Developing Alternatives provides a forum for our professional staff and guest authors to share their ideas in depth and address issues of topical interest. The journal is widely read by development practitioners around the world.
Land rights are largely taken for granted in the developed world. Yet for many people in developing nations, land rights have no reality. In the developed world, land rights are almost always recorded in secure registers, but this is not the case elsewhere. It is estimated that as many as 90 percent of the world’s poorest people enjoy neither security of tenure nor secure access to land. In Africa, this means that more than 500 million and perhaps as many as 750 million people are living without any legal security or proof of claim to the land they are occupying.
“In the 21st century,” as I write with my co-authors in the companion piece to this article, “land administration systems will nearly always be developed using digital systems. Assuming they are well designed, then they are more secure, more efficient, more transparent, and more accessible.”
But the test of any tool is with users in the field. This axiom of development is borne out by DAI’s experience implementing a land tenure registration activity in Tanzania, where a pilot of the open source Mobile Application for Secure Tenure (MAST) has yielded important lessons that we are now incorporating into the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Land Tenure Assistance (LTA) activity.
The evidence is clear: property rights are essential foundations for poverty alleviation and economic development. In Africa, it is less clear as to what may be the most effective way of establishing and especially maintaining those rights, with formal and customary tenure systems both offering degrees of security but radically different development possibilities.
In 2007, oil and gas was discovered off the coast of Ghana, leading to a boom in infrastructure projects and investment in the country’s Western Region, particularly in six coastal districts. Subsequently, large tracts of land have been taken over for the development of oil and gas infrastructure, businesses, pipelines, roads, and areas allocated for machinery repair. While this surge in activity has raised expectations for economic benefits among local communities, it has also spurred questions about resettlement and compensation, alternative livelihood and job opportunities, changes to land use, and food security.
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) have a long history as effective mechanisms for delivering infrastructure projects and more recently as vehicles for service provision. The use of PPPs for land administration services is less common, though there are a few notable successes in developed economies. In a development context—where donor-funded titling or tenure regularization projects often face serious challenges of sustainability—a PPP approach could provide a model for completing reforms nationwide and sustaining the progress achieved on a given project. DAI, which recently implemented a land tenure regularization project on one of several islands that comprise Cabo Verde, is exploring the possibility of completing that nation’s cadaster via an innovative PPP.
Large-scale land registration programmes such as the U.K. for International Development (DFID)-funded Rwanda Land Tenure Regularisation Programme have demonstrated that it is possible to roll out land registration programmes quickly and cheaply, on a national scale. Now, a similar but even more ambitious U.K. initiative in Ethiopia—the Land Investment for Transformation Programme (LIFT)—is beginning to gain traction. Building on the lessons learned in Rwanda, LIFT is working to keep the momentum going, ensure the programme is financially sustainable, and begin to realize the development benefits of expanded land titling.
International efforts to secure the land and resource rights of local and indigenous peoples are increasingly finding a friend in the law. National and international law, policies, and jurisprudence are coming together with “soft” legal guidelines and principles to yield stronger standards related to indigenous land and resource rights. Landmark cases are creating precedent for local or indigenous people who have been displaced to reoccupy or retain property, which may lead to strong tenure security and autonomy.
At the request of the U.K. Department for International Development, DAI recently undertook structured research into the following question: What policies and interventions or approaches have been successful in fostering compliance with legitimate land tenure rights and what impact have these strategies had on development outcomes? The research team was led by Geoffrey Payne and included James Mitchell, Luke Kozumbo, Clive English, and Richard Baldwin, using Rapid Evidence Assessment (REA), a methodology that uses a structured approach to identify relevant literature and then assess the robustness of the evidence presented.
Around 70 percent of Sierra Leoneans live in rural areas, the large majority of them depending on agriculture for their livelihoods. Issues of land ownership, tenure, and inheritance rights are therefore crucial to virtually every rural household. But these issues are bound up in a system of customary law that in turn reflects endemic gender discrimination. One of the most vexing problems facing women and girls, for example, is the dispossession of their land in the event that a husband dies without the customary marriage being formally registered. It’s a problem that has drawn the attention of the U.K. Department for International Development (DFID), and one where DFID’s Access to Security and Justice Programme (ASJP) made substantial headway.
Much has been written about the impacts of long-term land-based investments on local land rights, development, and livelihood opportunities—and much of the commentary, driven by notable controversies, has been hostile to the land investor. But while investors now have a plethora of guidelines and principles to follow in implementing their projects, they still confront a dearth of hard information and statistics based on actual experience.
The challenge was steep but straightforward. Survey, collect, and clarify information for all land parcels in Rwanda—an estimated 7.9 million plots that eventually turned out to be millions more—and provide lease certificates to all rightful claimants. Never before attempted in Rwanda, yet alone accomplished, this feat had to be executed in line with Rwanda’s land law, completed in less than five years, and delivered “affordably.”
Domestic resource mobilization (DRM) is the capacity of a government to generate income through taxes, fees, levies, or other related resources. Increases in DRM are often achievable through the improvement of tax administration and taxpayer compliance. Increasing DRM enables developing countries to invest more of their own resources in high-priority services such as health and education, thereby reducing their dependence on donor funding for key programs. In addition, improved DRM has the potential to help countries promote good governance, strengthen domestic accountability, achieve more sustainable and inclusive growth, and reduce poverty.
Resilience is the capacity to adapt successfully in the face of stress, threats, or disaster. Among the earliest efforts to incorporate resilience in a theory of social change is a model debated in the 1970s and operationalized in the 1990s: positive deviance. Jerry and Monique Sternin developed this concept to explain why, in a Vietnamese village with high rates of malnutrition, some children thrived.
The bamboo that bends is stronger than the oak that resists. - Japanese proverb
Poor households, smallholder farmers, and small and medium-sized enterprises require a range of financial services to stabilize income, plan for the future, respond to shocks, and invest in their households, communities, and businesses. For example, savings allow households to smooth income when an unexpected cost hits home. Insurance provides a safety mechanism to cover losses after a severe weather incident, death, or other trauma. Credit supports re-investment after a disaster or steadies seasonal cash crunches. Financial services are, in short, critical to individual, household, and community resiliency.
A mobile phone can be used to destabilize communities by spreading fear and misinformation — or it can be a force for good, used to quell rumors and discourage fear mongering. It can be used to organize arms distribution or to inform peace actors. In short, technology is neutral; it is the content and credibility of the information shared over the mobile channel that determines its effect. DAI is looking at new models to support community resilience—the ability of communities to recover, persist, and thrive in the face of conflict, to borrow Andrew Zolli’s and Ann Marie Healy’s formulation of the concept—and we have found that strategic messaging via mobile devices can be of great benefit to peace advocates seeking to promote stability.
The critical “1,000 days” window for child development, spanning gestation to the second birthday, is a key period for building nutritional resilience. Investments in establishing child health and good nutrition in this period pay lifelong dividends. In this period, children’s still-developing immune systems make them highly vulnerable to disease. Their high and very specific nutrient needs and the limited quantity they can eat at any single meal place them at risk of poor growth outcomes. Research shows that nutrition deficits suffered during this period lead to lifetime lags in growth and development, even if health and food intake subsequently improve.
Resilience has been defined as the ability to mitigate, adapt, absorb, and recover from hazards, shocks, and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerabilities. Vulnerability is a good starting point for any analysis of resilience; understanding chronic vulnerability can inform development programming to enhance resilience in various areas, whether in health, economic growth, climate change, or HIV mitigation.
There is good reason to believe that customary tenure arrangements are conducive to community and household resilience in Sub-Saharan Africa. Without landed property of any kind, poor communities and households are less able to absorb shocks associated with loss of livelihood in the formal and informal wage economies through which rural households augment their modest farming incomes. Communal area homesteads are a means for investing in housing and livestock assets that constitute important forms of savings, particularly in times of financial and environmental stress. The ability to accumulate these and other assets, and to transfer them intergenerationally, would be diminished for many poor families if land could only be secured through purchase.
Using public-private partnerships (PPPs) to develop infrastructure that will enhance urban resilience to climate change is a promising option for countries affected by increasingly intense droughts, severe floods, and other environmental factors. Countries such as Mozambique and Vietnam are now piloting aspects of this approach, but we must address various weaknesses in it if we are to come up with a “climate-smart PPP” program.
Just as it is clear that resilience programming will benefit from a “whole-of-development” approach that ties together complementary technical sectors and different phases of assistance—from emergency relief to long-term capacity building—so it is clear from our experience that a “whole-of-community” approach is critical to resilience. Put simply, any resilience program that does not give due consideration to the role of women will not achieve its full potential and runs the risk of failure.t But we would do well to remind ourselves of the fundamental preconditions that must be in place for women to play their essential role: legal equality, economic empowerment, participation in decision making, and educational opportunity.
Given widespread regime collapse in the Middle East, a financial crisis hangover affecting much of the international economy, the dislocating effects of global climate change, and other fundamentally destabilizing trends, one might argue that state fragility and failure—not resilience—ought to be the focus of the development community in 2013. Under these trying circumstances resilience can seem like a less-than-urgent extravagance, a concept for the salad days of politico-economic cycles when storms subside and hatches are un-battened.
Strategic and targeted interventions aimed at incremental trust building can play an important role in strengthening a community’s ability to bounce back from violent conflict or systemic government collapse. One such example is found in the town of El Wak — a remarkably adaptive community that has transcended an age-old conflict between two rival clans. In 10 years, this community in the Gedo region of Southern Somalia has moved through three stages of conflict: periods of recurring, inter-clan violence; a period of growing stability as the parties negotiated power-sharing agreements leading to better governance; and the present, a hopeful prospect of hard-earned peace and sustainable stability.
In certain post-conflict environments, resilience can be a double-edged sword —two Sri Lankan communities show a way forward. In the Batticaloa district of eastern Sri Lanka, citizens on both sides of the decades-long conflict between Tamils and Sinhalese have endured unimaginable horrors: targeted killings, prolonged food shortages, life-altering displacement. The communities that survived these recurrent crises often did so by relying upon the tight bonds and solidarity of their ethnic groups. As a consequence, even as the fragile peace seems to be holding, many communities in the north and east of Sri Lanka still find themselves segregated along ethnic lines — mistrustful and afraid of their neighbors, unable to achieve the security that comes through true reconciliation. For them, resilience has come at the high price of social and economic isolation.
Resilience—the ability of individuals, households, communities, institutions, nations, or even value chains and ecosystems, to withstand crises, recover from them, and adapt so as to better withstand them—has become an increasingly important concept for the international development community. The focus of donors on resilience has led their main counterparts—local groups, governments in recipient countries, and international nongovernmental organizations and development firms—to integrate the concept into programming.
How do we revitalize critical public services when a national government is in the throes of crisis management or distracted by the protracted after-effects of conflict or natural disaster? Solving this conundrum is crucial to making the transition from humanitarian to development assistance. Restarting basic public services is also key to rekindling a state’s credibility with its citizens, and the first step on the path from fragile to stable governance. The case of Serbia, where DAI worked for seven years on a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) program to build disaster response capacity, suggests that supporting state disaster management institutions can be a powerful engine of resilience in fragile states.
Urbanization, globalization, and structural changes in the economies of many developing countries have contributed to the rapid growth of informal urban economies. In some Sub-Saharan countries, for example, up to 90 percent of nonagricultural employment is informal.
Like everyone else, poor people depend on markets. They depend on markets to sell what they produce and to purchase goods in time of need. They operate in labor and land markets — formal or informal — and are affected by government policies and regulations. They require a wide range of services. Many of the markets they participate in are highly dynamic, especially those linked to global markets. In such markets, technological changes and price fluctuations occur in ways that poor people cannot hope to influence.
The resilience of producers in developing countries depends on their ability to adapt to constant change in domestic, regional, and international markets. Changes in end-markets—primarily driven by technological advances—changes in consumer demand, and changes in regulations greatly affect market growth patterns. These changes in turn influence the requirements that producers must meet to access markets and remain competitive. Keeping on top of these trends should be a key part of any economic strengthening initiative.
After we had put together the Resilience journal, we had the opportunity to sit down with Ambassador Rick Barton, Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO). Ambassador Barton has worked on problems of fragility, vulnerability, and instability in some 30 countries, and he has done so in various sectors of the development community: as Co-Director of the Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Deputy High Commissioner of the United Nations Refugee Agency, and founding director of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of Transition Initiatives. He also taught for five years at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. Below, we present brief excerpts of a wide-ranging discussion in which Ambassador Barton shared some of his personal reflections on the notion of resilience.