A guest post by Nayna J Jhaveri, Ph.D., Resource Tenure Specialist, Tetra Tech
The 2014 theme for International Women’s Day is “Equality for Women is Progress for All.” There is a significant opening in the post-2015 global development and environment agenda for strengthening women’s property rights to move towards more broad-based economic growth. To fill that gap, the Environment and Gender Index (EGI) was launched by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) at the UN Climate Change Talk’s first Gender Day held in Warsaw, Poland in November 2013. The index is based on gender equality and women’s empowerment data in the environmental arena and includes national government performance on women’s property rights.
The EGI is the first index of its kind. Seventy-two countries have been rated in six different categories: livelihoods; gender-based rights and participation; governance; gender-based education and assets; ecosystem; and country-reported activities. Women’s property rights are an indicator in two of these six EGI categories: governance, and gender-based education and assets. Host country governments, such as Mozambique--the first to produce a national climate change and gender action plan--are keen to use the EGI results to guide policy work on gender equality and environmental protection.
For women, property rights are not simply important for accessing food and natural resources for family livelihoods, but are also stepping stones to obtain financial capital, to effectively engage in natural resource decision-making, and to enhance broader political participation. The strength and security of women’s property rights constitute a central asset that enables multidimensional empowerment. Despite women being active in household farming and forest use, their formal rights to land and forests are often low and their customary rights often depend upon permission from men. Tracking improvements to women’s property rights is therefore critical for understanding how progress is made. The EGI’s first report identified discrepancies between legal rights and the reality on the ground in the areas of inheritance, property, income, and finances.
The EGI enables donors, civil society, and development practitioners to understand the multiple dimensions of the intersection between gender and the environment. With this new tool, we are able to assess, for example, to what extent governments are supporting the secure and equitable distribution of women’s property rights. While the EGI highlights the considerable paucity of gender-disaggregated data to date, it provides strong insight into women’s empowerment, political rights, decision-making capacities, and livelihood conditions. It is an approach that facilitates both global and regional comparisons as well as identifies individual country strengths and weaknesses.
As Lorena Aguilar (Global Senior Gender Advisor for the IUCN) explained at the Warsaw meeting: “As an independent tool outside the UN system to measure government performance, the EGI can help policymakers and civil society evaluate and set new benchmarks for government progress. The ability to compare countries and regions establishes a basis for tracking changes in performance over time, and complements existing monitoring and evaluation tools and assessments.” More broadly, the index will facilitate sharing and learning so as to design better policies and implementation strategies. In order to help make the EGI more directly useful to governments and non-governmental organizations, there are plans afoot to both develop new data sets to specifically help with improving women’s participation in environmental decision-making, as well as to track progress and good practices.
Learn more about the Environment and Gender Index.
A guest post by Bholanath Chakladar, a District Project Manager for Landesa India in West Bengal. This post originally appeared on Landesa's Field Focus Blog.
Last week, 55,339 destitute families across West Bengal received legal title to a micro-plot of land. The state of West Bengal, in partnership with Landesa, has been on the forefront of addressing extreme rural poverty through providing poor, landless, rural families with a small plot of land where they can live and grow food. Thus far, West Bengal has provided more than 160,000 landless families with micro-plots.
Few people know better than me what a little bit of land can do.
I lead Landesa’s partnership with government officials in West Bengal at the district level, and in that capacity I have helped tens of thousands of families gain title to a plot of land the size of a tennis-court.
But there is another reason why I understand the power of land rights—my parents were once landless refugees. They migrated to India from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) on March 12, 1955.
I remember living in a two room hut made of thatch on land that wasn’t ours. My parents had no land whatsoever. The hut they built was on government land. I remember the insecurity and helplessness.
My parents were determined to make a better life. They knew how … with a small piece of land. They knew it was the key to improving their lives. But how could they have land of their own? They were refugees. They had no money.
But I remember one day a government officer came to our hut and said that the government had a program to help poor people. On June 23, 1981—more than 26 years after migrating to India—my parents finally received half an acre of their own land, including a legal title. That’s when life began to change and I started going to school.
And that’s when my parents, my siblings, and I could begin the hard work of climbing out of poverty.
I know plowing. I know harvesting. I’ve done it all. This is how I spent my childhood.
Now my parents own three acres of land and my brother and sisters and I have an education.
I feel like the micro-plot program is my program, because I know that it means so much to the beneficiaries. And it means a lot to me to do something for these people.
When I visit with the beneficiaries of Landesa's micro-plot program, they know I am one of them. For more photos of the land title recipients, view the photo album on Landesa's Facebook page.
USAID/Kenya/OTI Deputy Country Representative, Galeeb Kachra, and Assistant Lands Commissioner, Mr Gituku, in front of the Thika Lands Registry
To support Kenya’s efforts to reduce conflict, USAID’s Kenya Transition Initiative (KTI) assisted the Ministry of Land Registries with improving land record storage and access. KTI identified land disputes as a major source of conflict and decided to address one major question: How do current proposed land reforms affect the average citizen day-to-day? Based on initial research, KTI focused on modernizing land registries. Their efforts increased requests for documentation and decreased bribes/manipulation of land records. These results suggest that public confidence in non-violent dispute resolution has increased.
In many of Kenya’s land registries, decades of paper files were piled on top of each other, leaving them vulnerable to accidental damage and loss as well as intentional manipulation, theft, and destruction. In 2012, through KTI, USAID helped the Nakuru Lands Registry organize and store over 100,000 paper records that had been piled in the registry’s storage rooms and halls. USAID also assisted the land registry with inventorizing land records electronically. The electronic inventory made routine land transactions dramatically faster by enabling the staff to conduct searches, check title details, and edit records. A 2012 audit report by the Law Society of Kenya detailed the Nakuru Lands Registry’s transformation from an office "historically fraught with challenges of poor record keeping and missing files" to a "well-organized registry.”
USAID provided similar assistance through KTI grants to the Thika, Kitale, Kajiado and Kilifi land registries. In addition to 126 months of labor to archive and organize files, USAID provided containers for archiving documents, 12 computers, and 3 refurbished reception areas. In the coastal region, USAID supported the Kilifi Lands Registry Office by providing security and additional storage facilities for critical land documents. Once the files were secure, USAID assisted in the development of a simplified electronic filing and management system to reduce the transaction times at the registry. Peter Joakim, Project Coordinator for the Kilifi Lands Registry Office, explained the benefits of the new electronic filing system, saying they “greatly impacted service delivery at the registry, especially during searches where clerks have correctly identified a file and given accurate information on it.”
Staff at the Kilifi Lands Registry noted: “We are now able to meet our service charter goals. We should be able to find a person’s file (complete a request) in 4 days. Before we improved our filing system (with KTI grant), we could never locate files. We could take days [looking for] files and it was very frustrating for people who had to come back day after day.”
Read more about the Kenya Transition Initiative.
By Dr. Gregory Myers, USAID Division Chief, Land Tenure and Property Rights.
Last week, I visited Haiti to assess the land tenure and property rights situation there—four years after a 7.0 magnitude earthquake killed between 100,000 and 300,000 people and displaced another 1.5 million. Many Haitians continue to live in extreme poverty and much needs to be done to address the weak property rights system that slows economic growth and hinders infrastructure rebuilding efforts.
While in Haiti, I met with U.S. Ambassador Pam White, who supports strengthening land rights to help Haiti accelerate its economic recovery. To effectively help Haitians recover and move beyond extreme hunger and poverty, we must help address the country’s long-standing property rights challenges. Important first steps should include preserving existing land records through digitalization and making those records public. These records could then be linked to existing databases including notary and tax records to further strengthen proof of ownership. In rural areas, where smallholders occupy state land, another important first step would be to work with local officials to facilitate granting rights to state land they have occupied and/or for which they have been granted use rights.
Traveling around Port-au-Prince and Cap-Haïtien, one can see a significant amount of investment taking place in residential and commercial buildings. In agricultural areas, there are increased investments by smallholders and mid-size producers. Something important is happening in the Haitian economy. In order for the recovery to continue and to reach all Haitians, we must quickly invest in addressing weak land administration systems and helping Haitians secure property rights.
Recently Tim Hanstad and Roy Prosterman of Landesa, a USAID partner in land tenure and property rights, wrote in the New York Times, “A key factor hampering rebuilding efforts [in Haiti] is the lack of secure land rights among the displaced. A 2012 report by the London-based Overseas Development Institute described a ‘chaotic’ and ‘almost Kafka-esque’ land tenure system in Haiti in which ‘it is almost impossible to know definitely who owns what’.”
As my colleagues from Landesa point out, “the developing world’s landless poor routinely bear the brunt of [natural] disasters.” Their article highlights important links between secure land rights and disaster resilience, making a point that natural disasters are not “equal-opportunity destroyers.” Hanstad and Prosterman assert that, “Families without secure rights to land (and that is a majority of rural residents in many developing countries) often remain in their homes when it is dangerous to do so, fearing they won’t be allowed to return. And without the security of ownership and access to collateral, their homes are often not built to withstand earthquakes, typhoons and other disasters.” This was clearly the case in Haiti, and now we have an opportunity to change this dynamic for Haitians.
In a recent commentary on the USAID Land Tenure and Property Rights Portal, Robert Oberndorf described how Typhoon Haiyan destroyed both property records and boundaries in the Philippines. Mr. Oberndorf provided recommendations on how the rebuilding process can ensure that the land tenure and property rights of vulnerable groups are not impacted negatively - a critical concern in post-disaster situations.
In order to rebuild better in post-conflict and post-disaster situations, we must strengthen land governance and property rights—in particular for the most vulnerable populations. If we do not, they will remain stuck in a cycle in which they build temporary homes in camps or on undeveloped land, continually face the threat of eviction or violence, and do not participate in economic recovery—thus remaining in poverty.
- Read more on land tenure, property rights and reconstruction in Haiti
- Read more from Tim Hanstad and Roy Prosterman on how the poor get washed away
- Read more from Robert Oberndorf on Typhon Haiyan and links between climate change and tenure governance
Côte d’Ivoire emerged from a decade-long civil war in early 2011, but its diamonds—which played a role in sustaining the conflict—have remained on the world’s black lists. In November 2013, however, the Kimberley Process (KP) Plenary in Johannesburg recognized that Cote d’Ivoire had met minimum requirements of the KP Certification Scheme, the international mechanism to prevent conflict diamonds from entering the world’s markets. The KP’s decision was the culmination of several years’ efforts to restore good governance in the Ivoirian diamond sector, and paves the way for the lifting of the U.N. embargo in place since 2005.
USAID has played a catalyzing role in Côte d’Ivoire’s road to compliance. In late 2012, when the United States was the KP Chair, the Ivoirian government requested technical assistance. As part of the Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD) project, USAID deployed a technical adviser in March 2013 who worked with the Ivoirians to conceive and launch their mine-to-export system of internal controls. In a period of six months, procedures were developed, dozens of new customs and mining regulations enacted, and thousands of miners registered. A review mission sent by the KP in September assessed this system, and based on their final report, the KP made its decision.
In his remarks at the KP Plenary, Ivoirian Mining Minister Jean-Claude Brou expressed thanks to those countries, including the United States, who assisted Côte d’Ivoire in becoming compliant. He noted that compliance was not an end in itself, but a key step in the long-term goal of ensuring that mineral resources benefit the country and the mining communities. The KP Permanent Secretary Fatimata Thes echoed these sentiments, calling the technical assistance invaluable.
“A year ago, Côte d’Ivoire was still a diamond trouble spot,” said Terah U. DeJong, the technical adviser, who is now Country Director of the Property Rights and Artisanal Diamond Development (PRADD II) project that recently launched in Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea. “Today countries in the region are looking at Côte d’Ivoire’s system as a model, and this is due in part to how the government was able to integrate best practices and lessons learned from PRADD’s earlier work. The challenge now is to build on that foundation and make it last.”
USAID’s PRADD II, which is co-funded by the European Union in Côte d’Ivoire, will combine property rights strengthening with other activities aimed at boosting the legal value chain and bringing benefits to mining communities.