Participatory Approaches Strengthen Land Tenure Programming

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Participatory mapping workshop in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, September 13 -15, 2011. Photo credit: Tetra Tech / Gary Hunter and Anna Soave

This month, we are highlighting participatory approaches that make land tenure programming more inclusive, effective, and sustainable. USAID uses participatory approaches—approaches that engage local communities and beneficiaries in project design and management—in our efforts to secure and strengthen land tenure and property rights in projects around the world.

In many countries, land rights are determined by complex and often overlapping systems of formal law and customary norms. Because the most accurate and agreed upon information regarding land use, access, and ownership is often held by local communities, it is critical to include a variety of participatory approaches in the design of any project that affects people’s rights and access to land and resources. This can apply to agriculture, infrastructure, housing, and forestry projects, among others.

Working side-by-side with the communities we support, USAID incorporates a variety of participatory approaches in land tenure programming, including:

Participatory rural appraisals, using tools such as:

  • Focus group discussions (to solicit a variety of community voices)
  • Wealth rankings (to capture perceptions of wealth differences and map household rankings)
  • Venn diagrams (to identify existing institutions and their participants)
  • Resource mapping (to identify local resources and assets)

Participatory community mapping, which is used:

  • To determine land-use activities and customary land rights
  • To determine boundary delineation and land-use rights in any protected areas or concessions
  • To gain an understanding of community livelihood assets, migratory routes, and other critical local issues
  • To develop a stronger sense of the value community members place on different assets

Participatory land conflict resolution, using tools such as:

  • Mediation (to resolve boundary disputes)
  • Legal awareness raising (for women and men to strengthen understanding of rights to land)

In order to increase the inclusiveness and effectiveness of land tenure and property rights programming, those designing projects should consider including a participatory component. There are a number of opportunities in programming where participatory approaches are not only relevant, but will improve the overall outcomes of the efforts—ensuring that the voices of the local communities are heard, their rights are respected, and the projects that serve them are more sustainable.

Over the course of the month, we will highlight examples of USAID’s participatory land tenure programming. For further information or assistance incorporating participatory approaches in land tenure programming, please contact USAID’s Office of Land Tenure and Resource Management.

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