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News & Events Challenges in ‘pro-poor’ land registration: What lessons on crisis and resilience?
Challenges in ‘pro-poor’ land registration: What lessons on crisis and resilience?
Challenges in ‘pro-poor’ land registration: What lessons on crisis and resilience?
Land Registration in Mozambique
Land Registration in Mozambique

Over time, land registration has been associated with a diversity of desired outcomes, ranging from modernization and the promotion of sustainable agricultural production to protection of the livelihoods of small-scale producers notably women, peacebuilding or even nurturing good practices of local governance. In this session we have discussed, for a range of settings: How confident are we about the results of registration and formalization program? How have they been justified and have the ambitions been reached? Currently, land registration is considered as an instrument to foster resilience and climate change mitigation. Based on experiences to date,  what lessons can be drawn of relevance to the climate debate?


Key Takeaways

  • Land tenure registration, with an appeal to peacebuilding and development imperatives, often involves a depoliticizing move. Political choices are ‘hidden’ behind what are presented as ‘technical’ interventions.
  • In practice, land tenure registration may contribute to a diversity of objectives like conflict resolution and agricultural development. These effects are only realized, however, if they are explicitly integrated in project design and implementation.
  • On Java, colonial legislation vested absolute power over forests lands in the state. Contemporary granting of forest rights to farmers does not extinguish conflicts related to past criminalization, extortion and threats to farmers.
  • In Colombia, appropriation and registration of the baldios by powerful stakeholders over the past 150 years is one of the main causes of current land inequality in Colombia.Tthese inequalities remain untouched by current land registration programmes.
  • While land registration could help achieve territorial peace, especially when at the core of a peace agreement, however its implementation relies on trust, security and technical capacity.


‘The politics of promoting land registration for sustainable peace in eastern DRC and Burundi’

Mathijs van Leeuwen (Radboud University Nijmegen) & Gemma van der Haar (Wageningen University)


The presentation emphasized the politics involved in localized land registration in conflict-affected settings, based on work Burundi and DRC. The broader lessons are:

  • Be more aware of the discursive power of technical optimisation, and the risks involved in and unexpected outcomes of interventions.
  • Be careful about seemingly self-evident benefits. The ‘moral imperative’/ ‘urge to do good and do it now’ might make interveners fail to see the politics involved in registration programs.


Land Tenure Formalization in Fragile and Conflict Affected States – What have we learnt? What deserves more attention?’

David Betge, Sector Specialist Land Rights, ZOA


"Land certification can be meaningful as part of an integrated approach. Land tenure registration on its own is solving little."


Formalization of land rights in Fragile and Conflict Affected States (FCAS) must be seen as a particularly sensitive case of land tenure registration. To improve the effects and effectiveness of formalization programs in FCAS, it is necessary to look more closely at the causes and consequences of land disputes, their relation with formalization of rights as well as potential synergies with other types of work aimed at supporting conflict-affected populations. The presentation concludes that

  • Political will, policy changes, local demand and ownership crucial.
  • Unintended consequences need to be monitored.
  • More attention is needed for: Women´s land rights, Disability inclusion, Access to justice, Long-term, coherent financing.


The art of forest farming: Facing climate change impacts in the practice of land registration for the social forestry programme in Java, Indonesia’

Lubabun Ni’am, Azwar Najib Alhafi, Krisna Yulianta, Wibisono Aminoto Alliance of Volunteers to Save Nature (Aliansi Relawan untuk Penyelamatan Alam or ARUPA), Yogyakarta, Indonesia


The social forestry programme in the island of Java, Indonesia, aims to reduce enduring conflicts between farmers and the State Forest Company. It has been done by allowing farmers to cultivate parts of the State Forest areas through designated social forestry schemes. This programme is expected to end the crises over forest lands articulated in the forms of land degradation and access over the State Forest areas. The presenters discuss how the access granting does not necessarily extinguish the conflicts and propose an alternative view of understanding the value of land and farming activities for farmers as a crucial part to consider in any further evaluation of the social forestry programme.


Exploring the origin of land inequality in Colombia: the allocation of Baldíos

Álvaro Germán Torres Mora. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

Paul Gellert. The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.


The appropriation of baldíos [literally, wastelands, or unclaimed lands] began in the 19th century and lead to land concentration. Throughout, large holdings have been privileged over small scale tenure. This process has also privileged land tenure as a source of power and wealth at the expense of socioeconomic development. In conclusion, the 19th century baldío distribution created the basis of one of the most unequal land distributions in the world, which results in a long term conflict over agrarian resources.


‘Territorial peace: land governance and sustainable peacebuilding. Cases from Philippines and Colombia’.

Francesca Vanelli, MSc. Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), Erasmus University, Rotterdam Daniela Ochoa Peralta, MSc. Alumni, Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), Erasmus University, Rotterdam


"To effectively promote peacebuilding, land registration should be a holistic process that considers not only tenure, but also the sustainability of livelihoods resulting from it."

"The concept of territorial peace involves the idea that land titling has wider implications than tenure."


This contribution further develops the concept of territorial peace related to the reconstruction of the collective, productive, and symbolic function of the territory after the ceasefire, and in addressing the land-related conflict root causes. Analysis in two case studies, Colombia and the Philippines, shows that land may take the role of peacemaker in addressing territorial peace’s collective dimensions, especially when at the core of a peace agreement; however, its implementation remains volatile if it lacks trust, security, and technical capacity. Land markets should reflect the same morality and ideology behind the peace agreement, so as not to become a perpetuation vehicle of the pre-conflict status quo. Lastly, land tenure, power balance and land administration are key steps to build social cohesion and address justice failure.


Further reading: