“The Land Office is important, because today everything is geared towards formalizing land.”

Lina Castellanos, Agency for Territorial Renovation in Southern Córdoba, Colombia

Lina Castellanos has worked in Southern Córdoba for more than ten years, looking for opportunities to support municipal administrations and build their capacities. Under the Rural Development Program with Territorial Approach, known as PDET, the Agency for Territorial Renovation is supporting Municipal Land Offices, created with USAID technical and financial support, to administer property and create an environment for licit economies to grow and all actors can benefit. In this interview, Lina Castellanos talks about land formalization in Southern Córdoba and the role played by Municipal Land Offices.

How can Municipal Land Offices support Puerto Libertador?

The office provides farmers with advice on the formalization of urban and rural property. Thanks to USAID, the office has a lawyer, a topographer, and a social worker who can travel to rural villages and urban areas to help legalize properties. The office also formalizes the properties of public entities such as health centers, schools, police stations, and cemeteries. Often, the government cannot intervene in these properties because they have not been formalized in the name of the municipality yet. This is a barrier to investing in infrastructure or services, and in the end, it affects children and the entire population.

What is the role of the Agency for Territorial Renovation?

We facilitate the process to comply with the PDET approach. We are working with communities that in 2018 said they were interested in the legalization of their parcels and the formalization of schools, health centers and other properties. After celebrating five years since the Peace Accord was signed, these steps to clear ownership are important for the community to access better services, parks, and playgrounds, which all play a role in fighting their recruitment into armed groups, especially for the youth. We have to improve the learning environment, create better opportunities, and promote the good use of free time.

What are some of the characteristics of property in Puerto Libertador?

Puerto Libertador is a big municipality with a lot of mining companies, unlike other areas in Southern Córdoba. Here, a lot of people work and live from mining for many generations. Mining as a way of life has been passed on from generation to generation.

Why is the rate of land ownership so low?

Land tenure is a complex subject, and more than 85% of all properties are informally owned. This is due to several reasons, such as a lack of government presence, history of violence, and the existence of illicit crops.

Why don’t mining communities have access to property?

Today, everything is geared towards formalizing land. This is why the Municipal Land Office is so important in order to empower people when it comes to land formalization. Until now, many people in mining did not have access to any tools for land formalization, and until recently there was no agreement between the municipal administration and the Ministry of Mines and Energy to formalize the land that is used for mining.




“Puerto Libertador has an ocean of needs and with the creation of the municipal land office I believe the voices of the community have been heard by the municipal council. The people who don’t speak up will never be heard.” -Eder Soto, Mayor of Puerto Libertador

What types of conflicts exist because of the mining in Puerto Libertador?

There is a very big social and environmental conflict in the Mina Alacrán village. The community is living straight above the mine’s tunnels, on land that has been conceded to mining companies and that has mining titles. Therefore, these 350 families have to be relocated. But they are not going to leave the area until their rights to housing and land are guaranteed. We have had meetings with the community, land agencies, and the Ombudsman to find solutions.

What role can the Municipal Land Office play in this?

The municipal administration could guide the community and carry out a study to identify which families are living on parcels that are private property or are owned by the government. The history of each parcel needs to be known. With a parcel study, the community would be in a better position to negotiate with the mining company. The Municipal Land Office can also provide legal advice to the community on the process of formalizing property.

Photos by LFP (USAID)
Puerto Libertador, Cordoba, Colombia
© 2022 Land for Prosperity

Cross posted from Land for Prosperity Exposure site