Scaling up pro-poor land recordation: findings and consequences of three peri-urban cases from sub-Saharan Africa

P.C.M. Van Asperen, J.A. Zevenbergen, Bob Hendriks

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperAcademic


The coming decades are challenging for African cities, as they grow at unprecedented speed,
partly due to high levels of population growth. Land has to be made available and/or
contested for to house the many youths. Insufficient land delivery creates both risks and
opportunities for prospective land holders, resulting in a tangle of insecure land rights and
claims under often multiple tenure systems. The growth of cities in Africa will to a large
extent be absorbed by the development of informal settlements. Recently, pro-poor land
recordation tools have been proposed and implemented to formalize land tenure.
GLTN released its pro-poor land recordation tool (PPLRT): a set of design principles for
establishing and maintaining land records for a community’s poorest members (UNHABITAT
et al., 2012; Zevenbergen, 2013). Recently, the PPLRT system and design
elements was improved and refined based on updated literature review and four rural cases of
documentation (Hendriks et al, 2016). This resulted in the following list of design elements:
• Apply macro and micro political-economy analysis
• Enable mobilization
• Build on inclusive community tenure practices
• Introduce acceptable local recognition and a para-legal officer
• Recordation of all tenure forms
• Joint inspection of land records
• Affordable and accessible dispute resolution
• Land records, indexes and a record keeper for a specified area
• Multiple sources of evidence and local weighting
• System ownership and co-management by state and community – as a public good
• Emphasis on continuum of land recording.
This paper will both confirm (or deny) the PPLRT-system and its design elements in (peri-)
urban contexts and propose improvements or refinements of these elements. Three case
studies in Zambia, Namibia and Botswana have been selected. Each case-study is carried out
with a literature review and expert interviews regarding the legal and institutional framework,
together with semi-structured interviews with poor land holders in the settlements.
In Oshakati (Namibia), interventions relating to proclamation of townlands, recognized
occupancy rights, saving schemes and the flexible land tenure system have been studied. In
Lusaka (Zambia), the study concerned the conversion of customary rights, declaration of
improvement areas and occupancy licenses as defined by the Housing Act. Lastly, tools
relating to customary land grants according to Tribal Land Act and the presidential amnesty to
‘self-allocations’ have been studied in peri-urban Gaborone (Botswana).
The findings in the studied cases confirmed the validity of the PPRLT design elements in
peri-urban contexts, more specifically peri-urban settlements with population sizes between
30,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. All tenures (including informal and customary tenure) and
corresponding land rights are recognized, most of which were recorded along a continuum. It
was also found that continuums could differ depending on the tools which were applied. Local
practices and local knowledge are usually incorporated in the recordation process, although
the process of local weighting was difficult to evaluate.
The majority of design elements focus on co-ownership, co-management and partnership
between authorities and the community. In all cases, it is observed that land recordation is
mainly imposed by local government, whereby support from the community is organised as
much as possible. Co-ownership and co-management is almost non-existent. This most
probably relates to the fundamental conflict often found in the peri-urban areas in sub-Saharan
Africa: the authority of land is contested by government and the traditional authority. When
the authority is not both settled and accepted, co-management and co-ownership of land
recordation is difficult to achieve.
The following refinements are proposed:
• To introduce para-professionals as a more generic term for the para-legal officer, the
fourth design element would then be rephrased as ‘Introduce acceptable local
recognition and a para-professional.’
• To add ‘unambiguous’ at the fifth design element: ‘Unambiguous recordation of all
• To add ‘well-informed’ to the seventh design element: ‘Affordable, accessible and
well-informed dispute resolution’.
The last two refinements are specifically valid within the peri-urban context: because of the
co-existence and contestation of customary and statutory authorities.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2018
Event2nd Conference on Land Policy in Africa, CLPA 2017 - Addis Ababa , Ethiopia
Duration: 14 Nov 201717 Nov 2017
Conference number: 2


Conference2nd Conference on Land Policy in Africa, CLPA 2017
Abbreviated titleCLPA 2017
CityAddis Ababa
Internet address


  • Land tools
  • Land administration
  • Tenure security
  • Rural-urban interface
  • Peri-urban
  • Land registration


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