Ethiopia Strengthening Land Tenure and Administration Program: An Impact Evaluation of Land Certification in Four Regions in Ethiopia


In the late 1990s, the Government of Ethiopia (GoE) embarked on an ambitious program to document and register land held by rural households in what is known as Ethiopia’s ‘first-level’ land certification program. This program, widely recognized by donors, practitioners and scholars as one of the most successful low-cost registration programs in the world, sought to increase tenure security and certify long-term use rights for rural households. The program is credited with successfully certifying land use rights for over 12 million households. Ethiopia’s Ministry of Agriculture estimated that the program covered 90% of all rural households by 2013.  Nonetheless, the program’s impact was hampered by the absence of plot-level mapping and insufficient boundary information, which prevented the development of accurate cadastral maps and precluded needed improvements to land use management and administration systems and to computerized land registries.

To address these limitations, the GoE, with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), implemented the Ethiopia Strengthening Land Tenure and Administration Program (ELTAP) from 2005 to 2008. ELTAP improved the certification process by working with district-level land administration agencies in the rural highlands regions to introduce ‘second-level certification,’ which entailed the computerized digital mapping of parcels, cadastral registration, and the issuance of land certificates. This support continued under a similar USAID program, the Ethiopia Land Administration Program (ELAP), which ran from 2008 to 2013. In 2013, USAID’s certification efforts under ELTAP and ELAP were scaled up significantly by a program funded by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) -Land Investment for Transformation (LIFT) expected to be in operation between 2013 and 2020.

Cloudburst conducted an impact evaluation of the ELTAP/ELAP programs in 2015. It found that the second-level certification programs led to improvements along some dimensions; namely, the study found evidence of a small increase in access to credit, a modest increase in tenure security, and a sizable increase in women’s empowerment measures. Contrary to the programs’ expectations, however, the evaluation did not find improvements in land rental activity or investments in soil and water conservation, nor did it find evidence of reduced land disputes. Arguably, more time needed to pass before the expected outcomes could be observed and the programs could reach their full potential.

Under USAID’s Communications, Evaluation, and Learning (CEL) project, Landesa will explore this proposition by revisiting these households to assess the longer-term impacts of land certification. By conducting an impact evaluation five years later, and evaluating households that have had their certificates for twelve to fifteen years, this follow-on study will help determine (a) whether the previously observed outcomes have been sustained and how they have evolved; and (b) whether the other expected outcomes have materialized now that more time has passed.

In addition, a scoping trip conducted in February of 2020 identified strong demand for additional information on the program’s impact on outcomes that affect women specifically. The scoping also identified a need for more information on some of the processes, such as the functioning of the land administration committees at the district and village levels, that may have helped or hindered the program’s overall impact. Landesa’s proposed impact evaluation will address both demands by adding to the set of outcomes that had been covered in the Cloudburst evaluation and by complementing the surveys with robust qualitative research.

More concretely, this follow-on study will assess the cumulative impact, for men and women, of receiving a land use certificate, not the impact of the second level certification compared to the first level certification, by testing the following hypotheses:

  1. Having a land certificate increases women and men’s access to informal and/or formal credit.
  2. Having a land certificate reduces the number of land-related disputes faced by women and men and decreases the time required to resolve land-related disputes when they arise.
  3. Having a land certificate increases the likelihood of women and men engaging in land rental and sharecropping activities.
  4. Land certification increases women’s and men’s investment in productive assets.
  5. Land certification results in households having higher levels of agricultural productivity.
  6. Land certification encourages households to invest more in soil and water conservation (SWC).
  7. Having a land certificate results in stronger perceived tenure security for women and men.
  8. Land certification increases the extent to which households engage in off-farm income generating activities.
  9. Joint land certification increases women’s involvement in land management and decision-making.
  10. Joint Land certification decreases women’s risk of experiencing intimate partner violence.

By supporting this impact evaluation, USAID will be able to better understand and generate innovative and robust knowledge on the impacts and limitations of second-level land certification efforts. These findings can contribute to the development of enhanced programming to improve the well-being of rural land users in Ethiopia. More broadly, these findings can contribute to the global body of knowledge on the effectiveness of land tenure programming. Based on newly available data and improved methodologies, the study should generate more robust findings than the previous evaluation, especially for subgroups of interest such as women. The study also expects to generate unique findings on outcomes for women based on new in-depth quantitative and qualitative research modules. Importantly, by studying the households over such a long timeframe, this study will address a significant gap in the land tenure literature on longer-term impacts of land tenure programming, not only in Ethiopia but in the development literature more generally. To our knowledge, this study would be the first to consider the long-term impacts of land rights certification in a rural agricultural setting.

This document describes the analysis plan for the proposed impact evaluation (IE) and is structured as follows: Section I presents the background to this evaluation, including a brief introduction to land tenure in Ethiopia and the programs that will be assessed. Section 2 presents the previous Cloudburst evaluation and the datasets on which this study builds; it also discusses the methods for the current IE including the research questions, the hypotheses to be tested and the indicators that will be used, as well as the structure of the samples on which this study will be based. Section 3 describes the quantitative and qualitative analysis we will conduct. Section 4 covers the ethical considerations. Finally, Section 5 lays out the estimated schedule for deliverables. The Annexes include the quantitative and qualitative research instruments from the previous data collections and evaluation as well as those created for this impact evaluation.