24.09.2003 Feature Article

Land Administration Project in Ghana: A Way forward

Land Administration Project in Ghana: A Way forward
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In 1999,a new land policy was formulated. It lays out the background, overall policy objective, guidelines and actions to be envisaged. The policy aims at facilitating a rational and relatively orderly system of land administration and wishes to address serious problems affecting the sector. This policy represents an essential statement of principles by the government.

The Land Administration Project is a theoretical paper for the development of land administration. It was drawn up with the assistance of the World Bank in 2000.The document represents the first stage in implementing the principles presented in the national land policy. The project outlines a proposal for long term support to land administration in Ghana. The main Objective of the program is ‘to reduce poverty and enhance economic and social growth by improving security of tenure, accelerating access by the populace to land and fostering efficient land management by the development of efficient system of land titling, registration and administration…’

Already, the project has come under intense criticism. In fact little is known about the project proposal outside government circles. The Ministry of Lands and Forestry has responded by organising series of workshops. But it can go further than that. Apart from chiefs and the government, individual Ghanaians also have a major stake in land. The educational projects should not only be directed towards those who control the land but also those who deal in land. A comprehensive educational campaign is therefore needed. The key performance indicators for a successful land administration project (LAP) are whether the land administration system is trusted by the general populace, protects the majority of land rights, provides security of tenure for the vast majority of land holders and is extensively used. If these criteria are not by and large met then there is a fundamental problem with the project. Land administration projects are by their very nature, long term. As a result, it is essential to have two strategies running in parallel; the first to undertake the adjudication of individual customary and common law property rights in a systematic manner and put in place a system to register on-going transactions and second is to continue policy development, improve the land law and regulations and ensure that adjudication and titling can still proceed in a sporadic manner. A country cannot stagnate while policy development and statutory reform are underway.

The land administration project should focus on processes such as adjudication, land transfer and mutation, rather than on institutions, legal and regulatory frameworks or specific activities such as land registration or cadastral surveying and mapping. By its very nature, land administration systems are complex often with no clear directions for reform. Reforming land administration systems are similar to research projects. Their design is suited to the skills of persons with research experience. There is considerable benefit of involving persons who are active in land administration research, in the design and operation of land administration systems, particularly in the early stages and in pilot Projects. The extensive involvement of such persons in the early stages of the Thailand Land Titling Project is an example of the use of their skills. The development of a vision for a future land administration system is an integral part of any land administration project. Typically a national land administration vision would have a policy vision, an institutional vision, a legal vision, a technical vision as well as an overall vision.

In undertaking the difficult task of implementing a land administration, it is often easy to forget why the project is being undertaken. A common fault of some land administration prjects in Ghana is that they focus on the technical aspects of the project, such as mapping, adjudication, surveying and preparation of titles, and sometimes forget the main objective for the project. Such projects are never about land titling per se, nor should they be. They are about facilitating sustainable development, land markets, social justice, institutional reform, poverty eradication, environmental management or addressing regional income disparities. It is essential that in all projects that there is a regular “reality check” against the primary objectives of the project, not just against how many parcels have been surveyed or titles issued, although this is an obvious essential indicator.

Experience in other countries show that successful land administration projects have all the land administration functions within one organization. There should be one government department responsible for the land administration infrastructure in a country. This does not mean that such a department controls the use of the land across the country but it does control the land administration infrastructure or the recording of “what is where” and “who owns what”. This means that at the very least the administration of cadastral surveying and mapping, land registration and valuation, are all in the one organization. Global trends indicate that the most successful systems also include all topographic mapping in the same organization.

One of the weaknesses in the design of land administration projects is often the commitment to human resource development (and particularly formal education and training, both in-country and overseas, short courses and study tours). Without doubt, this is one of the most important factors affecting the land sector of the country, if not the most important factor in the sustainability of projects. As a “rule of thumb” at least 10% of the overall budget for the project should be committed to human resource development (this does not include consultant input). For example the Swedish aid agency tries to adopt 30%. There is a major deficiency in higher education and associated research in land administration in Ghana. For a successful higher education program in land administration, it is essential that KNUST Department of Land Economy has a number of active land administration academics to coordinate and drive it, and undertake research in the area. A major commitment needs to be made by the Government, if the higher education needs of land administration are to be met nationally. The LAP should invest considerable resources in the establishment of such education and research programs

Developing the land administration sector is one of the greatest challenges facing Ghana. Meeting this challenge will require the development of a system for land management and administration that will enable the customary owners, the private sector, government and individuals to maximise the use of land for development within the constraints of sustainability. So far a considerable amount of income is lost to both individuals and government because of the inefficiencies in the land sector. The avoidance is mainly because of the cost, time, and effort required in operating legally relative to the perceived benefits. In the UK, for instance in the year 2000/2001, Government took over 2.2 b £ from stamp duty on property transactions. Some 10.5 % of UK tax revenue comes from property. Ghana can aim at that. Callistus Mahama, Department of Land Economy, University of Cambridge, England, CB2 1TJ Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

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