Land Documentation in Zambia: A Comparison of Approaches and Relevance for the National Land Titling Program

Published in: Annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference

Since 2014 Zambia has been preparing for the launch of a systematic land documentation process to increase tenure security, improve service delivery in informal settlements, rural areas and peri-urban areas, as well as increase tax revenue. At present over 80% of Zambia’s landmass is held through customary tenure through the administration of traditional leaders. In peri-urban areas, particularly in Lusaka and the Copperbelt, demand for land is skyrocketing from the urban middle-class and its management has largely left customary traditional management. Finally, hundreds of thousands of individuals live in informal settlements, particularly in Lusaka with no land documentation, or with only occupancy certificates. In this context, Zambia’s Ministry of Lands has the intention to launch a National Titling Program. The Zambian government recognizes that documentation in a titling program may have to take multiple forms, depending if land is documented on customary or state land. Similarly, in the interest of cost and practicality, the government recognizes that different methods will be appropriate in different areas of the country. To date, a number of national and international organizations have supported efforts to document land in Zambia, either through traditional authorities or alongside government. These efforts include activities funded by the Zambian Government, USAID, UN-Habitat, the European Union, Zambia Land Alliance members, Zambian Governance Foundation and through private sector business models. As practical experience grows in land documentation in Zambia in rural, peri-urban and informal settlement areas, there is a need to examine the tools and methods used to date and assess their applicability to the variety of challenges that government is facing in launching a national titling program that may cover 13 million people and 5 million hectares of land. This paper examines the approaches piloted in Zambia on customary and state land documentation over recent years. It examines the hardware, software, data standards and processes associated with systematic documentation in Zambia, as well as the anticipated structures for long-term administration. For example, it examines the extent to which each process includes spatial data, data accuracy requirements, how each process validates field data collected through witnesses and key informants, and the structure of land certificates. The paper continues to consider how the approaches will have to be adapted in informal settlements, peri-urban and rural areas. While most of the land documentation experience in Zambia to date has focused on rural, customary chiefdoms, the most pressing need for documentation will be within the informal settlements and at the peri-urban interface of customary and state land. Within informal settlements, thirty year occupancy certificates allocated by the Ministry of Local Government and Housing have acted as documentation for tenure security though these records have been held entirely outside of the Ministry of Lands. In peri-urban areas around provincial capitals middle-class urban professionals have been flocking to acquire land from Chiefs, though this expansion has been ad hoc and unplanned, and many of these pieces of land have not been registered within the government records.