El Bagre’s Municipal Land Office has delivered more than 500 urban land titles in one of Colombia’s largest gold mining municipalities.
El Bagre is synonymous with gold mining. In fact, before El Bagre was a municipality, it formed part of neighboring Zaragoza and was a place where people had been mining gold for hundreds of years. For the last several decades, Colombian mining firm Mineros has carried out alluvial mining across large swathes of the gold-rich land. According to experts, El Bagre is one of Antioquia’s highest gold producing municipalities and depends on gold for 80-90% of its revenue.
Due to an abundance of gold and a general lack of state services in the tumultuous sub-region of Bajo Cauca, El Bagre’s residents have weathered years of violence and conflict between guerrilla and paramilitary groups in disputes over land, power, money, and narcotics.
The opportunity to benefit from gold mining has only exacerbated land issues in El Bagre, making land tenure security even more important for residents. Land for Prosperity began supporting El Bagre’s municipal government in 2021 with the creation of the Municipal Land Office (MLO). This office includes a legal expert, land surveyor, social worker, and secretary and is focused on working out land and property issues facing El Bagre’s urban areas, which comprise an estimated 13,000 urban parcels.
In May, El Bagre’s Land Office delivered 90 property titles to residents, bringing the total number of land titles delivered to more than 500 since the office was created.
“Finally, I can say this house is mine. I lived with uncertainty because I didn’t have the deed,” said Nancy Preciado, a neighbor in the urban area of Puerto Claver. Preciado never pursued a land title before now due to the high costs and time associated with lawyers and the land formalization process.
“Thanks to the Land Office, I am smiling ear to ear.” says Nancy Preciado, an El Bagre neighbor.
Optimizing Land Governance
As the Municipal Land Office continues towards its goal of 1,000 titled urban parcels by the end of 2023, the team’s legal expert Daniela Gomez and team face additional challenges related to community outreach and convincing residents that the services provided by the office are authentic.
“Nobody believed the Municipal Land Office would help them with land titling services for free. But once we delivered more than 150 land titles at our first event in 2021, people gained confidence in what the administration is trying to do,” Gomez says.
LFP is currently supporting the MLO with two additional employees, a legal expert and a land surveyor. As part of their outreach strategy, the MLO team leads land formalization workshops in the two main urban zones outside of El Bagre’s main city center: Puerto Claver and Puerto Lopez.
“We teach the importance of legal land ownership, that a registered title provides legal security, legally accredits them as owners of the house, provides a secure future for their children, and can help them improve their housing. We also reiterate that the process of titling their property is 100 percent free of charge.”
A Step Forward
El Bagre’s Municipal Land Office is also facilitating housing subsidies for new homeowners with a registered land title who qualify for the program. In 2023, the MLO helped 66 homeowners access government subsidies offered by Antioquia’s departmental government, permitting low-income residents to improve their flooring, bathrooms, and kitchen.
“The Municipal Land Office has made many types of services available that were never available before. Together with residents, we are reducing informality and contributing to the quality of life of the population,” explains Gomez.