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Clear and enforceable land and property rights are a critical means to ending extreme poverty.


By Emily Clayton
, Senior Manager, Natural Capital

For rural landowners, clear and enforceable land and property rights can mean the difference between stability and conflict, or even displacement. When people feel secure in their land and rights, disputes are less likely to occur and women landowners are less likely to be disenfranchised. At a global level, strengthening land tenure is a critical component of ending extreme poverty and creating more peaceful and just societies. But according to The World Bank Group, only 30% of the world’s population has legally registered rights to their land and homes. Many of those who don’t are poor or politically marginalized.

To help make headway on this massive challenge, Resonance is managing USAID’s Land Technology Solutions project. Utilizing the organization’s suite of Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST), we are working to improve land and resources governance and strengthen property rights in lower income communities around the world.

The power of mobile mapping

The MAST approach combines innovative technologies and delivery methods to engage citizens in the process of effectively and efficiently inventorying and documenting land and resource rights. Put simply, MAST enables and encourages citizens to map and document their land and resources using a simple mobile phone app. This approach is faster—and much less expensive—than traditional land administration methods.

MAST is more than just a data collection tool; it is an intuitive mechanism by which communities can create and maintain their resource management plans.

Resonance is using action-based strategies to accelerate the adoption of MAST in the following ways:

  • Improving MAST’s mobile land technology tools and resources;
  • Supporting rapid country assessments to determine applicability and feasibility of utilizing and implementing MAST;
  • Adapting ‘fit for purpose’ technologies to the country context, including gender considerations, and Mission and host-country needs;
  • Piloting MAST to test the product; and
  • Creating evidence and documentation on the pilot with recommendations for future scaling by USAID Missions or host-countries.

On-the-ground insights

As part of this approach, we’re piloting the MAST approach for two new use cases in Burkina Faso and in Liberia. In Burkina Faso, we refined and tested the MAST approach with smallholder farmers. We tailored the MAST technology to the specific land registration regulations and needs of the country and trained National Land Observatory staff so that they could use and maintain the technology after the end of the pilot. A key finding was that land holdings were mapped and documented roughly nine times faster than traditional mapping and surveying techniques.

In Burkina Faso, land holdings were mapped and documented roughly nine times faster than traditional mapping and surveying techniques.

In Liberia, Resonance is using MAST to support communities in the management and conservation of forests. We are demonstrating that MAST is more than just a data collection tool; it is an intuitive mechanism by which communities can create and maintain their resource management plans. About a MAST training, one community member said “[MAST] is good for us, to help explain all that is happening in our land business.”

A phased approach

In collaboration with USAID, Resonance has also developed a five-phased participatory approach to help guide MAST implementers on how to deliver and scale impact.

  • In phase one, implementers work to understand the national, regional, district and local contexts and engage stakeholders to refine activities into an appropriate implementation strategy for a given context.
  • In phase two, 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 is finalized and the roles and responsibilities of the local government authorities, communities, and implementing partners are defined. Emphasis is placed on the importance of including women and vulnerable groups in all project processes.
  • In phase three, implementers prepare the community with sub-community level engagements, train and select community surveyors, and implement the land demarcation process itself.
  • In phase four, outputs of the interactive mapping process typically include the validation of the information within the community itself, and an inventory of individual or community land holdings, which can then help secure land and resource rights.
  • Phase five is not sequential, but rather parallel to the others. It incorporates best practices in project design, monitoring and evaluating efforts, and partnerships to expand the positive outcomes that MAST can provide. Ideally, implementers link MAST communities with programs and organizations providing additional technical services or promoting development.

Looking ahead

From a small start of three pilot villages in 2014, MAST now spans four countries and poses significant potential to bring secure land tenure to millions of landowners around the world. We look forward to continued collaboration with USAID and other public and private partners to catalyze the impact of this promising framework. For more information on MAST, visit www.land-links.org/mast.

 

Photo credit: Anne Girardin, courtesy of USAID Land. MAST in action: demonstration of use of smart phone and GPS to identify land parcel boundaries. Boudry commune, Burkina Faso.