AN OVERVIEW OF THE LAND ADMINISTRATION REFORMS IN GHANA – ACHIEVEMENTS AND NEXT STEPS

AN OVERVIEW OF THE LAND ADMINISTRATION REFORMS IN GHANA – ACHIEVEMENTS AND NEXT STEPS
 
The critical role of land for economic growth, social development and poverty alleviation is not in dispute (World Bank, 2003, 2011a). The terms on which land is held, used and transferred have important consequences for economic growth, the distribution of wealth and alleviation of poverty. In other words, the nature of land administration, defined as the processes of determining, recording, and disseminating information about tenure, value, and use of land when implementing land management policies (United Nations, 1996, p. 14), affect the incentive to invest and to use land in a sustainable manner.
It is in the light of the above critical role of land and its administration that this paper seeks to outline the interventions being undertaken as well as some of the achievements.
1Land Administration in Ghana
The institutional arrangement for land administration in Ghana is pluralistic (Larbi, 2006; Quaye, 2014). The arrangement is shaped by various constitutional provisions, statutory laws and policies, judicial decisions, common law principles and customary laws and practices of various ethnic groupings (Larbi, 2006; MLF, 1999). An elaborate legal and institutional framework has evolved since the colonial period to influence the persisting land administration system. it is estimated that the customary and formal land sectors of the institutional arrangement administer two broad categories of land tenure regimes, namely customary lands (stools, family, clan etc.) and public lands, constituting approximately 80% and 20% of the land area respectively.
The National Land Policy, launched in 1999, provides the overall policy framework for land administration in the country (MLF, 1999). The objective of the National Land Policy is to ensure the judicious use of the nation's land and natural resources by all sections of the Ghanaian society. Specific objectives are to stimulate economic development, reduce poverty and promote social stability by improving security of land tenure, simplifying the process for accessing land making it fair, transparent and efficient, developing the land market and fostering prudent land management (MLF, 1999). 
The policy rightfully recognises the role of land tenure in reducing poverty and enhancing social and economic growth. It further envisages sustainable land use planning in the long-term national interest, equitable access to land, security of tenure and protection of land rights, instill order and discipline into the land market, minimize, and eliminate the sources of protracted land boundary disputes, conflicts and litigations, the creation of effective institutional capacity at multiple levels, the promotion of community participation and public awareness in sustainable land management, and the promotion of research into all aspects of land ownership, tenure and the operations of the land market and land development process.
Land Sector Constraints and Policy Direction
Importantly, the land policy document identified certain constrains in the Land Sector, which have implications for effective and efficient land administration services. These include general indiscipline in the land market; indeterminate boundaries of stool/skin lands /conflicting claims to ownership; multiple and complex laws governing land administration; inadequate security of land tenure due to land related conflicts and litigations; multiple grants of same parcel to different tenants; lack of transparency and accountability in land dealings; high spate of land encroachments; and lack of adequate functional and coordinated geographic information systems and networks. These constraints manifest in inadequate security of tenure, difficult accessibility to land and a general indiscipline in the land market characterized by land encroachments, multiple sales of land, haphazard development and disputes leading to endless land litigation. Further, multiple institutions deal with different aspects of land administration functions implying that critical land information is dispersed in multiple agencies. The result is difficulty in accessing information for effective decision making (Quaye, 2005). 
The land policy document identified a number of policy actions to address the identified constraints. These include: 
1.Facilitating Equitable Access to Land
a.Collaborate with the traditional authorities and other land stakeholders to review, harmonise and streamline customary practices, usages and legislations to govern land holding, land acquisition, land use and land disposal
b.Establish basic standards by which land delivery agencies must respond to requests from the public within a reasonable time
2.Security of Tenure and Protection of Land Rights
a.Speed up title registration to cover all interests in land throughout Ghana, and phase out deeds registration.
b.implementation of a programme for the production of large scale maps of land parcels and buildings in all urban areas and locations, where disputes are prevalent;
c.The Chief Justice shall create a special division of the High Court properly equipped to deal solely with land cases
3.Ensuring Planned Land Use
a.develop and implement a comprehensive District, Regional and National Land Use Plan and Atlas, which zones sections of the country to broad land uses according to criteria agreed among various public and private land stakeholders
4.Developing Effective Institutional Capacity and Capability
a.Restructure, and strengthen land administration agencies to enhance their capacity to deal effectively and efficiently with land administration delivery.
b.Establish and develop land information system and network among related land agencies in the country and link them up with sub-regional and regional networks
c.Implement human development programmes in each of the land sector institutions
d.Review and consolidate all land legislations into a comprehensive legal code
The Land Administration Programme 
In order to implement the key policy actions recommended by the NLP, the Land Administration Programme (LAP) was conceived as long term reforms (15-25 years) agenda. The LAP is primarily focused on land administration reforms as against land tenure reforms (Larbi, 2006). The distinction is important since land tenure reforms are often directed at re-arranging and re-shaping land relationships and rights and interests in land. On the other hand, land administration reforms aim at injecting effectiveness and efficiency into the land-based economy by focusing on institutions, legislation, judicial decisions, records management, titling, community-based land use planning, monitoring and evaluation, human resource development, etc. 
The long term objectives of the land administration reforms being undertaken by the country are to reduce poverty and enhance social and economic growth; improve security of tenure, simplify processes of land acquisition; foster prudent land management practices; develop the land market; and establish an efficient and sustainable system of land administration, both state and customary. These interventions are to be based on clear, coherent, and consistent polices and laws supported by appropriate institutional structures. The higher level objective of the reforms agenda is to contribute to the Ghana Shared Growth Development Agenda I and II and the Food and Agriculture Sector Development Policy (FASDEP II) both of which identify access, use and security of land as a major development issue, frustrating the country’s industrialization which has to be addressed. 
Land Administration Project (LAP 1 and 2)
To address the overarching objectives of the programme, the first phase of the project, which ended in 2011, sought to implement land policy and institutional changes and other key land administration pilot projects to lay the foundation for a sustainable and decentralized land administration system that is fair, efficient, and cost effective, while ensuring land tenure security (World Bank, 2011b). The second phase, which commenced in September 2011, aims to consolidate and strengthen urban and rural land administration and management systems for efficient and transparent land service delivery. It seeks to consolidate the gains made and support the scaling up of the initiatives piloted under LAP I. The second phase closes at the end of February, 2018.
Overview of Achievements the Interventions so far
The Land Administration reforms have so far focused on reforming the policy, legal, regulatory and institutional frameworks, decentralization of service delivery, testing new methods and approaches through piloting and seeking to harmonize the customary and formal systems of land administration. The incremental developments of the first and second phases of the LAP has resulted in a number of accomplishments.  These interventions are discussed under specific thematic areas below.
Interventions in the Policy, Legal and Regulatory Framework for Land Administration 
A comprehensive and coherent policy and legal and regulatory framework is fundamental to the improvement in the land administration system. the project has therefore focused on preparing new comprehensive Land Bill Land Use and Planning Bill and their associated legislative instruments (LI).  LI’s is also to be prepared for the Office of the Administration of Stool Lands Act, of 1994 (Act 481) and the Lands Commission Act of 2008 (Act 767). In view of the fact that almost 70% of civil cases are land related, the Judiciary is being supported to review court processes and rules in order to improve court performance in the adjudication of land cases. In addition, High Courts are being refurbished and automated to serve as Land Courts specifically deal with land cases. Support is also being provided to build capacity of the Judiciary and other relevant Land Sector Agencies in the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) and other mediation mechanisms in the resolution of land cases.    
The major accomplishments form the above interventions include:
•The passage of the Lands Commission Act, 2008 (Act 767) to merge four land agencies (Lands Commission, Land Valuation Board, Land Title Registry and Survey Department) into a single entity, “The Lands Commission” (LC). The previous agencies are now divisions of the Lands Commission, namely Land Registration Division (LRD), Public and Vested Land Management Division (PVLMD), Survey and Mapping Division (SMD|) and Land Valuation Division (LVD).The Act integrated the operations of the four Agencies in order to secure effective and efficient land administration and to provide for related matters. 
•The Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925) was passed in 2016 to revise and consolidate the laws on land use and spatial planning and provide for sustainable development of land and human settlements through a decentralised planning system. The Act establishes the Land Use and Spatial Planning Authority and assigns it broad range of responsibilities and considerable powers to exert more influence on land use and spatial planning across the country.  
•Cabinet has given approval for the new Land Bill to be laid before Parliament for consideration and passage.  The Attorney General’s Department is currently taking steps to gazette the Bill for laying before Parliament. The objective of the Bill is to revise and consolidate the laws on land, with the view to harmonizing these laws to ensure sustainable land administration and management, effective land tenure and efficient surveying regimes and to provide for related matters. 
•In addition to the land related laws, appropriate Legislative Instruments have been prepared for approval by Parliament to operationalize the provisions in the (1) Lands Commission Act, 2008 (Act 767), (2) Office of the Administrator of Stool Lands Act, 1994 (Act 481) and (3) Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925). 
•With respect to the regulatory framework, fifteen (15) Land Courts have been established and automated to improve the adjudication of land cases. Twelve (12) in Accra and one (1) each in Sekondi (Western Region), Kumasi (Ashanti Region) and Tamale (Northern Region). The establishment of the Land Courts have contributed to a reduction in the resolution of backlog of land cases by 88% and reduced the turn-around time for adjudication of cases from an average of 36 months in 2008 to about 11 months. 
•To address procedural shortcomings which delayed processing of land cases in the courts, the High Court (Civil Procedure) (Amendments) Rules, 2014 (CI 87) introduced the “Written Witness Statement” for adjudicating civil cases in the superior and lower courts. The “Written Witness Statement” has allowed the efficient adjudication of civil cases by improving the time a witness would ordinarily present detailed testimony. This has reduced the turnaround time of cases filed at the Courts.
•A review of policies on land related Fees and Charges has been undertaken to among others demonstrate how the Lands Commission can move towards greater self-financing, and ensure the financial sustainability of the land administration system. The review proposed four mechanisms for making land administration services accessible to vulnerable groups; identified potential range of services the Commission is likely to provide; and provided a model for determining appropriate fees and charges for services rendered to the public. 
 
Interventions in the Technical Aspects of Land Administration
To improve the effectiveness and efficiency in the delivery of land administration services as well as increase security of tenure, a number of interventions have been made.
Land Registration Processes
•Prior to the commencement of the interventions, only two (2) registration centres existed in the country. Through the project interventions, the registration of land deeds has been decentralised to all the regional capitals in the country with the establishment of eight (8) Land Registries. The decentralisation of the land registration centres effectively brought the registration of deeds closer to the clients contributing to a reduction in time for delivery of services.
•Following the passage of the Lands Commission Act, the business processes of the former four (4) agencies, now Divisions of the LC, have been streamlined and integrated into a single business process. The reengineering aimed at shortening the time taken to deliver services and reduce face to face contacts between clients and providers. It involved the identification and removal of bottlenecks and duplications, promoting transparency and addressing other challenges.
•A key output of the reengineering process has been the establishment of Client Service Access Units (CSAUs) in five (5) regions in the Greater Accra, Eastern, Western Northern and Upper East regions. The CSAUs have been in operation since October 2015 and serve as the front office of the Lands Commission. It is the only unit responsible for receiving all land service applications and delivery of all completed applications.
•To complement the operations of the CSAUs and significantly contribute to the reduction in the turnaround time for delivering land administration services the Ghana Enterprise Land Information System (GELIS) is being developed. The GELIS will allow all users to carry out their day-to-day business processes efficiently and effectively in a digital manner, using common databases (Registers), with no duplication of effort or data. The pilot implementation is expected by early 2018.
Land Use Planning
•A “3-tier”, hierarchical, spatial planning system that comprises (i) Spatial Development Framework (SDF) (ii) Structure Plans (SP), and (iii) Local Plans, with each tier having its own function and process has been established. The new spatial planning system was piloted in some project districts through a decentralized participatory planning process and the lessons learnt helped in shaping the process for the preparation of higher level plans. The new planning system, which has been included in the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925), effectively brings to an end the reliance on the 1945 Planning Ordinance (CAP 84). 
 
To fully implement the new spatial planning system, a National Spatial Development Framework (NSDF), a Sub-national Spatial Development Framework for Northern Savannah Ecological Zone and Regional Spatial Development Frameworks (RSDFs) for the Greater Accra and Ashanti Regions have been prepared. These plans are to ensure the spatial manifestation of the National Development Plan, and other long term development visions of Sector Agencies, Ministries and Agencies. The NSDF provides a strategic national vision (desired future) for spatial development in Ghana over a 20-year period and forms the spatial component of the long term National Development Plan being prepared by the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC). The new planning system, which has been legislated by the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925), is to ensure a coherent, streamlined and sustainable land use planning and management system for the country. 
 
•To ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the operation for land use plan preparation, the Land Use Planning and Management Information System (LUPMIS), which is a flagship system of land use planning was developed in 2009 and has been upgraded. Additional functionalities include spatial data capture, storage and management of data, development permit administration, and street addressing. The upgrading also involved the design and implementation of requisite training models. 
•As part of initiatives aimed at promoting orderly development of Ghanaian human settlements and promoting sustainable development, Business Process Manual and Development Permitting Guidelines have been prepared to guide MMDAs in their physical development management function. The guidelines will streamline and provide uniformity in the permitting processes for all District Planning Authorities in the country. The guidelines have been included in the draft Legislative Instrument for the Land Use and Spatial Planning Act, 2016 (Act 925).
Mapping
•Aerial photographs, orthophoto maps and line maps covering a total of 40,000 sq. km were produced for selected towns in the country. The maps were used to support land management activities including land use planning, cadastral surveying, valuation and street addressing. The maps are also to support requirements of other users within and outside of government Agencies. 
•A National Geodetic Reference Network (GRN) has been completed and the locations of Continuously Operating Reference Stations (COR) stations have been selected. These stations when operational will to provide the fundamental support for land surveying, mapping, engineering surveying and other related applications. The GRN, when implemented, will serve as the basic reference framework for all surveying, mapping and land related information.
Interventions in the Customary Land Sector
Given the pre-eminence of the customary sector (80%), a number of interventions have been introduced to deal with constraints in the sector. The constraints include indeterminate boundaries, lack of proper records on land, inadequate (or insufficient) documentation.
•Eighty eight (88) Customary Lands Secretariats (CLSs) under traditional authorities have been established and/or strengthened throughout the country to improve the quality of land records and access to information on land transactions and availability,. In addition, the CLSs have improved transparency and accountability in ways that ensure security of tenure and protect the rights and interest of land users and public interest.
•The Ascertainment of Customary Law on Land and Family has been completed in eight (8) Traditional Areas. The objective of ascertainment is progressively studying, interpreting and codifying customary law with a view to evolving, in appropriate cases, a unified system of rules of customary law. 
•Rural Parcel Rights Demarcations (RPRD) were undertaken in three (3) regions, Western (Aowin Traditional Area (TA)), Brong-Ahafo (Mim, Nkronza, Dadiesoaba TAs) and Ashanti regions (Bekwai and Adankragya TAs). A total of 3,673 demarcated farmlands have been validated and the plans distributed to the beneficiaries. The exercise was among others to create opportunities for rural farmers to document their land holdings and verbal grants; support the formal registration of land documents; obtain critical land database on actual farm sizes, location, types of crops and farm rents payable; promote transparency and accountability in land governance and reduce conflicts and protracted litigation.
Institutional and Capacity Development 
•Recognising the importance of capacity development, a Comprehensive Assessment of Capacity Needs of the Land Sector Agencies (LSAs), Customary Land Secretariats (CLSs), and Civil Society Coalition on Land (CICOL) has been undertaken. The assessment identified and quantified the needs for new skills both in the public and private sectors to respond to the emerging skill mix. Based on the outcome of the needs assessment, Human Resource Development Plans and Capacity Building Strategies were developed. Recognized public academic and private sector institutions involved in delivering training were also identified and their capacities assessed to ensure that they have the levels and resources required to provide training services for the Implementing Agencies (IAs). The intervention also included participation of officers of the IAs, MLNR and PCU in conferences, fora and study tours (local and overseas).  Based on the outcome of the needs assessment, Human Resource Development Plans and Capacity Building Strategies were developed and is being implemented.
•The project encouraged engagement with civil society. It supported the establishment of an umbrella organization on land—the Coalition of Civil Society Organizations on Land—which is now well established as a premier Non-governmental organization working on land issues in Ghana. A special small grants program was developed and managed by an independent body to ensure that civil society could identify and undertake specific activities related to land issues, based on the submission and approval of proposals. These activities included community entry, sensitization and education, governance issues, capacity building, M&E, and advocacy for land issues and the project in particular. Some of the gender-related activities also fell under this civil society initiative. The Coalition of Civil Society Organizations on Land was also represented in project implementation support missions and technical subcommittees. 
•In response to national and international commitments of the government on gender equality and demands from civil society, a Gender Strategy has been developed and being implemented. The strategy seeks to provide a coherent and sustained approach to addressing women and men’s concerns for equitable development, gathering gender sensitive data using appropriate participatory tools.
•To achieve the objective of the Communication Strategy, various activities have been carried out. Sensitization and orientation programmes have been organized for major stakeholders in all the regions of the country. In addition, Town Hall and Community Outreach programmes have been held to improve the knowledge of the public on land issues and the various interventions undertaken under the Project. In order to enhance the capacity of media personnel and journalists in reporting on land related issues, a series of engagements have been organised across the country.
Conclusion
Transformation of the land administration system is a challenge, however, it is one that must be addressed. Given the huge investments that have so far been made since the land administration reforms begun and the achievements, the transformation agenda of the land administration system must be pursued to its logical conclusion.
 
 
 

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