What is driving our work?

Rwanda – New Era, New Norms, Keeping Up, and Up Keep

Ethiopia – Transforming Society, Ensuring Equality

Kenya – Sustaining Livelihoods, Conserving Environments

In the 2000s, Rwanda undertook significant policy and legal reform with regards to land. The aim was to regularize all existing lands under private, leasehold, and state tenures: customary tenures and informal arrangements would no longer carry legal recognition. The policies were generally seen as positive by the international land sector with regards to gender recognition, minority group recognition, and overall equality.

Part of the land reforms involved a nationwide adjudication, surveying, and recording program. Supported by international donors, around 12M parcels were mapped over a period of 4 years at a cost of around $8 per parcel. The Rwandan Natural Resources Authority (RNRA) is responsible for the maintenance of the land records, both the spatial and textual components. The establishment phase was considered a great success. In order to achieve such speeds and coverage, use was made of hardcopy aerial imagery, or high resolution satellite imagery (depending on availability). In each district, large numbers of local inhabitants were employed by the project as para-surveyors, adjudicators, and recorders. Training in some cases only took a few days. Accuracy was sacrificed in the name of speed and cost: most boundaries were digitized within 1-5m of the ‘true’ position.

The specific problem is that now with establishment phase now completed, attention has now turned to maintenance; whilst procedures for transaction processes are established, it is understood that many transactions are not being recorded in the new system, particularly in rural areas (Biraro, 2014). There are several issues at play: 1) all final recording must be done centrally in Kigali: this might mean 2 days walk for a rural dweller; 2) district land offices lack highly trained staff and ICT capacity meaning waiting times can be lengthy – even more than a day; 3) unlike the establishment program, higher fees now apply for transactions: it is felt some land owners might not be willing to pay the fees; 4) surveying and mapping capacity is limited across the country: there are only a few surveying companies and public capacity to carry out surveys is limited to a few staff in the central ministry.

The challenge is to determine if geospatial tools might be used to improve the speed, cost and quality of land information updates in both urban and rural Rwanda.

Rural Ethiopia is food insecure and current responses have limitations. Technology investment by smallholders is encouraged, but, is ultimately impeded: land tenure security is not perceived by farmers, so why invest? Therefore, since 1998 large resources were afforded to providing certification of rural land holdings. Millions of certificates delivered via local land administration committees resulted. A fit-for-purpose approach is used: preliminary non-tradable certifications are created and a book of holdings generated. A secondary map book is intended, however, the national land information system is only embryonic.

The program, managed by Ministry of Agriculture, is considered successful, however, despite such efforts, smallholder productivity remains underwhelming. Therefore, the rural certification program, particularly the mapping program, and the establishment of national rural land information system need to be accelerated. Subsequently, a sustainable and inclusive land consolidation could then be developed (land consolidation requires land tenure information as input): land fragmentation is the key problem for Ethiopian smallholders. The process could deliver long-term sustainability for smallholders and the landscape.

Opportunities to incrementally increase farm sizes are needed, as are opportunities to exit farming and enter urban service economies (Bennett and Alemie, 2015). Determination of the conditions under which land consolidation can succeed is needed. Specifically, the following is needed: a comprehensive needs assessment, initial design and piloting work, a scaling and dissemination plan, and a future impact evaluation.

Pastoralism is a dominant land use in the rangelands (semi-arid and arid environments). In Kenya, the arid and semi-arid lands make up 84% of the country’s total land surface. These areas support about 9.9 million Kenyans (or approximately 34 % of the country’s population), account for more than 80% of the country’s ecotourism interests and contain up to 75% of its wildlife population. Samburu county in Northern Kenya (covering an area of 20,826 Km2), 90% of the population are nomadic pastoralists. Pastoralists land use is regulated by climatic conditions. Pastoralists usually establish their home territories in the wet or rainy seasons. In the dry seasons, pastoralists move across long distances in search of water and grazing resources, often in other agro-ecological zones (humid, sub humid). They will remain in the dry season grazing areas until the onset of the rainy season in drylands, and migrate back to their home territories. The problem is that privatization of tenures in the form of individual parcels and group owned parcels (group ranches) in the county have resulted in conflictive situations when pastoralists trespass on previously migration corridors (that connect the dry and rainy season grazing areas); and on localized tracks (that lead to watering sites and grazing sites). While on private land pastoralists continue to exercise customary rights of communal use based on their customary tenures.

The main problem can be seen as resulting from the process of formalization /privatization of land rights, which overlooked the existence of ‘customary right of movement across the land’ e.g. the cattle tracks that lead to daily water access and grazing locations, as well as the seasonal migration corridors. Spatial information about pastoralist’s cattle tracks and migration corridors often remain as mental maps and undocumented. Their unavailability leads to this spatial information not being included in land information systems or in land use planning. The situation is worsening as land is continuously being surveyed, demarcated and allocated for private purposes. Social and economic welfare among pastoralists has declined as it depends on the freedom to access water and grazing areas.

The challenge is therefore to inventory the cattle tracks and migration corridors, and include this information in local land information system, so that it may contribute to better planning, inclusion and alleviating the problem resulting from depriving the pastoralists access to the daily and seasonal resources.

Reinforcing cooperation and strategic partnerships in sub Saharan Africa

Being ICT-based, innovative, and end-user driven

Responding to broader content technologies and societal challenges

The project reinforces cooperation and strategic partnerships with selected countries and regions of mutual interest, in sub Saharan Africa. The project ambition, concept, objectives, and approach are built around reinforcing existing collaborations in sub Saharan Africa. To ensure wider impact, the three East African countries of Ethiopia, Kenya, and Rwanda are the focus of the work: however, the tools developed are likely to be transferrable to other parts of the continent. These countries are already the subject of multiple ongoing collaborations between Europe and sub Saharan Africa (e.g. IST-Africa): the consortium members play significant roles in many projects. For its4land, consortium members are equally drawn from sub Saharan Africa and Europe: as later demonstrated, extensive collaboration in research, education, and innovation is undertaken. In addition, project stakeholders (above and beyond those participating in the consortium) are drawn from public sector, private sector, civil society, and academia. The project aligns with Living Labs methodologies, and the work packages provide excellent opportunity for aligning, or outright linkage, to existing East African Living Labs activities and workshops (e.g. in Ethiopia).

The project is ICT-based. It instigates a set of collaborative work packages based around emerging ICTs: UAVs, smart sketchmaps, automatic feature extraction tools, and geocloud services are co-designed, adapted, integrated, demonstrated and validated, by the consortium, for the specific domain of land tenure information recording. The project is innovative. Building from the mind-set of reinforced cooperation and strategic partnership building, the project goes beyond pure R&D to ensure an innovation process is activated: technology-push meets societal-pull via the involvement, interaction, and participation of actors from private sector, public sector, civil society, and academia – across two continents. The developed suite of technologies, for land tenure recording, will be scalable and implementable: two innovative work packages on governance models and business models ensure the latter is achieved. The project responds to contemporary end-user needs. Land administration systems, the technologies and processes that maintain information about people, land, and tenures, are recognized as a crucial tool for delivering sustainable economies, environments, and social cohesion (Williamson et al, 2010). The sentiment is a corner-stone of modern development cooperation activities between the EU and sub Saharan Africa: it is the focus of many projects, intended to support fair investment, as recently championed by Mrs Lillian Ploumen, Dutch Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation3. However, only around 30-50 countries maintain complete land tenure administration systems: roughly 75% of the global population does not have access to formal land tenure security (Roberge, 2012). This means approximately 4 billion of the world’s 6 billion land interests are not recorded or known by governments (Zevenbergen et al., 2013). Many of these are found in sub Saharan Africa, including East Africa, where systems are in various states of development or decay. Using current approaches and at current rates, it will take decades, if not centuries to deliver adequate coverage. Therefore, there is a need and opportunity to develop new approaches that are faster, cheaper, and more fit-for-purpose for public sector, private sector, and civil society end-users and that also take into account diverse tenure contexts in sub Saharan Africa (e.g. communal and customary lands rights). In this project, these end-user needs and subsequent market opportunities drive the work. Whilst some needs are already identified, they are further crystallized in the opening phase of the project: requirements and readiness are assessed via a comprehensive multi-sector, multi-layered data collection across the three countries with a specific focus on stakeholders on land tenure recording in each country.

The project responds to the broader EU themes of content technologies and societal challenges. Regarding content technologies, the project: 1) implicitly links to the EU’s focus both on machine translation and natural-human computer interaction in the work relating to automatic interpretation of sketchmaps and extraction of features from imagery; 2) demonstrates linkage with the EU focus on media convergence in the work focused on integrating the outputs of smart sketchmaps, UAV aerial imagery capture, and automatic feature extraction; and 3) builds upon the EU focus on the broadband penetration and the widespread use of mobile technologies via the work on the potential use of geocloud services. Regarding societal challenges, the project directly or indirectly supports the EU focus on: 1) food security: secure land tenure security promotes food security as it promotes, and enables, both smallholder and large-scale investment in agricultural production via decreased disputes, access to credit markets, and land consolidation activities; 2) climate change: land tenure information is essential for informing policies regarding climate change mitigation and adaptation. For example, in semi-arid environments, unrecorded land tenure approaches of pastoralists are found to be environmentally sound and highly adaptive to changing climates; and 3) inclusive and secure societies: land tenure rights, when spread with equity and information about them, promote social inclusion as holders hold a greater interest in the society well-functioning with minimal disputes.