioners (State and non-State actors) and national statistical offices to more effectively monitor and provide information on the status of different existing forms of tenure at the national and city levels, so as to be able to provide more accurate advice on land policy. This is a critical component of improving land policy formulation and implementation in Africa, as the information will enable Governments and non-State actors to assess how land policies are being implemented in practice and over time.

The project is focused on developing the capacities of land practitioners and statistical offices in three countries in Africa, with a view to sharing and promoting the methods used across the region. It will build on an existing tenure security indicators framework focused on urban land tenure security, jointly produced by UN-Habitat and the Global Land Tool Network. Methods of measuring and tracking various forms of tenure will be applied to both urban and rural settings and will be institutionalized in the selected countries through opportunities to add tenure-security-related questions to existing surveys such as the demographic health survey and the multiple indicators cluster survey. National statistical offices will also be supported in using the urban inequities survey and in conducting assessments at the city policy level through the Legal and Institutional Framework Index, both of which have been tested by UN-Habitat in various cities. The process will encourage collaboration between statistical and municipal offices and will draw on a wide range of State and non-State land actors in refining the measurement methods and analysing and sharing the data.

The project will draw on a number of partners of the Global Land Tool Network, with the primary one being ECA, which will provide the platform for regional exchange and synergy with the roll-out of the above-mentioned land policy initiative framework and guidelines. FAO will capitalize on the project to encourage countries to implement the Committee on World Food Security’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security. The Network’s secretariat will provide a global platform for harnessing expertise, making use of its convening power, creating space for knowledge-sharing, management, and documenting the practices. The country experiences are expected to generate further understanding and international support for the critical area of tenure security monitoring, which is still underresourced.


To strengthen the capacity of selected African Governments and other relevant land actors in monitoring tenure security to guide land policy implementation

Expected accomplishments:

  • Increased capacity of the three selected African Governments to assess land tenure security through the use of a tenure security indicators framework
  • Land policy decisions in the three selected countries informed through the findings of the tenure security monitoring

Implementation status:

In progress.