How Mobile Applications are Documenting Property Rights in Zambia

Originally appeared on ICTworks.

There is a silent race running through developing countries around the world – a race for access to land and the knowledge of whom the land belongs. The race is not necessarily between people, or neighboring farmers, or even between government and their citizens, but exists at the nexus of productive livelihoods, and the sustainable stewardship of land each person calls home.

Globally, the livelihoods of literal billions of people rely on these factors – access to land for farming or mining and ownership and management of land. How these factors are addressed today will provide the foundation for long-term growth and confidence for people tomorrow.

The Zambian Context

With its large area, growing population, and governance combining centuries-old chiefdoms with a modern democracy, Zambia is particularly well suited for a convergence of old and new ideas regarding land tenure and security. Zambia has a very rough estimate of 15 million properties undocumented in its 75 million hectares.

Zambia’s land is divided between state land (eligible for leasehold titles) and customary land (largely rural). Customary land is administered by over 250 traditional chiefs, often, as mentioned before, with little documented evidence of ownership rights for individual households. As of 2013, there were fewer than 150,000 state leasehold titles issued by the government, which is less than one title per 100 individuals and approximately 1 title for every 5,300 hectares of land. In rural areas, only a few, but growing number of chiefs are issuing any sort of documentation of their land allocations.

The paper-based, signature heavy process being used to secure tenure is cumbersome and not readily or universally accessible to the people who need it. In fact, under the current system, it is estimated it would take over 1,000 years to document the country’s customary and state-held landholdings—an astounding number used only to make the point that there is much work to be done.

Read the full article on ICTworks.


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