USAID is developing capacity in land administration to strengthen land rights in underfunded municipalities across Colombia.
Piece by Piece
Raúl Moreno waited 15 years for a land title to the property he owns in the town of La Macarena. During the wait, the elementary school teacher and community leader built his home, piece by piece.
Although he thought about it often, Moreno never processed a land title for his property. In Colombia land titling services are expensive and time-consuming. In a complicated system involving several government entities, the process can take over two years, and there is no guarantee that a property title will be waiting for you on the other side.
“I would have to hire and bring a land survey to our municipality. I would have to pay a lawyer. The whole process is difficult and costly,” he says. “And doing this in La Macarena would not be easy.”
A new strategy, which puts the task of titling parcels in urban areas in the hands of local and regional administrators, is delivering property titles to people like Moreno and improving urban planning and rural development for municipal leaders.
In this video, we visit La Macarena and meet Raúl Moreno.
La Macarena is nestled in an isolated corner of rural Colombia where the eastern plains of Meta drop into the Amazon basin. Over the years, it has become famous for tourism as an entrypoint for the La Macarena National Park, but remains cut off from any paved road by 10 hours of bonejarring dirt road.
In 2022, with support from USAID, the Department of Meta created a Regional Land Office to carry out tasks like land formalization in isolated municipalities with limited budgets. USAID Land for Prosperity provided technical and in-kind assistance to set up Meta’s Departmental Land Strategy, which has already delivered more than 1,000 urban land titles in eight municipalities including La Macarena.
In each of the nine participating municipalities, USAID has trained public officials to give residents information about land titling and property issues. Jhojan Smith is an engineer working in La Macarena’s municipal administration, and when Meta’s regional team comes to work, he helps them reach the community.
“The main objective is to regain the public’s confidence. In the past, land formalization was quite slow. With the support of the Regional Land Office, land titling processes that took up to two years are being done in 2-3 months,” he says.
Decentralizing Land Administration
The innovative concept was first developed by USAID in the department of Meta, and has found success in departments like Cauca, Sucre, and Bolívar. The strategy has planted seeds for regional-level leadership in land administration and created a conduit of support for secure land rights.
“The Regional Land Office strategy has helped our municipality to understand the importance of land titling. The strategy is raising awareness about the benefits of formal land ownership for families and for our administrators in terms of property tax collection and meeting the goals of the municipal development plan,” says Luis Hernando Hernández, La Macarena’s Planning Secretary.
In its first year, Meta’s Regional Land Office has delivered over 1,000 urban land titles, including more than 25 public properties where schools, health clinics, and municipal assets like parks and recreation are located.The Regional Land Office has titled properties in Mesetas, La Macarena, Uribe, Vista Hermosa, San Juan de Arama, and Puerto Concordia.
A Family’s Future
Now that Raúl Moreno is the official owner of his property and has a registered land title backed by the government, he can support his family in other ways.
“There are so many benefits like having access to credit and loan and the possibility to invest in my property, and improve my family’s living conditions. That is a blessing. There is the feeling of certainty that this property is no longer just mine but belongs to my children and will be theirs in the future.” he says.