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& MANAGEMENT | land tenure

This section includes measures to improve access to land for the poor through appropriate land tenure provisions, titles and regularisation and consolidation procedures, shifting from illegal to informal recognition of settlements to provide security and asset value to poor communities.

quick links

local level city level
  international level websites

local level

Kironde, J.M. Lusugga (1995) - "Access to land by the urban poor in Tanzania: some findings from Dar es Salaam" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol. 7, No. 1, April 1995 - IIED [pdf]

This paper considers how low-income households and communities in Dar es Salaam have obtained access to land. The paper begins with an analysis of urban land policy in Tanzania, drawing the distinction between planned and unplanned areas. After a consideration of poverty in Tanzania and a brief historical review of urban land allocation, the paper reports on a study carried out in Dar es Salaam in 1993 to better understand the relationship between poverty, housing and access to land.

Oestereich, Jürgen (2001) - The Local Community: The New Legal Mediator Between Private Property and the State - ESF/N-AERUS May 2001 workshop [pdf]

In modern societies private property is one of the most fiercely defended institutions of legal systems. It has to be understood how this came about and why this is so. Very recently, however, environmental problems have caused legislation and jurisdiction to set limits to the unrestrained exercise of property laws. This recent evolution brings back the fundamental question of historical and non-European societies as to who gives the legitimation to privileged members of the society to enjoy the fruits of private property as an absolute right over specific resources (especially land, but also minerals, man power, knowledge and information etc.).

city level

Calderón Cockburn, Julio A. (2001) - Official Registration (Formalization) of property in Peru (1996-2000) - May 2001 ESF/N-AERUS workshop [pdf]

Peru - This is a study of the official real estate registration policy or formalization of property established by the Peruvian government between 1996 and 2000, implemented by the Commission for the Official Registration of Informal Property (COFOPRI). This entity depends on the Ministry of Transport, Communications and Housing and is responsible for distributing land titles in illegitimately established settlements. The Real Estate Registry of Urban Settlements (RPU) was in charge of registering the land titles. According to the objectives of the official property registration policy set forth in Decree Law 803 of March 1996, the purpose was to establish a relationship between the distribution of land titles, access to formal credit mechanisms and better standards of living. The study is based on information provided by National Household Surveys (ENAHO, 1998-II and 1999-II) conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Data Processing (INEI).

Chakrabarti, P.G. Dhar (2001) - Delhi's Ongoing Debate on Informal Settlements and Work Places -The Issues of Environmental Jurisprudence - May 2001 ESF/N-AERUS workshop [pdf]

India - The contradiction between the legal and the illegal has often been compromised by the logic of growth itself which has become irreversible and compounded by the pressures of electoral politics, but nowhere has it been so open and critical than in the ongoing debate on the shifting of polluting industries from the national capital of Delhi, in which the question of implementation of Supreme Court decision regarding shifting of polluting industries has exposed the fragility of the formal legal and planning system as also of the political system. This paper traces the growth of informal settlements and work centers of Delhi as organic components of the urban system and examines the issues of environmental jurisprudence that marginalises the poor who keep the city going.

Kombe, Wilbard J. & Volker Kreibich (2001) - "Informal Land Management in Tanzania and the Misconception about its Illegality" - May 2001 ESF/N-AERUS workshop [pdf]

Tanzania - While acknowledging the inevitable role the formal sector has in urban land management, this paper reports on the actors, norms, procedures and competence inherent in informal land regularisation. It demonstrates with empirical evidence from the settlements recently studied in Tanzania the active role accepted by Subward (Mtaa) leaders and organised community groups in authenticating and registering land rights, arbitrating land disputes, checking land-use development and spatial orderliness and providing basic services. These socially controlled regulatory mechanisms are playing an active role in guiding or regulating urban housing land development. They are deploying norms and institutions which are closely linked with the formal sector. It is therefore argued that the ‘illegality” notion that is often used by bureaucrats and policy makers to question the legal status of informal or ‘unplanned” settlements is a misconception that largely seems to stem from unawareness of the regulatory systems involved and from ignorance about the mechanisms and norms underlying informal housing land acquisition, security of tenure and subsequent settlement development.

Thirkell Allyson J. (1996) - "Players in urban informal land markets; who wins? who loses? A case study of Cebu City" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol. 8 No. 2, October 1996 - IEED [pdf]

Philippines - This paper describes how informal land developments for housing, more typically associated with the urban poor, are increasingly attracting middle-income households, and how low income households lose out in comparison to middle and upper income households in the purchase and sale of land for housing. Drawing on research in five informal settlements in Cebu, it suggests that low income households often sell land cheaper because of crisis-sales (as money is needed quickly) or because of a greater fear of reprisal because they are selling land they do not own. Low income households also seem to sell land plots cheaper because they perceive their value to be lower than when middle or upper income households sell comparable plots. This contributes over time to the residential segregation of income groups between informal settlements in cities such as Cebu, with the low income groups concentrated on the poorest quality, least desirable sites as they are no longer able to enter the wider informal land market for housing.

international level

Balamir, Murat & Geoffrey Payne (2001) - "Legality and legitimacy in urban tenure issues" - May 2001 ESF/N-AERUS workshop [pdf]

The paper provides an update on current research [1] reviewing innovative approaches to tenure for the urban poor. Findings from the research indicate that in most cities in the South, tenure systems exist within a continuum of traditional, statutory and informal categories. In many cases, it is difficult to distinguish between these systems, making it impossible to predict the outcomes of specific policy measures. The widespread existence of various non-statutory tenure systems is partly a response to the failure of statutory tenure systems to meet the needs of lower income groups which invariably represent the majority of urban populations. It may also reflect the persistence of traditional practices for obtaining and developing land that are not officially recognised. These alternative forms may, however, reflect the needs of the poor and enable them to obtain land in areas that would otherwise not be affordable or available. As such, they can claim a degree of legitimacy even if they lack formal legality.

Coit, Katharine (2001) - "The other face of informality and illegality or the Collateral Effects of Informality" - May 2001 ESF/N-AERUS workshop [pdf]

Informality and illegality are generally considered to be the characteristics of low-income settlements, both caused by and beneficial to the poor. The appropriation of land, the illegal subdivisions, the shacks built with inappropriate material on unserviced land etc. are means by which the poor get cheap shelter. There is, however, another side to the question. Informal and illegal actions are not reserved for the poor alone but can also be used by those with the means to exploit the poor. Where there are no laws, no regulations, the land owner, the developer, the slumlord, the usurer make their own. Being in a monopolistic position often they can and often do exploit those needing housing or other services thus prolonging or perpetuating their poverty. The informality or illegality of their position make it very unlikely that the exploited obtain justice from an established legal system.

Jenkins, Paul (2001) - "Regularising "informality": turning the legitimate into legal? Land reform and emerging urban land markets in post-Socialist Mozambique" - May 2001 ESF/N-AERUS workshop [pdf]

Mozambique - The weak nature of the state and the market in Mozambique and resulting unregulated speculative market activity in urban land is tending to lead to exclusive benefit of the political, administrative and economic elites and undermine any benefit of public land ownership for the urban poor majority. In this situation informal land management has more legitimacy than the formal system, as is reflected in central government's promotion of urban land reform in Mozambique, with the stated objective is to "turn the legitimate into legal".

Mitlin, Diana (2003) - "A fund to secure land for shelter: supporting strategies of the organized poor" - Environment & Urbanization, Vol 15 No 1, April 2003 IIED [pdf]

Obtaining secure land tenure for housing is one of the biggest challenges facing the urban poor and the professionals who seek to address poverty. This paper describes how a UK£ 200,000 fund supported the acquisition of secure land and the construction of housing in 13 different communities (in Cambodia, Colombia, India, South Africa and Zimbabwe), as well as advocacy work to promote access to land in urban areas of Namibia. Over 40,000 people have benefited, and many more should benefit in the future from the processes now underway. The paper explains how it was possible for a fund of this size to benefit so many low-income households. It also discusses the different strategies that were used to obtain land
in different places, and what we can learn from this experience to address the needs of the urban poor more effectively.

Mogale, Thomas (2001) - "Changes in residential tenure security in South Africa - shifting relationships between customary, informal and formal systems" - May 2001 ESF/N-AERUS workshop [pdf]

South Africa - South African democracy promises the resolution of many disabilities faced by those who have suffered under previous regimes. Since 1994 tremendous changes have taken place in many aspects of South African life. There can be little doubt that there have been enormous enhancements of citizenship for the great majority, and that in many cases, access to some basic services has also improved. For example, hundreds of thousands of households have benefited from the distribution of national subsidy funds, mostly through private developers, resulting in the construction of a million new houses - however limited the resource might appear to wealthier observers.

Payne, Geoffrey (2002) - Secure Tenure for the Urban Poor. Round Table seminar organised by Cities Alliance, May 2002 [pdf]

This diversity of customary, statutory, religious and informal tenure systems presents major problems when seeking to understand the roles which each category plays within overall land and property markets. Current UN urban indicators have so far failed to capture this complexity and therefore risk distorting our perceptions of these roles and therefore do not provide a sound basis for policy formulation. A typology has been developed (see Fig 1) and is presently being tested in two countries (Cambodia and the Philippines) which attempts to provide a more accurate reflection of tenure types, the degree of de facto security associated with each and the extent of de jure property rights applicable to all categories and both sexes. It is hoped that this will provide a basis for identifying policy options based on the need to increase rights and security of tenure. However, it is NOT proposed that this typology be used as a basis for international comparisons between cities as the potential range of categories would be too great.

WaterAid (2001), Land tenure, WaterAid [pdf]

Historically, WaterAid’s water and sanitation projects have concentrated on rural areas in some of the poorest countries of the world. However, the growing number of low-income families living in deteriorating urban areas has led WaterAid to recognise the increased need for urban water and sanitation projects. There are three main common difficulties which have to be overcome in order for poor urban communities to access water and sanitation services. These are as follows:
• The legal position of the residents with respect to land tenure
• The locality of the settlement in which the communities are living including distance and accessibility due to narrow access roads
• The cost (construction, operation, maintenance, servicing, etc) of accessing services





Documents highlighting DFID's published work concerning improved access to land for the poor in urban areas:

"Integration of Urban Agriculture & food security in Land use Planning in Dar es Salaam & Quito" - Allen, Adriana; Nicholas You (2002) – Sustainable Urbanisation: Bridging the Green and Brown Agendas – DPU [pdf]

Tanzania / Sudan - Urban agriculture makes a significant, and growing,
contribution to the livelihoods of many city residents.
It is estimated that urban farms will represent 33% of world food production by 2005. However, urban farmers frequently face barriers such as legal
and policy environments that limit their access to vital
resources such as credit and secure tenure. It is
therefore important to raise policy makers' awareness
about the importance of urban agriculture. Experiences in Tanzania and Ecuador show how consultative processes and pilot projects can be used to lobby for policy changes that are more supportive to urban agriculture.

2003 Development Planning Unit | Sikandar Hasan | Anna Soave | Khanh Tran-Thanh || Tina Simon