Farah Theodore
Farah Theodore

Everyone needs a sense of place - a feeling of belonging that helps inspire purpose and fulfilment. How do we achieve this within the scope of economic, human, and environmental development? We are faced with numerous challenges such as water and food security, poverty alleviation, exploitation of natural resources etc all of which screams that we must pursue a sustainable development path. In order to do so, we need to be cognizant of the role played by land administration.

In a study about the 'Role of Land Administration in Sustainable Development' by Manohar Velpuri and Daniel Steudler, 'A good land administration system based on data and information about land ownership, land valuation, and land use forms can lead to better land management'. Sustainable development was also defined as the development to reach equilibrium in between poor and rich, between current and future generations, between humankind and nature without compromising the cultural, social and biological diversity.

In order to address our climate emergency, switch to a circular economy model and pursue sustainable development, we need to know what exactly we are working with.

The Bathurst Declaration on Land Administration for Sustainable Development calls for a commitment to provide effective legal security of tenure and access to property for all men and women, including indigenous peoples and those living in poverty or other disadvantaged groups. Maintenance of proper land records are of utmost importance so that people know of their ownership and propriety rights. This can be done using an effective cadastral system.

According to I. P Williamson, 'an effective cadastral system is vital for the support of sustainable economic development and environmental management within the context of Agenda 21 as agreed at the UN Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in Brazil in 1992'. He stated further in his paper 'Justification of cadastral systems in developing countries', that a secure title is important in promoting increased investment in agriculture, to support an active land market by permitting land to be bought, sold, mortgaged and leased efficiently, effectively, quickly and at low cost.

What is a cadastre? A cadastre is a parcel based and up-to-date land information system (not necessarily computerised) containing a record of interests in land (i.e. rights, responsibilities and restrictions). It is a key part of the state infrastructure which provides security of tenure for those interests. It includes a geometric description of land parcels (usually as a map) linked to other records or registers describing the nature of those interests, and often the value to the parcel and its improvements (FIG,1995.)

The FAO recognised that the countries that have invested in the technical and institutional infrastructure required for efficient and equitable land tenure administration, and that have been in the forefront of ensuring property rights for both men and women have developed much faster with a much higher level of food security, health and welfare.

Overall the most serious problems facing the relationship between land and people include: degradation of land due to unsustainable land use practices; lack of land for suitable urban development; lack of security of tenure (which in many societies impacts most severely on women and children); inequitable access to land by indigenous peoples and minority groups; access to land by women; increasing vulnerability to disaster; destruction of bio-diversity; lack of adequate planning and of effective land administration; tensions between environmental conservation and development; and impact of market forces on traditional economies and tenures.

An issue that many societies are plagued with is that of poverty and how it can be alleviated. Manohar Velpuri in a case study of India wrote, 'Under the patronage of the late Prime Minister Ms. Indira Gandhi in the Stockholm conference 1972, it was for the first time identified that poverty is the greatest threat to environment. It was argued that "...poverty and a degraded environment are closely inter-related, especially where people depend for their livelihoods primarily on the natural resource base of their immediate environment. Restoring natural systems and improving natural resource management practices at the grassroots level are central to a strategy to eliminate poverty" (sunanda, 2002)'.

A good cadastral system can help reduce the exploitation of natural resources by holding individuals accountable for land degradation by regulating the usage of resources and enforcement of property rights.

"The protection of the environment is an essential part of development. Without adequate environmental protection, development is undermined; without development, resources will be inadequate for needed investments, and environmental protection will fail" (World Bank, 1992)

Where and how do you fit in?