The NGO Namati, along with partner IDLO, has just issued a new report entitled “Protecting Community Lands and Resources.” Over the past decade there has been a strong shift in land tenure work away from projects that provide for individualized titling of lands and towards the recognition of customary tenure systems and the formalization of rights held by communities. Countries adopt various approaches to formalization but often pass laws that are, on their face, designed to help protect communities against illegal or coercive dispossession and loss of rights by documenting rights.
This report analyzes efforts in 58 communities in Liberia, Mozambique and Uganda to use national laws to document and secure their land rights. Using randomized control trials, the study compared groups that had varying levels of legal support from access to copies of laws to assistance from professional lawyers. Among the findings: “when communities have the responsibility to complete most project activities on their own, they are motivated to take the work more seriously, integrate and internalize the legal education more thoroughly, address intra-community obstacles more proactively, and claim greater “ownership” over the community land documentation process than when a legal or technical professional completes all this work on behalf of the community.”