Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Technology praised for assisting land tenure reform

Arthur Allen  SciDev.net: Rapid technological changes are opening new frontiers in land tenure reform, a recent World Bank conference has heard, but some land tenure experts and community activists are sceptical about how much these technologies will help development.

Geographic information, obtained from satellites, drones, databases and other sources such as traditional surveys and presented in computerised form, enables governments, companies and communities to rapidly access information about land ownership, boundaries and value that may help expand socioeconomic development, some speakers said.

“If property rights are not clearly defined, you have no basis for sustainable development,” Rexford Ahene, a World Bank consultant and an economist at Lafayette College, United States, told SciDev.Net, reflecting on the bank’s interest in land administration. The 2014 Land and Poverty Conference, organised by the bank, was held in Washington DC, United States, last month (24-27 March).

Several countries presented reports about their progress in registering land and creating title deeds and land ownership maps. Rwanda demarcated 10.4 million plots — its entire landmass — in a three-year project that ended in 2012. In Indonesia, a US$333 million project, using drones and satellite data, began last year to demarcate and list the land titles for a pilot area. Land registrations also help expand market-based economies and give governments a clearer picture of their tax base, Ahene told SciDev.Net.

Rwanda, for example, expanded its annual land tax income from two to ten billion Rwandan francs (around US$2.9 million to US$14.4 million) between 2011 and 2013. About one per cent of Rwandan land is now bought and sold each year, and title registration is facilitating economic activity, said Thierry Hoza Ngoga, manager of the Land Technical Operations Division within the Rwanda Natural Resources Authority....

A NASA image of Rwanda (with yellow boundary added)

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