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The place of cadastral surveys and registration of rights in rural development

Not every country is contemplating immediate reforms in its agrarian structure but almost every country in the world has been making strenuous efforts to improve the efficiency of its agriculture and of its rural economy generally and also the conditions of life of its country people. The hard facts of modern life have shown beyond argument that the only hope (and that by no means a certain one) that the world may continue to support an expanding population lies in progressive improvement in the volume and efficiency of agricultural production. This in turn demands, as well as provides, a progressive improvement in the conditions of life of the agriculturist and of those engaged in occupations ancillary to agriculture.

In consequence, most countries have found it necessary to take stock of their existing natural resources and of the way in which these resources are being used or neglected. Many countries have also found it desirable to elaborate plans for the improvement of agriculture and for the development of the rural economy. These plans may take many forms besides the land reforms mentioned in the previous chapter. They may be based on great schemes for irrigation, drainage or flood control, for the prevention of erosion or for the conservation and extension of forests; they may involve elaborate plans for controlling agricultural production either by expanding the cultivated area or by increasing the area planted with particular crops; they may depend on the development of new or reclaimed lands by settlement, or they may include the systematic improvement of rough pasture or marginal lands. They may, on the other hand, aim at the improvement of the technical efficiency of the farmers by the introduction of new or improved methods and materials, or their economic efficiency by improved credit, communications and marketing arrangements. They may involve the provision of monetary incentives such as subsidies for the adoption of a particular crop, practice or type of farming, or payments to dissuade farmers from working certain land - the European Community for example has been paying farmers to ‘set aside’ land so that it is not used for agricultural production. There may be plans for the improvement and extension of agriculture by foreign immigration or by movements of local population. There may be policies for the relief of unemployment by agricultural expansion or the development of rural industries, or the replacement of inefficient farmers by more efficient ones, or the administration by the state of “problem areas”.

Development programmes may be almost infinite in their variety, but in every case not only the successful operation of a project but even its satisfactory formulation will inevitably demand, first, knowledge of the human and material resources actually or potentially available, and second, knowledge of the manner in which these resources are being used, misused or neglected.

Large-scale maps and exact knowledge of the way in which the land is held provide one necessary foundation for the accumulation and classification of knowledge of available resources. The other necessary foundation is an efficient census and classification of the human resources of the country, which census itself must largely depend for its utility, if not for its very possibility, on large- scale maps and other features of the cadastral survey.

When the knowledge acquired by inventory and classification comes to be applied, whether to an estimation of the current situation or to planning for the future, the need for maps becomes even more cogent. There are many factors in appreciating a situation that cannot be classified and understood at all without maps and there are few indeed that will not be made clearer if maps are available and used. Similarly many development projects depend inevitably on maps both for their inception and for their execution, and practically every scheme will be better made and better executed with maps than without them. This point is of such great importance and so often overlooked that it is worth elaborating. In doing this it seems better to discuss the question in relation to large-scale maps in general rather than in relation to cadastral maps in particular. The difference is largely formal, except to the extent that large-scale topographical maps include descriptive detail, especially relief, which may not be found on cadastral maps proper. A large-scale map for present purposes may be defined roughly as any map on a scale of 1: 25,000 or larger. For many purposes, maps on a scale of 1: 25,000 must still be regarded as smallscale maps, but as there are some types of country in which such a map will be large enough for all ordinary purposes this scale seems a useful point of division.

It happens that aerial photographs at scales of this general size may also have a value both in the preparation of inventories of resources and as guides to planning not less than or even greater than that of the maps that can be produced from them. This is particularly so in acquiring a knowledge of natural resources, especially in the preparation of forest inventories and surveys of natural vegetation, in conducting surveys of soils and soil erosion, in geological surveys, in determining general land use, and in surveys of the distribution of surface water. A map, however, is the best possible medium for recording and displaying surveys of these kinds. Not only does the map provide for subsequent identification on the ground of features brought out in the survey, but it greatly assists in describing the results of the survey by allowing the eye to help the mind in forming a comprehensible picture. Observed facts recorded in statistics or written descriptions are much more difficult to comprehend than are the same facts when set out on a map. Maps can contain a great clarity in description and an accuracy in identification that makes their use of great value in the description and evaluation of natural resources. The same characteristics give maps an equal value in demographic studies and in recording the results of agricultural censuses.

For the above purposes, maps at smaller scales may suffice but when it comes to more detailed description and identification, larger scales are likely to be required. Thus 1:15,000 may be regarded as a suitable scale for forest surveys, while 1: 8,000 may be suitable for surveys of mines, and even larger scales may be advisable for surveys of oil fields and of some types of surface mining. It is therefore in the accurate description of land use that maps on the usual cadastral scales begin to show their full value. The Ordnance Survey of the United Kingdom decided as long ago as 1840 that the scale of 1:10,560 was not large enough for many national purposes and hence most of the country has been mapped at the scale of 1: 2,500 for rural environments and 1:1,250 for urban areas. The cadastral maps of other western European countries are at comparable scales.

Before the 1:10,560 scale plans of the United Kingdom were published (they are now at a scale of 1:10,000), vast sums were spent on the production by private official agencies of large-scale maps ad hoc and many of these maps were not very reliable. While the private sector of today is able to produce maps at least to the same standards as national mapping agencies, there are advantages in working to national standards of accuracy and content that can only be maintained if governments take a lead in establishing and monitoring these standards.

The general uses to which a series of large-scale maps can be put, either directly or as base maps, are too varied for enumeration and a few examples must suffice. Obvious cases are irrigation works, flood control or protection works, the construction of railways, roads, canals and ports, pipelines and many urban purposes such as town planning and sewerage. Cadastral maps can be adapted to all these uses either as they are printed or by the addition of relief or other details that the special purpose may require. In the case of works involving the movement of water by gravitation or the control of flood water, the accuracy of the levelling required is such that no ordinary map is likely to provide it. The absence of relief lines on cadastral maps does not render them less useful than maps on smaller scales which show vertical variations in surface. The complete absence of relief may in fact be an advantage since the map can be used directly to record the levels required.

Cadastral maps which show field boundaries are especially suitable for mapping land use and in classifying land on the basis of soil capabilities or productivity. Maps of Myanmar at a scale of 1:3,960 were used to record the field-by-field classification of land on which the land revenue assessment was based, and for the production of the annual crop statistics for which the crops grown on each field or part of a field were recorded. In many countries soil maps can only be satisfactorily constructed on scales of around 1:5,000. These are countries where geological erosion, changes in elevation or other causes have produced significant field-to-field variations in surface or subsoil. Areas of this kind are much more common than is generally realized.

Maps in a cadastral series are also of great use for many administrative purposes. The assessment of any tax based on area (as the most satisfactory taxes on agricultural land usually are), requires such maps, and indeed this use is the primary purpose of cadastral maps in the technical sense. The advantage in the direction of equitable assessment is obvious. The advantages from the purely fiscal point of view, though less obvious, are no less real and the introduction of maps in new areas or the revision of out-of-date maps has in many cases produced an increase in the revenue demand which paid for the survey in two or three years. In Myanmar, in general, it was found that the introduction of a proper survey in a new area produced an immediate increase of not less than 50 percent in the demand at the old rates. In one case the revision of a badly out-of-date survey caused such a large increase in demand as to neutralize completely the effect of a remission of 40 percent granted by the Government.

Cadastral maps make possible the precise plotting of annual or seasonal variations in the area supplied with water from irrigation canals, and thus facilitate calculations of the actual amount of water supplied to any farmer or field. They also allow the effects of changes in water supply on crops to be clearly and accurately recorded, and permit a close control over water distribution to ensure the optimum available supply.

Congested oil fields, areas used for surface mining, especially the mining of precious metals and gems where holdings are small and disputes frequent, mining operations in hilly country where the precise boundary on the surface may be of great importance, the protection of the boundaries of communal grazing grounds or of the cattle paths approaching these through farm land, the periodic distribution of land held under communal tenure, the precise delimitation and maintenance of village fuel reserves and the control of unauthorized cultivation in or along the edges of all land reserved against cultivation are other examples of administrative uses of cadastral maps.

The use of maps as a means of recording annual crop statistics has already been mentioned. Since, however, the most accurate possible estimates of crop production are of the greatest importance not only for formal agricultural planning but also in connection with the ordinary economics of agriculture, it is worthwhile reverting to this point. It has to be admitted that in many countries statistics of agricultural production, and especially crop forecasts, are far from satisfactory. The causes of this are complicated. To a large extent the defects in the statistics arise from inherent difficulties of estimation of annual variations in yield or from faulty organization. This is not the place to discuss defects of this kind. Perhaps the most important defects, however, arise from inaccurate estimates of farm areas or of sown or matured areas, and from insufficient knowledge of the normal productivity of the land. In theory it should be possible to determine production with sufficient accuracy from the measurements of the actual produce that all farmers make.

In practice, however, there are considerable difficulties in doing this, and such measurements will not in any event assist in making forecasts of production. Measurements of areas therefore assume great importance. The cadastral survey gives directly precise figures for farm areas. In many parts of the world where farming is monoculture or based on a simple rotation, these figures by themselves provide a good basis for the estimation of sown areas, and even elsewhere they provide at least a firm basis for estimation by other methods. Without going to the length of the annual marking of crops, field by field, it is possible to use the cadastral maps for such marking over a short series of years in order to provide a basis for later estimation. Alternatively, it is possible to check periodically the estimates reached by other methods, either by complete marking or by sample marking in selected areas. By this method a much firmer basis for the estimation of sown and matured areas is obtainable. Similarly the maps can be used as base maps for classification of the productivity of the land where there are considerable local variations or to facilitate direct sampling of annual yields.

The use of the cadastral maps for a classification of land according to productivity is only one instance of the many types of classification for which large-scale maps are required. The classification may be of the actual land use, or for revenue purposes, or may be a soil classification; it may be made for the recommended use of the land, of existing farm types, or for soil conservation purposes; it may relate to the carrying capacity of pasture, to tenures, or according to water supply. All such classifications either require cadastral maps or are made much easier and more accurate by the use of such maps.

In connection with the collection of statistical data, the registers of rights, as well as the maps, have great value. The direct uses to which these registers can be put are so obvious as to require no enumeration, but it is perhaps worthwhile pointing out that simple supplementary entries in the registers that can be made with little extra trouble are capable of providing a great deal of important information that would otherwise only be collected with great difficulty. Whether the primary holders are the sole cultivators of the land, whether they are local residents or absentees, whether they belong to an agricultural class in cases of a plural economy, and many other sociological facts that may be of great importance can be recorded. A simple entry, perhaps of one letter of the alphabet in each case, can be sufficient in the register. Corresponding data can also be obtained for subordinate landholders and even labourers as can types and duration of tenancies, details of rents and many other matters connected with tenancies.

Cadastral maps and registers can also be used for the analysis and interpretation of census data. The best results in this connection will, of course, be achieved if the units on the basis of which the demographic enumeration is carried out are correlated to the units of the cadastral survey and land registers. The relative smallness of survey units will allow a close approximation of the area covered by them with that of the census units even if the latter continue to follow political boundaries. Correlation of census and cadastral data permit the accurate analysis of many features of the rural economy, and also greatly facilitate the conduct of inquiries into such economically important facts as the gross productivity per agricultural worker.

It must be admitted, however, that most systems of cadastral survey and registration of rights include one feature that limits their direct usefulness in inquiries into relations between human beings and the land. The necessity of maintaining a means of continuous identification of individual holdings in map and register, while it does not prevent the recording of the subdivisions of holdings, can place formidable difficulties in the way of combining holdings within a single map or register. If a holding is divided, it is easy to show the division on the map and make new entries in the register, the continuity of which is secured by cross-reference to previous entries. Combinations of holdings, especially the combination of a part of one holding with another, are much more difficult to effect without confusion.

This fact, together with the fact that only groups of contiguous fields can conveniently be shown as holdings on the map, suggests the desirability of providing a supplementary “index of estates” in which all the holdings of a single individual or group are entered in one place. This device can obviously be extended beyond the basic registration unit to combinations of such units and ultimately, if required, to the country as a whole. The initial compilation of this index and its maintenance for combinations of registration areas will be laborious, but its statistical value is very considerable, and it becomes a necessity wherever land legislation limits the area to be held by one person. Fortunately the problems are less acute where the records have been computerized and data relating to an individual holding can be extracted with relative ease even though the data relate to non-adjacent land parcels.

So far in this chapter emphasis has been placed on the advantages of cadastral surveys from the point of view of the State rather than from that of the individual. It is necessary to point out that the individual has many corresponding advantages. It is an interesting fact that a very large number of private surveys of land are carried out every year in most countries, by licensed surveyors or even by the landholders themselves. The existence of official large- scale plans obviates the need for many of these surveys or at least provides base maps on which additional detail can be easily recorded. Cadastral maps, copies of which can be readily and cheaply obtained, not only lessen the cost of legal proceedings for which such maps may be required, but greatly facilitate the planning and lessen the cost of many types of farm improvement, for example drainage or irrigation schemes, the construction of farm roads, the laying of piped water supplies, the siting of new buildings, etc. It is also obviously to the advantage of the large farmer and still more to the owner of a large estate to be able to obtain without personal calculation exact data as to the area of farms, fields, roads, ponds, or other features on the estate. Estate and farm maps can also be used in many ways in connection with the planned operation of a large estate or farm, for instance as a permanent record of use, planting, dates of operations or yields, and especially in connection with silviculture, tree crops and other long-term agriculture.

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