South Sudan one year after independence: Land titles helping to reintegrate communities

06 Jul 2012

image A land management specialist, deployed to the Warrap state, supports the surveying and demarcation of plots for returnees in South Sudan. (Photo: UNDP South Sudan/Brian Sokol)

With the return of nearly 400,000 South Sudanese to the northern states of their homeland since October 2011, overcrowding in urban areas has put pressure on already weak public utilities, while disputes over land have contributed to inter-communal conflict in rural areas.

To proactively address these land management challenges, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United States Agency for International Development and other development partners are working with the South Sudan government to design land management plans, acquire basic training and equipment for urban planning, and develop a land registry database to manage the land titling process.

The UNDP Rapid Capacity Placement Initiative embeds experts in state institutions to fill gaps in the short-term, while combining coaching and mentoring to build capacity in the medium term.

Through this initiative UNDP deployed urban planning specialists, supported by civil engineers, to work side-by-side with government staff to assist returnees to access land and reintegrate into communities, both important components of the nation’s recovery process.
To date, more than 28,000 plots have been surveyed in the four northern states - Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Upper Nile, and Warrap - and about 6,500 plots have been allocated.

In Warrap state, UNDP helped put in place a residential layout plan with centrally located neighbourhoods that include a primary school, water access points, a police post, as well as spaces for playgrounds, places of worship and small businesses.  Almost 5,600 plots have already been allocated to returnees in three different communities.

This successful urban planning process led government officials in neighbouring Northern Bahr el Ghazal state to visit Warrap for guidance and training on designing a land management system. Now, in the state capital, Aweil city, nearly 10,000 plots have been demarcated and the first 900 plots were allocated to families in May 2012.  

These plots are surveyed using GPS and an advanced land registry system that manages the titling process, tracks the plots, and produces land certificates which clearly delineate ownership.

“With a formal deed that is traceable people have the confidence to develop and invest in their land as they know it cannot be taken away,” said George Conway, UNDP’s Country Director, a.i. at a recent land handover ceremony.

Land titles can be used as collateral for loans at a bank or microfinance institution, helping to economically empower people and transform their communities. In addition, secure access, use, and control of land, whether through traditional systems or legal means, is essential to protecting women and vulnerable groups from injustice related to arbitrary management of land.