The Government of Ethiopia is currently implementing the second phase of its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTPII) with the ambition of becoming a lower-middle income country by 2025. The agriculture sector plays an important role in GTPII, as it is the main driver of rapid and inclusive economic growth and development. Moreover, developing the agriculture sector is expected to cause trickle down effects that will boost other productive sectors in Ethiopia as well.
Thus, the results of GTPII hinge on the investments and coinciding increases in productivity within the agriculture sector, but the lack of land tenure security constrains growth and productivity in the sector in various ways. The main challenge comes down to the fact that it’s difficult for people who are most likely impoverished to invest in their land, especially when they’re not certain that they’ll have access to it for long enough to realize benefits from their investment. As such, land is often under-utilized or used in exploitative, damaging ways so that the occupants can derive economic value from their land “while they can”.
More than security
A consortium comprising lead member DAI, and partners NIRAS and Nathan Associates, has been implementing the Land Investment for Transformation (LIFT) Programme since 2013. Funded by the UK Department of International Development (DFID), LIFT aims to improve the incomes of the rural poor and to enhance economic growth in 140 woredas (districts) of four regional states (Amhara, Oromia, Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples, and Tigray) through second-level land certification (SLLC) and improved rural land administration systems (RLAS).
In addition to this, the programme engages in various interventions targeted at making the market work for the poor (M4P) to improve beneficiaries’ livelihoods and encourage them to invest in their land. These interventions are mostly linked to the land certificates from the SLLC process, which encourages more people to certify their plots.
LIFT engages in four main activities to pursue its objectives:
- Supporting the registration and issuance of 14 million second-level land certificates, recognizing both men and women’s land usage rights.
- Supporting the implementation and operationalisation of a rural land administration system in 140 woredas.
- Undertaking interventions that focus on access to finance, rural land rental, and conservation agriculture through its economic empowerment unit, aiming to accelerate the impact of certification on poor farmers by improving rural land market systems.
- Supporting the Government of Ethiopia in improving policies and institutions for the rural land market.
Successfully bringing about change
LIFT’s projects have brought about wide-ranging impacts that improve the livelihoods and prospects of people in the target regions. A few examples follow.
The programme established a system to formalise land rental agreements. SLLCs provide precise information for renters and rentees on the exact size, owners, and location of the plot. LIFT-trained Land Rental Service Providers (LRSPs) connect renters and rentees and provide them with a standard land rental contract form (which LIFT has developed). This contract is then registered in the RLAS, which makes it binding and ensures that the rights of both counterparties are protected. As a result of this system, those with land rights – including vulnerable groups such as the elderly and female-headed households – are able to rent out land that they can’t utilise at a higher price than they have been forced to accept before. This allows for the more efficient use of land plots and gives landless youth a chance to access land through renting.
I now rent to a person who pays me a better price whether I know him or not, because the contract is formally registered and binding. I have full confidence that I will get my land back when the contract period is over.
LIFT, in association with various microfinance institutions in Ethiopia, have developed an SLLC-linked individual loan product that is linked to the land’s produce. Because Ethiopia works on land usage rights and not ownership rights, and because of the lack of a land register, farmers have historically been unable to produce the security needed to take out individual loans. This meant they had to take out group loans with other farmers, but because of perceptions around women and the elderly engaging in farming, group loans were often not available to them, which left them without financing options. Thanks to this new financial product, loans are issued on the strength of business plans, which means that anyone holding a registered parcel could access finance if their business will be able to repay. Most of these loans are being used to improve inputs and/or infrastructure, in turn making farmers more productive and increasing the incomes they generate.
This loan changes the life of people.
Increased land tenure security has led to greater investments into farming and a higher demand for improved, clean inputs and technologies, but accessing these is a challenge in rural areas. To address this gap, LIFT is supporting input hubs in these areas. Doing so not only provides farmers with these sought-after inputs, but also creates employment opportunities and improved revenues for the people running the hubs.
Contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Through its work to bring land tenure security to Ethiopians and other activities, LIFT mainly contributes to SDG 2 – end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture – as well as SDG 16 – peace, justice and strong institutions. Secondary SDGs addressed under LIFT’s activities include SDG 1 – end poverty in all its forms everywhere – and SDG 5 – achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.
In addition to being a partner in the DFID-funded and DAI-led LIFT programme, NIRAS is implementing the Finnish-funded REILA (Responsible and Innovative Land Administration of Ethiopia) programme as lead company. REILA is working in close cooperation with LIFT. For example all LIFT data on land registration and rental agreements is being migrated into the NRLAIS (National Rural Land Administration Information System) that REILA has developed.