Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST) Learning Platform

What is MAST?MAST in the FieldOverview: MAST TechnologyOverview: MAST ImplementationMAST Infographics

USAID has launched the Land Technology Solutions (LTS) project to expand its successful Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST) initiative. MAST is a suite of innovative technology tools and inclusive methods that uses mobile devices and a participatory approach to efficiently, transparently, and affordably map and document land and resource rights.

MAST helps communities define, map, record, and document their land and resources. MAST provides easy-to-use mobile phone applications that empower citizens in the process of understanding their rights and documenting their land and resources. It combines the applications with a simple data management platform to capture the information necessary for securing rights. This includes names and photos of people using and occupying land, details about what the land is used for, and a basis for their claim to the land. On-the-ground training and participatory approaches help make the MAST process inclusive and build the capacity of communities to understand their resource rights.

How MAST Works

MAST is the combination of mobile application and technology platforms with on-the-ground training and participatory approaches. This customizable combination is designed to engage communities in quickly, accurately, and transparently mapping and documenting land and resource rights.

The diagram below illustrates how the MAST suite of mobile applications and data management platform work as part of the larger MAST process.

Graphic: MAST Technology

The diagram below illustrates the MAST implementing and participatory mapping component work as part of the larger MAST process.

Graphic: MAST Implementation

MAST in the Field

MAST is an innovative technology that utilizes participatory methods to document land and natural resources to enhance rights and tenure. MAST has been used with great success in a number of countries, including Burkina Faso, Zambia and Tanzania . Host country governments and communities can utilize MAST to strengthen land tenure and address persistent development issues. Click on each of the Development Objectives below and explore the Find out more page to see how MAST relates to a variety of development work. Or click on each of the countries in the map below to access country-specific information on lessons learned, data, best practices and more.

Preventing and Mitigating Conflict over Land and Resources

Insecurity of tenure and weak land governance can lead to land-related disputes and conflict. MAST offers a community-based, participatory technology to inventory and document land and resource rights, which can strengthen tenure and help reduce conflicts. Find out more » 

Creating Incentives to Improve Agricultural Productivity, Reducing Hunger and Poverty

Securing land and resource rights has a positive impact on food security and agricultural productivity. When land rights are secure, farmers invest more in their land and agricultural productivity improves. MAST provides both a technology and a participatory approach to strengthening land rights to improve farm productivity and development outcomes. Find out more » 

Promoting Gender Equality and Enabling Women’s Economic Empowerment

For women, documented land rights can lead to greater autonomy, bargaining power within their communities, and enhanced resilience. Yet, in many countries, women consistently have less access to land and weaker land and resource security than men. Efforts to map and document women’s land rights – such as through MAST – can lead to positive changes in the lives of women, their families, and their communities. Find out more » 

Enabling More Responsible Land-Based Investment

Documenting community land rights with MAST can strengthen the capacity of communities to negotiate with external interests, such as investors, and thereby support responsible land-based investments. Furthermore, evidence shows that people invest more in their land and resources when tenure and rights are clear. This has led to reduced environmental degradation and increased crop yields. Find out more » 

Creating Incentives to Manage Natural Resources Efficiently and Sustainably

Land and natural resource insecurity undermines sustainable natural resource management. However, when rules and institutions, whether formal or informal, that govern the use, transfer, and ownership of resources are secure, the foundation is in place for the efficient and sustainable management of natural resources. Mapping and documenting land and resources is critical to strengthening tenure and can help both individuals and communities to make decisions that promote sustainable resource use. Find out more » 

Improving Resilience to Shocks and Stresses

Chronic stresses such as shifts in precipitation and temperature and disaster-induced displacement are on the rise, and many weather-related disasters are likely to become more frequent. Innovative technologies that support land rights documentation through participatory methods, like MAST, can help mitigate the impact of shocks and disasters on affected communities. Find out more » 

MAST in Burkina Faso

Under the five-year USAID Evaluation Research and Communications (ERC) Project (2013-2018), implemented by the Cloudburst Group, MAST was successfully used in four villages of the Boudry Commune. Under this activity in Burkina Faso, which took place between August 2014 and February 2017, the National Land Observatory (NLO) received operational and technical support. In late 2016 within 25 days, villagers used MAST to map and capture data on 2,708 rural land parcels (compared to the goal of 2000 parcels). The NLO also worked closely with the government of Burkina Faso and this initiative resulted in overall strengthened local land governance, with a future land information system under development.

Click here for a complete library of briefs, success stories, progress reports, and social media toolkits from the ERC project.

MAST in Zambia

USAID’s Tenure and Global Climate Change (TGCC) Program, implemented by Tetra Tech, is a five-year project 2013-2018) aimed at identifying and testing models that strengthen resource tenure governance and increase the effectiveness of climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts. Under TGCC, activities are being implemented in Zambia, Nepal, Burma, Guatemala, Honduras and Panama. In Zambia, the TGCC Program is linking MAST with traditional community engagement practices, like participatory mapping and support to village governance structures. These practices improve land-use planning by marrying community level information with government records through multi-stakeholder dialogue. TGCC encourages scaling by working with government, chiefs, and civil society to customize these tools for local uses.

Furthermore, USAID is implementing a randomized controlled trial, impact evaluation in Zambia to test the hypothesis that tenure security is a necessary prerequisite for farmers to invest time and energy into climate-smart agricultural practices. The impact evaluation includes 3,523 household surveys, 294 headperson surveys, key informant interviews in 294 villages, as well as focus group discussion data from 45 villages, and comprehensive monitoring, evaluation and geospatial project data. The baseline data has so far revealed strong quantitative evidence that TGCC has a positive impact on perceptions of improved tenure security. Moreover, for households receiving the customary tenure intervention, there is evidence of increased long-term field investments (planting basins, rotating crops, fallowing and fertilizer application). Poor households, including female-headed households, also feel more confident that they can leave their fields fallow longer without a threat of encroachment or reallocation. You can access the Zambia Impact Evaluation baseline data and reports on this page.

Click here for a complete library of fact sheets, infographics, success stories, and project briefs on the Zambia TGCC activity.

MAST in Tanzania

The USAID Feed the Future Tanzania Land Tenure Assistance (LTA) Activity, implemented by DAI, is a four-year project (2015-2019) which seeks to clarify and document land ownership, increase local understanding of land use and land rights, and support land use planning at the village, district and national levels. Under this project, the MAST technology is being updated to match local needs and a successful MAST pilot project tested an approach for the mapping of land parcels, adjudication, and delivery of Certificates of Customary Right of Occupancy (CCROs). To date, (November 2017), 83% of disputes have been resolved at a local level with the support of MAST, pver 11,500 parcels have been mapped, and 250 CCROs are being registered per day, with about 4000 CCROs fully processed.

In addition, USAID has commissioned an Impact Evaluation of the LTA Activity in Tanzania which is set to conclude in 2019. The impact evaluation incorporates a randomized controlled trial design to rigorously test how mobile mapping and facilitation of land tenure certification affect income, women’s empowerment, dispute prevalence, and other factors related to land use and tenure security in Iringa District, Tanzania.

Click here for a complete library of fact sheets, infographics, success stories, the baseline report of the impact evaluation, project briefs, and more.

Find out more »

MAST Technology & Updates

MAST is a suite of tools and approaches that supports the collection and management of land rights and resource information. It integrates mobile applications and a web-based data management platform with participatory on-the-ground approaches.

The mobile application enables field teams to collect spatial, attribute, and multimedia data about land parcels and natural resources. Data is collected and stored on mobile devices and transferred to a cloud-based platform for data processing and management. This platform provides advanced functionality that has been reviewed, processed, and approved for the preparation of land ownership certificates.

Since 2017, USAID’s Land Technology Solutions (LTS) program has worked to refine and improve MAST technology. LTS has updated key components of the MAST software application framework and upgraded the MAST data model from the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) to a more common standard— the Land Administration Domain Model (LADM). This has made MAST more compatible with larger and more formal land administration or registration systems. In addition, LTS has added several new features based on feedback from early MAST pilots, designed to make data collection and management simpler and more robust.

MAST Data Management Platform

The MAST data management platform consists of four core components that allow users to establish a survey project, define data that is to be collected in the field, process and manage data, and generate and print land rights certificates:

  • Import, validate, and manage land rights and community resources data
  • Manage land parcel transactions
  • Task land parcel data collectors by area
  • Utilize mapping tools to edit and validate land rights information
  • Set up and manage multiple data collection projects
  • Manage performance and generate customized reports
  • Administer subsequent registration transactions

Find out more »

MAST Mobile Applications

MAST Mobile is an Android-based application that can be used to capture land rights information in the field. The MAST Mobile application provides an intuitive user experience for querying map layers and capturing spatial, attribute, and multimedia information. With MAST’s mobile applications, users can:

  • Create, edit, and analyze land parcel data, including spatial, attribute, and multimedia content
  • Create, edit and analyze community resources data, including spatial and attributes
  • Capture data following standardized processes and forms
  • Capture data offline and synchronize data to web-based data management platform
  • Use external GPS devices for increased accuracy
  • Work in assigned geographic regions

Find out more »

Key Features

The MAST technology suite is robust and highly customizable. Developed in consultation with industry experts, it has been designed from the ground up to include a full range of features and meet a wide variety of needs. For expert users, it can also be modified and extended to work in virtually any situation. Key features include:

  • Offline Data Collection
  • Map Parcels and Resources
  • Data and Topology Validation
  • Data Management
  • Parcel Registration and Transaction System
  • GIS Web Services
  • Web Visualization and Editing Functionality
  • Flexible Data Model
  • Desktop GIS integration
  • GPS Integration
  • Robust API
  • Security

Find out more »

How MAST Technology Works

The diagram below illustrates how the MAST suite of mobile applications and data management platform work as part of the larger MAST process.

Find out more »

MAST Implementation

The key principles below represent best-practice for documenting land and resource rights on previous USAID projects. These projects used mobile technologies and engaged communities directly in the process of mapping their lands and documenting land rights. Implementers should keep the key principles in mind while developing their implementation strategies. To guide the strategy, we outline five main phases, with several steps in each one. Implementers should adapt the outlined phases to the technical, social, political, economic, and environmental contexts of the area where MAST is to be implemented. Combining best practices with adaptability can stimulate long-term fulfillment of a project’s goals.

The LTS Implementation Guide offers a high-level approach to MAST implementation that reflects these best practices and lessons learned from previous MAST projects.

The 5 Implementation Principles

Five key principles guide implementation of MAST projects:

Principle 1: Align with other partners throughout implementation for sustainability

Aligning a MAST project with national priorities and identifying opportunities for government engagement in implementation helps build government support for the project, and may help build commitment for scaling MAST in the long-term. This requires understanding the socio-political context of the country and how institutions function to ensure that MAST projects align with national laws, development priorities, and institutional capacities.

Similarly, understanding the donor and project landscape helps implementers to link communities with appropriate technical assistance programs – be they focused on providing credit, expanding income generation opportunities, or promoting health and hygiene – to achieve long term economic development. Creative thinking throughout the project about innovative business modeling and opportunities to partner with other land management technologies should also be a focus.

Principle 2: Ensure inclusivity to reduce the potential for land-related conflict and encourage participation and community ownership

Engaging with the community is essential for increasing the implementer’s knowledge of local land uses, tenure arrangements, and avenues for participatory processes; for increasing the community’s awareness of land laws, processes, and rights; for forging partnerships for implementation; and for ensuring community buy-in for the MAST project and its proposed processes. Implementers should establish mechanisms for community participation throughout the life of the project – including, but not limited to workshops and educational campaigns – as well as forums in which community leaders and members can express their concerns about land tenure issues. To encourage participation and ensure that MAST processes are inclusive, trainings and community engagements should be iterative and include multiple levels of engagement – from community leaders to resource users, if possible.

Principle 3: Build capacity to empower communities

Targeted, inclusive training programs build local capacity to implement and maintain MAST as well as to participate in decision-making around land and resource management. Trainings should include men, women, and representatives of other vulnerable groups, including seasonal herders and fishers. Training should largely be administered prior to mapping and include opportunities for knowledge-sharing about local land tenure arrangements, land rights, land documentation processes, and project-specific practicalities, including who needs to be involved, when, and how. Implementers may target women or community surveyors for supplemental training.

Principle 4: Target women and vulnerable groups to increase land tenure security and promote gender equality

Implementers should focus on increasing the participation of vulnerable groups in community-wide trainings. Doing so often means more localized and/or disaggregated engagements, as women, in particular, have been found to participate much more when in smaller groups and in situations with only women present. In addition to including vulnerable groups in community-wide trainings, these trainings should include overviews of land rights of vulnerable groups, including youth, seasonal herders and fishers, ethnic minorities, and the landless. Appropriate gender-specific activities should be determined following the needs assessment, but could include incorporating gender-specific materials in program activities and emphasizing the importance of having women attend community-level trainings, workshops, and community activities.

Principle 5. Establish and communicate roles for efficient workflows

Clear roles and responsibilities help MAST projects achieve agreed-upon objectives in a timely manner. Implementers should outline the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders involved in the project during project mobilization to improve management and avoid delays in key activities. These roles should be updated throughout the life of the project, as necessary.

Careful task and activity management is also necessary to ensure time and cost efficiency of mapping, from data collection through data validation and verification.

The 5 Phases of Implementation

Phase 1: Mobilization and assessment

In this phase, implementers work to understand the national, regional, district, and local contexts and engage stakeholders to refine activities outlined into an appropriate implementation strategy for a given context. Understanding institutional and legal frameworks with regards to land administration, patterns of tenure, capacities of regional or district institutions, and local dynamics within potential communities or target areas is critical to building effective and inclusive implementation mechanisms.

Phase 2: Mapping preparations

Implementers raise awareness of the project, forge relationships, communicate project requirements and activities, and build capacities of local authorities. At this phase, an implementation strategy should be finalized and the roles and responsibilities of the local government authorities, communities, and implementing partners should be defined. This strategy should align well with both the project goals as well as the priorities of the community. Implementers provide trainings to institutions that will support the MAST intervention at the regional, district, or local levels, including trainings focused on local laws related to documenting land rights as well as practicalities of using MAST for mapping, processing, and managing data. Emphasis should be placed on the importance of including women and vulnerable groups in all project processes.

Phase 3: Community mapping

Implementers prepare the community with sub-community level engagements, train and select community surveyors, and implement the land demarcation process itself. Local outreach meetings provide communities with an overview of the project, an understanding of the mapping process, an outline of land laws and rights, and potential conflict resolution mechanisms. Selected community surveyors receive training in MAST technologies and processes for collecting information in the field. These trained surveyors walk resource or parcel boundaries with other community members and verify information through an interactive dialogue with land users and their neighbors. Information is captured with MAST.

Phase 4: Validation and delivery

Typical outputs of this interactive mapping process include the validation of this information within the community itself, and an inventory of individual or community land holdings, which can then help secure land and resource rights. The mapped community receives a transparent presentation of the mapped land and resources. This provides an opportunity for community members to identify any issues related to land and resource uses or general occupancy of land parcels. The implementer supports community leaders in working with land users to certify land record documents. This certification phase allows both leaders and community members to address any outstanding disputes or incorrect information. Once land information is validated by both citizens and community leaders, a certificate could be printed documenting the occupancy, persons, and their land holdings.

Phase 5: Sustainability

This phase is not sequential, but rather parallel to the others. Incorporating 1) best practices in project design, 2) monitoring and evaluating efforts, and 3) partnerships for sustainability – throughout the project expands the positive outcomes MAST can provide. Ideally, Implementers link MAST communities with programs and organizations providing additional technical services or promoting development. Aligning the implementation with the goals of governments and other organizations, while also remaining flexible and incorporating lessons learned from monitoring and evaluation can help both the immediate and long-term success of the implementation efforts.

The diagram below illustrates the MAST implementing and participatory mapping component work as part of the larger MAST process.

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