New Scheme Aims to Improve Land Tenure Security for Peasants

Ethiopia is embarking on a land certification scheme to try and improve security of tenure for its farmers, IRIN reported here on Tuesday.

The scheme aims to offer greater security to Ethiopia’s farmers – whose land is owned by the state – and encourage them to invest more heavily in their farms.

Some analysts argue that tenure insecurity had contributed to low rural productivity because farmers are unwilling to invest in land that could be taken away from them.

The UN’s Country Representative Sam Nyambi welcomed the move and said it went some way in guaranteeing tenure – short of full privatisation.

“What they have done is move towards guaranteed tenure,” Nyambi told a news conference here. “The government has given a lot of attention to it and they have stated that the real problem right now is securing guaranteed tenure of land for the farmers.”

The guarantee – which comes in the shape of a registration or ownership book – is expected to last 99 years, with a farmer being able to pass land onto his children.

The government believes full privatisation of land could result in speculators taking advantage of impoverished farmers and lead to massive landlessness within rural areas.

But Dessalegn Rahmato, who heads the Ethiopia-based Forum for Social Studies, said that while he welcomed boosting tenure security, he was unsure whether the system would work.

“I think security of tenure is the heart of any land policy and is critical because otherwise peasants can’t invest in the land, can’t protect it or improve it,” he told IRIN.

“I am not sure a piece of paper will bring about that security because it leaves all other aspects of the land tenure system intact, like interference by the authorities.”

It was also unclear whether the certificate could be used as collateral by banks, who currently will not offer loans to poor farmers because they do not own their land, he added.

Dessalegn said he was unaware of any land survey which, he argued, would be necessary before any certification scheme.

“How they are going to identify which plots belong to which household is difficult to envisage,” he said.

The scheme is currently under way in the Tigray and Amhara regions of Ethiopia.