How GIS Can Help Africa to Overcome Land Rights Issues 

Proper registration is essential to achieve sustainable development goals and to protect smallholders' rights of access to the land. Farmland and pasture in Sub- Saharan Africa sustain about 60 % but have no proper registration and titling. Titling will help facilitate smooth trading within a market, and indigenous people will not face territorial encroachment and dispossession.

How GIS Can Help Africa to Overcome Land Rights Issues 
How GIS Can Help Africa to Overcome Land Rights Issues 

How GIS Can Help Africa to Overcome Land Rights Issues 

In the International Property Rights Index 2018 report, it was clear that Africa is lagging with a poor score indicating that the property is not better protected, and enforcement of laws is not up to the mark. Countries like Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Burundi, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo are among the bottom ten. 

The world bank estimates that about 90% of Africa's rural land is undocumented. In Sub- Saharan Africa, most of the land is not registered under the name of the owner. Titling results in a redistribution of rights, creating new risks and tensions, loss and gain – this transformation requires the active involvement of human rights advocates, government, law and people. 

Proper registration is essential to achieve sustainable development goals and to protect smallholders' rights of access to the land. Farmland and pasture in Sub- Saharan Africa sustain about 60 % but have no proper registration and titling. Titling will help facilitate smooth trading within a market, and indigenous people will not face territorial encroachment and dispossession. 

These lands include agriculture, pasture and other livelihood areas and support about 60% of all households. They are homelands, ancestral places, community lands and territories. Any change or transformation in the land distribution may cause many problems to the lives and livelihoods to the poor. 

During the colonial era, all land was under the colonial domain so they could rule and control the population according to their standards. During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, most of the independent government made similar choices of either explicitly in land law or implicitly, by upholding and reproducing the existing land regimes. 

Now when people are aware of the fundamental importance of secure land rights, a growing number of countries in Sub Saharan Africa have launched ambitious initiatives to support their land laws and policies. 

In February 2018, South Africa's National Assembly passed a resolution to establish an ad hoc Constitutional Review Committee. The idea was to explore and debate the need for a constitutional amendment to allow for the expropriation of land without compensation in the public interest. The primary concern here is of poor South African households. When the Parliament passed the term "land appropriation without compensation", it became the phrase of the year 2018. 

Use of Technologies like GIS

For any land administration and cadastral system, the individual parcel is the key entity. Surveyors can use various satellite-based technologies like GPS, satellite imagery and portable handheld devices to measure boundaries. Portable & affordable GPS integration in mobile phones and low-cost handheld modules are well suited for indigenous people.

Optical satellite images have a high ground sample distance (GSD), and the boundaries can be delineated with a precision of decimetre. Drones equipped with cameras are another great option to create accurate orthoimages. 

Participatory Land Administration

Participatory Land Administration involves the owners of the land, who agree about the ownership of the same. Smartphones and orthorectified satellite images or images captured from UAV cameras are used for recording the boundaries. A practical VGI experiment in Ghana demonstrated how a mobile app and a satellite image helped in collecting land information related to farms over two weeks. 

The use of handhelds equipped with GNSS and GIS software combined with satellite imagery successfully identified land rights and boundary delineation in Ghana. Similarly, a study of three cases from Ghana, Canada and Indonesia demonstrate how land users indicate their land tenure right boundaries based on personal views rather than on rules stipulated by a national authority. 

Volunteered geographic information (VGI), a type of georeferenced type of citizen science helps in information gathering. Here, digital devices are used to collect, assemble, modify and share geographic data provided voluntarily by citizens. This approach is suitable for areas like Sub- Saharan Africa to resolve issues of overlapping and conflicts. 

Some other case studies 

In Indonesia's Malinau District, East Kalimantan, the Dayaks, mapped their land documenting the boundaries, customary forest, homes and longhouses as well as some damaged forests where one palm oil company had illegally cut their trees. They took the help of an Indonesian Geographer. Villagers used drones to map and monitor their lands. Now whenever a company enters into their land, Setuland can confront them with their own 'maps'. 

WRI's research report (from 2000-2012) found a 2.5 times lower deforestation in Brazil's tenure secure indigenous lands in the Amazon, as compared to similar untitled forests. 

In Batwa, Uganda, people were struggling to reclaim their rights to their ancestral territories, then they created 3D models of Bwindi & Mgahinga national parks depicting their social, spiritual, and cultural sites within the forest. 

The Kenyan government plans to digitise all of its 57 land registries, introduce digital mapping and complete the national spatial structure by 2022. It also aims to use space technology to help ascertain property boundary rights registration & insurance of land title deeds to millions of applicants.    

A bottom-up approach is more suitable in Sub Saharan African countries, rather than a top-down approach. It will bring benefits to the owners and society both. The bottom-up approach requires financial support, publicity programme and training of the people for fieldwork. 

Example of a bottom-up approach

In Terra Segura Mozambique Land Administration, The World Bank-financed a loan of US$ 100 million issued at the end of 2018. Use of High-resolution orthorectified satellite images, parcel demarcation, boundary surveys and construction of provincial & regional offices are planned under this project. The overall risk of the project is substantial. The rural population is putting up fierce resistance. Though it is a 4-year project, it is expected to take 30-40 years to cover the entire country.