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08.08.2005 General News

The Rich Grab More Land: No Hope for The Poor

Public Agenda

Researchers from the Institute of African Studies (IAS) of the University of Ghana, Legon, have disclosed that land title registration in Ghana only favours the rich.

"It is cumbersome, expensive, time consuming and prone to the 'whom you know' or 'connection' syndrome."

The researchers said the exploitative nature of land title registration has left the poor reeling under the mercies of the 'powerful' in society.

Before registering a piece of land, one has to pay for site plans, drawn to scale with landmarks, indicating demarcated boundaries and size, among others.

But according to the researchers, it costs between ¢350,000.00 and ¢450,000.00 to hire a Surveyor to demarcate lands of between 4 to 10 acres, which is too expensive for low income earners and indeed a majority of Ghanaians.

The report revealed that due to the high cost of land registration poor landowners have resorted to what is commonly called "oral registration.'

By oral registration, the parties (both seller and buyer) enter into a land transfer agreement by word of mouth. Such oral agreements are then written down on pieces of papers, copies of which are kept with each party. But the danger is that sometimes copies of such informal agreements are not made available to witnesses.

The report warned that though securing oral agreements is not expensive, it has several disadvantages, including the risk of loss of copies. Besides, oral registrations can also be disputed in the court of law on the basis of validity.

The findings were revealed at a National Dissemination Workshop held last Thursday in Accra. The Research, tilted, "Securing Land Rights in Africa: Can Land Registration Serve the Poor?" was carried out in three African countries; Ghana, Ethiopia and Mozambique and was funded by the UK Department of International Development (DFID).

The Ghana study was undertaken by Dr. Osman Alhassan, a Lecturer and Research Fellow at the Institute African Studies and Professor Takyiwaa Manuh, Director of the Institute.

Other researchers were drawn from the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) of the UK, the SOS Sahel and Mekelle University in Tigray, both of Ethiopia and the Land Studies Unit of Eduardo Mondlane University of Mozambique.

Giving a background to the study, Prof. Takyiwaa Manuh noted that land has been a resource for subsistence, comfort and security, but due to population growth and other economic development, it has become a scarce resource.

She noted that competition for this scarce resource has resulted in many bloody conflicts across Africa. According to her as individuals, businesses and groups continue to struggle for land; the poor and vulnerable groups are often trampled on the ground. " The struggle for land usually affects their livelihood and mitigate against efforts at wealth creation and poverty reduction", she added.

She said to ensure equity and forestall harmony land title registration was seen as a better way of streamlining land acquisition. She said apart from the fact that registered lands can be used as collateral for investible capital; land registration reduces tensions over ownership and can bring about increased productivity.

But as the research findings indicate, the costs and bureaucratic processes involved in land registration have made the poor losers in the game.

In the view of Dr. Osman Alhassan, as the poor and vulnerable groups fail to register their lands due to a combination of factors such as lack of knowledge, finance and contact, the rich and affluent usurp large parcels of lands and secure legal titles over them.

The end result, he noted, "is that many are rendered landless, unemployed and without adequate food supply."

He said in the Akuapem South District for instance and at Nsawam in particular, large tracks of arable land have been taken over by agribusinesses with capacity to pay and register them. According to him, after acquiring the lands these entrepreneurs go into commercial farming for the export market. The situations, he noted, has left majority of the people with no land to farm, hence the massive importation of food into the country.

The researchers advised that for land title registration to be effective as well as protecting the interest of vulnerable groups, the institutions charged with that responsibility should provide public education and information on the issue. They also recommended the harmonization of roles of the institutions to avoid duplication of functions.

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