MAST Final Project Report


The Mobile Application to Secure Tenure (MAST) pilot project (2014-2016) was originally designed to test a concept: can a participatory or crowdsourced approach to capturing land rights information using mobile technology be deployed and used effectively to create an inventory of land rights? Over the course of the pilot, the focus of efforts expanded from testing a concept to actually delivering formalized documentation of land rights in collaboration with the Government of Tanzania (GOT).

As the goals of the pilot shifted over the past 15 months, the project worked closely with the District Land Office in Iringa Rural District (DLO), the Iringa Rural District Government, the National Land Use Planning Commission (NLUPC) and the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Human Settlements Development (MOL) to:

  • Develop an easy-to-use mobile application that meets the requirements for delivery of Certificates of Customary Rights of Occupancy (CCROs) to villagers; and
  • Develop a participatory methodology for securing land rights, that meets the requirements of Tanzania’s land laws, provides focused training on women’s land rights and engages with villagers – called Trusted Intermediaries – in the land mapping and documentation process.

The pilot grew out of an idea proposed in a paper entitled “Crowdsourcing Support of Land Administration – a new, collaborative partnership between citizens and land professionals.” This seminal paper presented an innovative approach to addressing the land tenure gap and focused on the possibility of “crowdsourcing” property information by working with local people. It challenged land professionals to re-conceive how land administration services might be managed and delivered. The paper outlined a new citizen-centered collaborative model for land administration that would be more responsive to the needs of the disadvantaged and vulnerable, increase access to land markets, reduce costs associated with formalizing land rights and, as a result, increase security.

The MAST pilot activity was designed to test the hypotheses presented in this paper and to support USAID development objectives, particularly the use of science and technology to resolve development problems. The pilot has provided field-based insights into the following:

  1. Citizens’ and communities’ reaction to and engagement with the approach and its impact on perception of tenure security;
  2. The ability of the surveying profession / land professionals to support efforts to crowdsource land rights information in a collaborative manner with citizens;
  3. The characteristics of a good ‘Trusted Intermediary’ (TI) to support the capture and maintenance of land rights information;
  4. Identify what land rights information must be captured to meet the legal requirements of the Government of Tanzania;
  5. Test a range of technology tools available and identifying the most affordable and appropriate to support the approach;
  6. Establish approaches for sustaining the maintenance and security of land right information after the pilot and expanding its use; and
  7. Explore how the results from the pilot can be shared and the lessons and practical applications expanded, replicated and scaled for USAID and others.

The MAST pilot provided an opportunity for USAID, in partnership with the GOT, to design, develop and deliver a new approach to securing land rights in a context where demands for land are rising, conflict over land is wide-spread, and social norms limit the ability of women to exercise their legal rights to land.


The MAST Pilot originally anticipated conducting three pilots in different countries and environments, with a variety of cultural, legal, land tenure, administrative and professional landscapes, in order to gather as much experience as possible to shape and guide the way of inventorying land rights. Tanzania was selected as the site of the first pilot, and subsequently for the second and third pilots. Through comprehensive stakeholder engagement and review of the country’s land administration framework, ERC determined that the objectives of the pilot aligned with the needs of the Government of Tanzania to demarcate and secure rural land rights, to identify methods to help improve the delivery of land administration services to citizens, and to stimulate economic development, particularly by promoting large-scale investment in agriculture.

During the past decade, Tanzania has experienced high rates of economic growth, due in large part to sound economic reforms.  As part of its development agenda, Tanzania has encouraged large scale investments in agriculture, both domestic and foreign, recognizing the role that investment in key sectors of the economy can play in fostering domestic growth.

In 2009, a strategy called ‘Kilimo Kwanza’, meaning ‘Agriculture First’ or “Priority to Agriculture” was designed to attract investment in agriculture and underscored the critical importance of the private sector participating actively in agricultural production (Tenga, W. and Kironde, L. 2012).  The Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania (SAGCOT) was launched in 2010 to operationalize Kilimo Kwanza.  Subsequently, in 2013, the GOT’s Big Results Now (BRN) initiative, which aims to support the improvement of commercial agriculture in partnership with the private sector and smallholder farmers, was also launched. BRN aligns with the Government’s Vision 2025 goals of increasing food security and reducing poverty across the country.

However, investments in the agriculture sector have been hampered by weaknesses in the land administration system. Given that the vast majority of claims to property are undocumented, the GOT and investors do not always have a clear understanding of which lands are available for commercial development. Smallholders who lack documented land rights may be more vulnerable to lose land or lose of access to critical resources. For women, social norms often prevent them from fully exercising rights to land they hold under the law.  These constraints may limit investments needed to improve agricultural productivity.

Previous land registration projects introduced various methodologies and provided practical field experience for the formalization of property rights under the existing legal framework.  These previous interventions often required large upfront investments (i.e. GPS equipment, GIS software and computer investments) and required sustained technical assistance and/or material resources, which were not always available. The results and impact, therefore, have been limited.

MAST was designed to capture land rights information in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of the Village Land Act of 1999, but that can be implemented in a more efficient and cost-effective manner than previous projects.  MAST supported decentralized land administration service delivery and thus presented an opportunity to help the GOT provide an efficient and participatory registration processes at the village level.

With GOT involvement and support of the pilot, and with a level of acceptance among stakeholders, USAID decided to focus the pilot’s efforts in Tanzania and expanded from work in one village to work in three villages. This changed the focus of the pilot from an exploratory exercise to a more formal test of the technology and the participatory approach that was used in the context of one country with a specific land administration framework. This scale up presented opportunities to build on the work already conducted in Tanzania, but also presented challenges, which are discussed in the full report linked below.

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