An overview of the land administration reforms in Ghana: – Achievements and next steps (Part l)

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By: Benjamin Armah Quaye

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 article seeks to outline the interventions being undertaken as well as some of the achievements.

Land 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 percent and 20 percent 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).

Dr. Benjamin Armah Quaye
Dr. Benjamin Armah Quaye

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, instil order and discipline into the land market, minimise, 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 constraints 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 characterised 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
  • 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
  • Establish basic standards by which land delivery agencies must respond to requests from the public within a reasonable time.
  1. Security of Tenure and Protection of Land Rights
  • Speed up title registration to cover all interests in land throughout Ghana, and phase out Deeds registration.
  • 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;
  • The Chief Justice shall create a special division of the High Court properly equipped to deal solely with land cases.
  1. Ensuring Planned Land Use
  • 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.
  1. Developing Effective Institutional Capacity and Capability
  • Restructure, and strengthen land administration agencies to enhance their capacity to deal effectively and efficiently with land administration delivery.
  • 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.
  • Implement human development programmes in each of the land sector institutions.
  • 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 industrialisation 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 decentralised 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.

GB&F Magazine


Dr. Benjamin Armah Quaye has over 24 years’ experience in the land administration and management sector. He is currently the National Project Coordinator of the Ghana Land Administration Project, which is a multilateral funded project led by the World Bank. Dr. Benjamin Armah Quaye is a Fellow of the Ghana Institution of Surveyors (GhIS)

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