Blockchain: a solution to land rights related conflicts?

Several interested parties met on December 12 to discuss blockchain technology

When aiming to support livelihoods and peacebuilding, solutions to land related conflicts are required for sustainable outcomes. That’s why on Tuesday December 12th, ZOA facilitated a meeting on the potential of blockchain technology in the context of securing land rights to the benefit of poor and vulnerable populations in developing countries.

The participants were interested in assessing whether involving blockchain might be possible and beneficial to a development-oriented project on resolving land rights issues. Technology often does not offer solutions in complex social and political contexts, yet it can provide an infrastructure for solving problems. The discussion at ZOA mainly revolved around the broader practical and ethical questions, not around the technology itself.

Land related conflicts  in Uganda
David Betge, who is working as an expert on land rights at ZOA, talked about a project focusing on land security, conflict resolution and agricultural development. It started in 2015, in the Nwoya district of Uganda. Here, ZOA has been working on land tenure security with the government and traditional authorities. The objective was to introduce certificates of Customary Ownership in cooperation with the government. The problem of registering subsequent transactions as well as practices of land grabbing and corruption led to land related conflicts in the context of this Ugandan district.

Blockchain might be possible and beneficial to a development-oriented project on resolving land rights issues

Blockchain in Ghanaian context?
Other input came from Vincent Oberdorf, who talked about his research in Ghana on why and how blockchain is relevant to land administration in a development context. In the Ghanaian context there is an increasing pressure on land due to international and private investments. This puts pressure on ownership, increasing corruption. Lots of land is taken by the Chinese and consequently exhausted due to gold mining practices. Like David, Vincent discussed that blockchain can be an infrastructure to these issues, but not a solution.

The participants of the meeting agreed that there is a strong interest in preparing a proposal for a pilot on addressing the problems described in the Ugandan case. There was a consensus that a socially sensitive, inclusive and multi-partner/stakeholder pilot project seems possible and desirable. Therefor the group decided to plan writing a collaborative proposal, involving e.g. ZOA, Vincent Oberdorf (In2Afrika Foundation), ITC, Kadaster, The Spindle and seek other relevant and interested parties and experts.

For more information on this project, please contact Annewies Kuipers (annewies@partos.nl) or David Betge (d.betge@zoa.ngo).

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