“A successful land governance strategy requires political will” Q&A with Fuentedeoro, Colombia mayor

After several years spent to improve the municipal land office in Fuentedeoro, USAID and the National Land Agency are supporting a massive land titling and cadastre updating strategy that will cover the entire municipality. The mayor of Fuentedeoro, Diana Patricia Mancera speaks on the next steps for creating a culture of land formalization and on how to maintain a sustainable and legitimate land market.

Land titles delivered in 2020 with Mancera (center) thanks to the USAID-supported Municipal Land Office.

Over the year, Fuentedeoro made the formalization of public lands a priority and implemented a strategy to build its capacity for titling public lands within the municipality. How has Fuentedeoro changed during this process?

The perception of property has changed. It’s clear to us now that it is important to be able to own a property, and that owning it means having the deed. And it is understood that the deed not only serves to prove your ownership of the property, but also allows you to access other opportunities such as credit and subsidies.

How does public land titling help the municipality?

Today, a deed is required to prove that the property is in fact owned by the municipality so that the government can invest in it. Here, thanks to our work, the majority of schools and health centers now have land titles. One specific example is that the Ministry of Education, through the Infrastructure Financing Fund, has allocated resources for the Juan Bosco branch of the General Santander Rural School in Puerto Limón, which without a land title never would have been eligible. A total of 150 million pesos have been allocated to improve the conditions for preschool children.

In 2020, the mayor’s office is continuing its strategy to improve land titling in Fuentedeoro. What are the first steps of the new strategy?

We have three fundamental activities that are underway with USAID’s support. First, we are improving the Municipal Land Office, which is staffed by land experts and open every day. Next, we want to improve and prepare for the upcoming massive land formalization activity with the National Land Agency (ANT).

Fuentedeoro’s leaders have shared their experience of creating a municipal land office with dozens of municipalities: from the first step of passing an ordinance, in which the city council grants the Mayor the faculties to adjudicate urban parcels, to registering land titles at one of the regional offices of the Superintendence Notary and Registry.

What do you plan to do with the National Land Agency?

With the support of USAID and through the ANT, the first step is to develop and consolidate Fuentedeoro’s Participatory Rural Land Use Management Plan, a big job that the municipality alone would never have been able to do alone due to costs. And that, of course, is followed by the parcel sweep and massive land titling exercise.

What can Fuentedeoro offer the rest of Colombia in terms of land titling?

Although we are not a PDET municipality, we are fortunate to be implementing a strong land governance approach. We are proud that Fuentedeoro, which is a category six municipality (population: <10,000), can show category four and five municipalities (population: 10-30,000) that it is possible to lead a land strategy with the necessary political will. From this perspective, things can get done and we can attract other programs.

Do you believe the people of Fuentedeoro are ready for a massive land formalization intervention?

I think so, I think they are ready, because they are crying out for it! The fact is the citizenry has requested land formalization services in the formulation of the Municipal Development Plan. The people know the importance of land titling. People know the advantages to having a deed in order to access other benefits and programs.

In Colombia, municipalities have traditionally lacked the capacity, in part due to insufficient funds and capacity. Further, decades of informality have meant that there are few records in place documenting each property’s history.

And are you ready to support massive land formalization?

Municipal leadership is aware it must continuing to support the local land office and titling, not only for schools and public properties, but for longevity and sustainability’s sake, so that people stop informally selling their houses. Between these two components: people’s awareness about the importance of the deed and the municipality’s dedication to improve the land office, we will be ready.

How do you show a landowner that land titling has benefits?

We must show people that when they sell a property, they must do so with a deed. This way, the seller will no longer have to pay property taxes, and the buyer, by having the deed, will be able to access the benefits of being an owner.


This story was originally published on Exposure.