Habitat for Humanity Côte d’Ivoire recently made it possible for 5,541 land documents to be issued, bringing the total number of people with increased land tenure impacted by Habitat Côte d’Ivoire up to 98,922 in under two years. Because of Habitat Côte d’Ivoire’s advocacy through the Solid Ground campaign, close to a hundred thousand people have the assurance that in the midst of increased land conflicts throughout the country—due to population growth, migration and increased housing and agricultural land scarcity—their land and homes are secure. Increased land tenure allows people to invest more in their homes and communities; it’s the first step in applying for building permits from the government or loans from the bank. And women, who had previously been excluded from land ownership both through legal and customary means, are seeing increased opportunity through land rights. So how is Habitat Côte d’Ivoire accomplishing this?
Effective land administration systems are paramount to governments’ abilities to grant secure land tenure to their citizens. Although Côte d’Ivoire’s national government made land documentation a priority in legislation in 1998 and 2013, local governments generally lack the land administration systems and capacity to implement these laws. Not only do people experience serious delays in the application processes for land titles and building permits, but there has been no database keeping track of these documents once they’re issued.
Habitat Côte d’Ivoire is working closely with local authorities and the broader community to build a simple and effective system to issue land certificates. Habitat Côte d’Ivoire helped local leaders set up a land registration system and is supporting the registration process and collection of the necessary supporting documents from applicants. Throughout the past year, Habitat Côte d’Ivoire has seen steady progress in the numbers of land certificates issued.
Habitat Côte d’Ivoire’s approach is contingent on community participation to get the word out about the new system. They’ve initiated an awareness campaign in which volunteers walk door to door, explaining both the purpose and steps community members can take to obtain land documentation. Habitat Côte d’Ivoire also organized an awareness raising event in the small city of Didayaokro with over 450 people in attendance, in which school pupils and women in the community shared speeches, songs and skits on the importance of land documentation and inheritance rights for women. Through increased awareness and information, both local leaders and community members have become dedicated to working for secure tenure.
Habitat Côte d’Ivoire is working to increase tenure security through several other participatory initiatives. For instance, they are conducting a baseline study of land tenure in rural communities by equipping study participants with smartphones to collect land data which will be used to establish a mapped database. From this, they are creating a guide around rural land, looking at best practices for involving all stakeholders in the land documentation process. Habitat Côte d’Ivoire is also in the process of creating an interregional, multi-stakeholder coalition to monitor and promote human rights related to land.
Habitat Côte d’Ivoire’s highly participative advocacy approach uniquely brings people together: from local authorities to community members to civil society. Habitat Côte d’Ivoire’s advocacy approaches can, and should, be replicated throughout Côte d’Ivoire and beyond.