Tim Fella, Land Tenure and Conflict Advisor - USAID, moderating the panel discussion.Tim Fella, Land Tenure and Conflict Advisor - USAID, moderating the panel discussion.

On Friday, February 13, 2015 USAID sponsored a panel discussion on the topic: Land Tenure and Disasters. The event highlighted the important linkages that exist between land tenure and disaster planning and recovery. Among the key takeaways from the event were the importance of proactively addressing land tenure as a part of disaster risk reduction activities (for example by supporting community enumerations to record property claims); the need to pay greater attention to the tenure rights of women and other vulnerable groups (which are too easily overlooked in post-disaster reconstruction efforts); and, the difficulties of helping people rebuild in environments where land governance is weak. By drawing on their personal experiences in Haiti, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia the panelists underscored the message that addressing land tenure concerns before and after disasters is critical for building resilience and reducing the human and social costs associated with disaster relief.

Panelists included Dr. Cynthia Caron of Clark University (co-author of USAID’s Land Tenure and Disasters Issue Brief), Ms. Adriana Navarro-Sertich of the United Nations Office of Project Services (UNOPS), and Independent Contractor Mr. Bharat Pathak (formerly of Mercy Corps). Mr. Tim Fella, Land Tenure and Conflict Advisor in USAID’s Land Tenure and Resource Management Office moderated the discussion, which included nearly 100 in-person and on-line participants.

You can view a recorded video of the panel discussion here. If you would like to be added to the LTRM mailing list to be notified of upcoming events click here.

In Guinea, USAID uses participatory approaches to identify areas for artisanal mining and to collect data on mining operations and resource rights.

Continuing our series on participatory approaches to stregthen land tenure programming, this week, we will share the final example from our work in Guinea.

USAID’s Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD) II project in Guinea, conducted a participatory review of the artisanal diamond mining sector as part of an exercise to identify areas that may contain alluvial diamond deposits (diamonds carried downstream and deposited by rivers). The review examined mining activities and economies at the local level as well as claims to surface lands and sub-surface resources. These claims were assessed under both the formal and customary tenure regimes to identify any gaps or conflicts between the systems.

To perform the participatory review, a team from the Ministry of Mines and Geology, other government ministries, and civil society organizations were trained in rural rapid appraisal (or participatory rural appraisal) assessment tools. They adopted tools including community mapping, semi-structured interviews, and transect walks (used to create a map showing the location and distribution of resources, features, landscape, and main land uses along a given route). These participatory tools were used to collect data on diamond operations, resource rights both above and below ground, and the identity of miners and their place within the communities, among other information.

Following the participatory review, the assessment team and local stakeholders formulated pragmatic policy and program recommendations to: improve the governance of the artisanal mining sector; strengthen tenure rights; diversify and improve livelihoods; and promote environmental rehabilitation. Because the review approach involved government and civil society partners, there is now widespread support for the project activities in Guinea.

PRADD II supports the Government of Guinea in its compliance with the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme—the international mechanism to halt the trafficking of conflict diamonds.

For more information on participatory approaches in land tenure and property rights programming, please visit the following commentaries:

A U.S. Agency for International Development team member helps remove rubble form a damaged building in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 30, 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Robert J. Fluegel/Released)A U.S. Agency for International Development team member helps remove rubble form a damaged building in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Jan. 30, 2010. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Robert J. Fluegel/Released)

Five years after the devastating January 2010 earthquake, land tenure and property rights issues remain central to ongoing recovery, reconstruction, and broader development efforts in Haiti. Weak land administration systems, capacity issues, and a complex legal system have led to confusion, insecurity, and disputes over who has what rights to which pieces of land. These challenges greatly impede the Government of Haiti and the international community’s efforts to rebuild infrastructure and housing, enhance food security, improve resilience to future disasters, and reduce extreme poverty.

On the five-year anniversary of the Haiti earthquake, we spoke with Jane Charles-Voltaire, a lawyer in Haiti and member of the Haiti Property Law Working Group, about her experiences working on land tenure and property rights issues.

Question: Can you tell us about your work on property rights in Haiti, particularly in relation to the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake?

Charles-Voltaire: My work on property rights supports efforts by USAID’s legal team to advise USAID housing, agriculture and energy programming in Haiti. After the creation of the massive [refugee] camps due to the earthquake, a lot of international organizations invested in social housing projects. While these projects were much needed, organizations realized that they did not understand the procedures for acquiring land or transferring land, and that often, there is little consensus among the various government agencies that oversee different aspects of land tenure. This greatly slowed the recovery effort and was the context in which the Haiti Property Law Working Group was founded. The group seeks to clarify the processes of land transactions, as they currently exist.

Question: What have you found to be the biggest challenges about property rights and the rebuilding efforts?

Charles-Voltaire: Major challenges of land rights still occur in and around Port-au-Prince. While many people have been able to move out of the temporary camps, the government was not able to identify locations for these people to move. As a result, people have migrated on their own to the areas north of Port-au-Prince and in neighborhoods with informal housing throughout Port-au-Prince.

Because of the centralization of earthquake relief efforts in Port-au-Prince, the distribution of food, water, medical kits, and other supplies, internal urban migration has increased. Many people left their rural homes to benefit from all the relief resources distributed in Port-au-Prince.

To solve these housing challenges, government, communities and advocates need to take a deep look at the land tenure systems and make the necessary adjustments to facilitate better development projects.

Question: Five years after the earthquake, what has changed and what still needs to change in terms of land tenure and property rights in Haiti?

Charles-Voltaire: It’s important to recognize that land tenure has been an underlying issue in Haiti for many years. There have been attempts at reform throughout the 20th century, but the earthquake really pushed land to the forefront. People are much more aware of land issues today.

Now, for the first time in a very long time, we are able to start having an open discussion about land. People understand that land rights can no longer be overlooked because it is closely linked with other critical issues such as sanitation, health, and investment.

In terms of what needs to change, I believe that the government needs to identify where people can and should live. For example: How can we help people living in dangerous coastal areas that are vulnerable to another disaster? How can we create innovative housing options that connect people to transportation, infrastructure and jobs? We still need clearer planning at both national and local levels for addressing these challenges.

For more information on this topic, see USAID’s Issue Brief: Land Tenure and Disasters or participate in USAID’s upcoming panel discussion on Land Tenure and Disasters: Response, Rebuilding, Resilience.


Last week, we shared an example of an innovative participatory project design in Kenya. This week, our example of an innovative participatory project design comes from Kosovo.

In Kosovo, the gap between formal legal protection of women’s property rights and actual practice remains large. To address this gap and help support women’s claims to land and other property, USAID is using participatory approaches in the design of a strategic social and behavior change communication campaign. The campaign aims to shift attitudes and actions around women’s land rights and increase women’s ability to access and own property. Although formal laws and clear enforcement procedures protect women’s rights to land and other property, behavioral barriers—including strong cultural pressures for women to renounce family inheritances—prevent women from acquiring property in practice. To better understand the experiences of those affected and to create behavior change communication interventions that will resonate with the public, the design of USAID’s campaign includes target audiences, women’s organizations, and other key players in the property rights space—giving voice to marginalized groups and building local ownership and sustainability of the program.

During the initial phase of the project, USAID convened a participatory consultation workshop with key stakeholders to listen to local experience, segment and prioritize audiences, analyze needed changes in knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors, and identify key messages that will help reduce pressures on women to renounce their family inheritance. The workshop was also an opportunity for participants to share communications lessons learned and research results, and identify broad gaps in knowledge. Feedback from participants informed the design of a Knowledge, Attitudes, and Practices Survey targeting key campaign audiences, which, when launched, will be used to further understand audience experiences, barriers to change, and behavioral incentives—all critical information that will enable the program to bring audiences toward the “tipping point” for change.

USAID will be working across the country with a broad network of community-based civil society and non-governmental organizations to build their capacity to design, lead, and implement this important campaign to better ensure local ownership, sustainability, and the accuracy, relatability, and effectiveness of messaging.


Last week, we featured an innovative participatory approach that uses technology to record land rights in Tanzania. This week, we have an example of an innovative participatory project design from Kenya.

In 2010, Kenya’s Constitution gave women new legal rights to own property. The Constitution also looked to traditional local leaders, such as elders and traditional authorities, to play a more formal role in dispute resolution. The Enhancing Customary Justice Systems in the Mau Forest, also known as the Kenya Justice project (KJP), brings these two threads together by teaching women, men, and children about the Constitution, women’s rights to property, and the role elders play in upholding these rights.

The project piloted a new approach for improving women’s access to justice, particularly related to women’s land rights, by concentrating on teaching male elders the importance of women's access to justice and women's land rights. This participatory approach was adapted with an aim to increase sensitivity to, and respect for, women’s land rights through traditional justice systems – such as dispute resolution systems governed by village elders. The project delivered legal literacy trainings to – and facilitated dialogues with – chiefs, elders, women, and youth. An impact evaluation found that the pilot led to increased legal awareness, particularly women’s legal knowledge and men’s knowledge of women’s rights, as well as women’s familiarity with the local justice system and alternative dispute resolution. Further, the project led to an increase in women’s confidence in both the fairness and outcomes of the local justice system, respect for women’s rights by men in the community, an increase in women’s access to land, and most notably, the election of several women to elder positions, for the first time in the Maasai and Kalenjin communities.

Following the inital success, additional funding was allocated in 2014 to produce an implementation guide to make the model replicable across Kenya. The improvement in women’s access to justice and land rights seen in the pilot community of Ol Pusimoru could be spread throughout Kenya through the broader implementation of the project model.

Check back next week to learn how USAID is using participatory approaches to influence attitudes and behaviors around women’s land rights in Kosovo.



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