4.1 A land consolidation pilot project is a way to lay the foundation for future work to be carried out under a long-term programme. A pilot project usually pioneers new approaches and techniques, and thus its initiation, design and implementation may differ from the operations of later projects. Many of the organizational and legal elements that would be taken for granted when implementing projects within a mature programme will have to be devised, established and tested in a pilot. Such pilot projects are a vehicle for testing procedures and gaining experience and information needed for the design of a long-term programme. (Box 4 describes land consolidation pilot projects in Lithuania.) Pilots thus allow for a phased approach to land consolidation. Before beginning any land consolidation work, rules governing responsibilities and procedures must be defined and approved. This chapter describes areas in which such rules will be needed and identifies requirements that must be met in order to start the project.
Lithuania, with Danish assistance, is carrying out land consolidation pilot projects to support sustainable rural development.
Three pilot areas, each with different conditions, have been selected in different parts of Lithuania. The main local measures in the project areas are:
The projects seek to implement the measures for rural development.
Participation of land owners is completely voluntary and is based on negotiations. Lithuanian planners handle the negotiations with support of Danish advisors at seminars and monthly visits.
The projects provide detailed inputs for the development of a legal framework for land consolidation.
The project period is from October 2002 to January 2004.
4.2 When starting a pilot project, the process may be more iterative than in the case of projects in a long-term land consolidation programme. What is included in the scope of the pilot project (e.g. agricultural improvements, environmental protection, public facilities, village renewal, etc.) will depend on the location selected for the pilot project. The selection of the project site in turn will be affected by the willingness of a local community and its farmers to participate in the project. This willingness will depend on the improvements to be provided and the way in which the costs will be shared between central government agencies, local governments and individuals. Securing donor funding will affect the financing of the project and what is included in the scope of the project. Some of the rules that will need to be established when working towards the pilot project are summarised in Box 5 and are further described below.
4.3 Who will be assigned legal responsibility for the land consolidation? A government agency should be assigned overall legal responsibility for land consolidation. In countries with long-term land consolidation programmes, the land consolidation agency typically has experts in agriculture and agriculture engineering, land administration, environment and landscape management, rural infrastructure, water management, finances and project management. This level of expertise will typically not exist in the lead agency in a country which is planning a pilot project. The pilot project should serve to identify how the necessary skills and expertise can be acquired.
4.4 The lead agency should initiate the development of a national land consolidation strategy that identifies land consolidation as an instrument of rural development. It will also be responsible for getting land consolidation pilot project activities started. During the project, work may be contracted to various individuals or companies under the final responsibility of the lead agency for the project. The lead agency will have to coordinate with various line ministries that would become involved in a pilot project, the local government where the pilot projects will be sited, and perhaps donors and the European Union.
Before a project can start, the following questions will need to be answered:
4.5 Who else will participate and how will efforts be coordinated? A pilot project will require the development of horizontal linkages between agencies and other bodies, and vertical linkages between different levels of participants. For example:
A pilot project may require the allocation of significant resources from various central government ministries. How will key government agencies coordinate their efforts? Some form of inter-ministerial coordination will be required.
With the trend towards decentralisation, projects increasingly involve local and regional governments, municipalities, water boards or water associations.
The participation of farmers and other rural residents must be defined in the institutional framework. In some countries it is common to create a Body of Participants or General Assembly comprising all eligible members of the community. This Body is represented in discussions and negotiations by a smaller group of members, often referred to as the Local Management Committee, Advisory Board or Participants Board.
The potential role of the private sector as technical consultants or contractors should identified. Some countries may encourage the private sector to undertake surveying, valuation and land planning activities, as well as to play a role in managing the pilot project, while other countries may look to the public sector to carry out these tasks.
4.6 How long should the project take? The project must not last so long that its activities adversely affect the community. The length of time will depend on the scope of the project and other factors but a time period of between eighteen months and three years should be acceptable to most communities.
4.7 How can additional lands be acquired for public facilities and enlargement of farms? Land may be required for the provision of new public facilities, and for improvements to existing infrastructure, e.g. the widening of roads and the protection of ecologically sensitive areas. Land for common rural infrastructure may be provided by all participants, although taking farm land for these purposes will further reduce the already small holdings. Land banks, land reserves and land funds may be a very important source of land for improvements and for enlarging the size of holdings. As well, additional land may be made available by farmers who decide to cease farming. Rules and procedures for acquiring additional land may have to be devised. The acquisition of land, and the project itself, may result in changes of land use from agriculture to non-agriculture, and in changes in land use categories. Procedures for permitting such changes to occur within the project will need to be defined.
4.8 Which community will be selected for the pilot? The choice of community for the pilot project should reflect priorities of the central government and the interest of local communities. The availability of additional land from land reserves and land banks may be an important factor. In some countries, a community may already be a natural choice because of past activities. In other cases, communities within an area designated as a growth area could be invited to propose themselves as a candidate for the pilot project. Box 6 provides examples of criteria that could be used for the selection.
4.9 What will be included in the pilot project? The activities to be included will depend on the priorities of the project community and on the condition of the natural and built environment. It may also depend on the extent to which the lead agency has been able to interest other line ministries responsible for public facilities. This will be the case if those line ministries are expected to fund the construction out of their own budgets.
4.10 A thorough analysis of the needs of the community must be undertaken to determine if a land consolidation pilot project will be beneficial and, if so, what kind of land consolidation procedures should be implemented (e.g. comprehensive land consolidation with elements such as the reconstruction of rural infrastructure and village renewal, simplified land consolidation or voluntary land consolidation). The analysis should identify if informal consolidation efforts are being undertaken through leasing and other means and, if so, how the pilot project can benefit from these voluntary and informal actions. For example, a project could consider how leased parcels could be amalgamated with a farmers own parcels if all parties agree.
An analysis should be carried to identify whether a location has satisfactory potential for land consolidation. Possible criteria include:
4.11 Such an analysis, using for example the SWOT (Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats) approach, should include the participation of the key people and institutions identified in previous steps. The analysis should recognise that there will be various categories of farmers and owners in the community (such as subsistence farmers, part-time farmers, commercial farmers, owner-operators, lessees and absentee owners) with differing interests and needs. It should assess the impact of a land consolidation project on these different groups.
4.12 The analysis of potential benefits should result in the project scope being defined in several ways:
The specific nature of improvements to be included must be identified. What types of agricultural improvements, public facilities, environmental amelioration and protection, village renewal, etc., will be introduced?
The parcels to be included in the project must be defined. Which agricultural parcels, forest land, water rights, non-agricultural land, rural built properties, villages, etc., will be included? Will any parcels be excluded, for example because they are under special crops? Parcels where farmers have their homes are usually excluded.
The size of the project must be defined. Too large an area will increase project costs and duration and complicate management. Too small an area will not bring benefits from economies of scale. Typically projects range from several hundred to several thousand hectares, with the number of participants being a determining factor. For a pilot project, a maximum of 100 land owners might be considered. The project boundaries should be chosen so that as much land of each holding is included in the project site. The boundaries of the project area should be kept flexible if possible, as small changes during the project will often give a better result.
4.13 A pilot project may have to balance a need for the project scope to be sufficiently comprehensive to address important needs of the community, and a need to keep the pilot as simple as possible in order to make management of the project easier. The result of the first pilot project will likely have a major effect on decisions for future land consolidation activities. The scope of the project, and its implications regarding the coordination of a number of stakeholders such as different sector ministries, should be evaluated for potential risks. A small, simple pilot that is successful will be more valuable than a larger comprehensive pilot that fails to achieve its goals. The scope of the pilot project should ensure an improvement to the agricultural situation, and care should be taken to ensure that any other components of the project (such as the provision of public facilities and environmental amelioration) are appropriate for the naturally limited scale of a pilot project. Box 7 summarises the scope of the Dotnuva area pilot project in Lithuania.
Lithuania, with Danish assistance, carried out a pilot project in the Dotnuva area during September 2000 and January 2002. The soil in the selected area is generally very good and there is high potential for increasing agricultural production. No new needs for public facilities or environmental remediation were identified and so the project focused on improving the agricultural structure in the area.
The project area included 79 private land owners, of which only 19 farmed their own land. From preliminary interviews it was estimated that it would be possible to sign land consolidation agreements with about 20-30 owners. These interviews showed there were more interested sellers than buyers. In the planning stages, 5-6 potential buyers were identified and separate consultations were held with each person to identify his or her special interests in buying or exchanging parcels of land. Working maps showing these areas of interest were prepared and the most suitable potential sellers were identified and negotiations entered into. By the end of the pilot, 19 land owners had participated and 86 hectares had changed ownership. All participation was completely voluntary.
The pilot project enabled productive family farmers to enlarge the size of their holdings, and it minimised fragmentation and improved access to roads. It also provided input for the preparation of a legal framework for land consolidation. This pilot led to a subsequent more comprehensive pilot project (October 2002-January 2004) in which land consolidation was introduced as a tool for implementing elements of local rural development.
4.14 Will the benefits exceed the costs? The potential benefits that the pilot project is expected to bring to the community must be evaluated against the anticipated costs. Box 8 gives examples of costs that may be encountered. A rigorous cost/benefit analysis should be carried out. A positive outcome should be used to persuade farmers, politicians and others that the pilot project will be beneficial. A negative result would require the project to be substantially redesigned, or abandoned and a new community to be selected for a pilot project.
Costs of the pilot project:
In addition there will be costs associated with getting the pilot project in place, for example:
4.15 How will the costs be paid? A formula for dividing the various costs between the different agencies of government, and between government and participants must be developed. Because farmers are unable to pay significant amounts for the reconstruction, the largest contribution will have to be secured by government, perhaps sourced from external funds. In projects in long-term land consolidation programmes, governments often pay 75 percent or more of costs, with participants paying in cash, in kind, or by assisting in the project. Expenses that benefit the interests of a specific holding are generally paid by the farmer concerned. When costs are shared, if farmers cannot make advance payments, the government may pay all costs up-front and require owners to repay in instalments over a period of years. However, in a pilot project it may be necessary for the state to pay for a much higher percentage of costs, if not to pay for all the costs.
4.16 Countries joining the EU might not be able to subsidise farm restructuring measures if this is not included in the Single Programming Document (SPD) which details how European Structural Funds will be used. On the other hand, it might be possible for co-financing to be provided by the EU if the measure is included in the Single Programming Document or in the Rural Development Programme (RDP) as an accompanying measure to be funded under the guidance section of the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).
4.17 How will leases, servitudes and mortgages be treated in the project? The project will enable land owners to acquire rights to different portions of land. What will happen to holders of other rights?
In some systems tenants must be offered land of equal value to that which they had been farming; if not, changes in value are compensated for by changes in the rents. Tenants may be able to request a cancellation of lease agreements if they consider the land allocated to be unsuitable.
Servitude rights may be transferred to new parcels but they may also be abolished as a result of consolidation, e.g. certain rights of way might no longer be necessary. The loss of such rights is usually not compensated.
Mortgage holders must be protected. However, the lack of a strong credit market means that mortgages may not occur often in the project site.
4.18 How will the request for the project be initiated and approved? Even if the ultimate aim is to have a land consolidation programme wherein farmers and communities can initiate projects, the lead agency may be required to take an active role in initiating the first pilot project. Information on key elements of the proposed project will have to be discussed with the community. An initial concept plan, providing a framework of the project, can be used to solicit opinions from the community and appropriate line ministries, thereby allowing the scope of the project to be defined in broad terms.
4.19 The consent of participants will be required for the project to go ahead. A decision will have to be made regarding who would be eligible to participate, e.g. owners of agricultural land, owners of non-agricultural land, village residents, community authorities, etc. Usually all land owners are participants. However, this could be particularly complex if there are a large number of absentee owners and consideration might be given to selecting pilot sites that have relatively small numbers of absentee owners. Should the project proposal require the agreement of all participants, a simple majority, or some form of qualified majority? In some jurisdictions, approval requires that the consenting owners must control more than half the area, or more than half the land value. As land consolidation projects become more comprehensive, more parties become involved in the development of plans and in some countries in Western Europe it is anticipated that the voting system will disappear. Nonetheless, there is need for substantial local support for a project.
4.20 The matter of consent of participants is more delicate in pilot projects than in projects implemented through a mature land consolidation programme. On the one hand, where land consolidation is clearly needed, a qualified majority could be considered important enough to overrule a few dissenting owners for otherwise the scheme will never get started. On the other hand, criticisms from dissenting owners, including allegations that they are being dispossessed of their land, may greatly damage efforts to introduce land consolidation.
4.21 Rules for handling objections to the proposal will have to be devised. Will there be appeals, and if so, to whom? While it is important to have a way to address objections, care should be taken to deliberately reduce the possibility of objections arising by carefully choosing the project community, and by ensuring that participants are provided with appropriate information from the start.
4.22 The consent of government will also be required as it will provide a considerable portion of the project funding. Depending on the cost-sharing formula adopted, various line ministries may be required to give their approval for the project.
4.23 Who will supervise the design and implementation of the project? The people responsible for carrying out the project must be identified. The lead agency should have overall responsibility for the detailed design and implementation of the project. Alocal management team of about five to seven people is usually formed (this management team is sometimes referred to as a Local Management Committee, Advisory Board or a Participants Board). Members are typically elected from an assembly of participants. Where leasing is extensive, the team may include representatives of tenants. The chairperson may be elected or appointed.
4.24 Technical experts to assist the local management team must be identified. Expertise may be required in areas such as agriculture, land consolidation, environmental protection, public works and finance. If the project is complex, it may be necessary to hire a project management consultant to manage the project under the supervision of the local management team.
4.25 How will the adjudication process be carried out? The inventory of the existing situation should be based on the adjudication of the position of parcel boundaries and the legal status of parcels including lease rights, mortgages and easements or servitudes. The newly created registration and cadastre systems, where they exist, should provide the base for identifying holders of rights and parcels. Rules will need to be devised for cases where people do not have legal documentation of ownership rights. For example, the apparent owner could be considered the legal owner for the purposes of consolidation without predjucing the rights of other parties to initiate legal proceedings. Public notice may also be required to call upon parties who have not been individually contacted to identify their property interests in the project site. The people who will carry out the inventory must be identified. Rules for handling objections to the inventory of property rights will have to be devised.
4.26 How will the valuation process be carried out? Valuation of parcels is required to ensure fairness in the reallocation of land, and to establish if consolidation results in the need for compensation. The methodology for calculating value must be determined. The value may be based on market value and on aspects that influence production such as soil quality, irrigation facilities and topography. The natural yield potential and the actual productivity should be taken into consideration. If there is no need to refer to market values (for example, matters of compensation do not arise), relative values could be determined. Such assessments without reference to market values may be useful where land markets for agricultural land are weak. The valuation of non-agricultural land may also have to be included. The people who will carry out the valuation will need to be identified, for example, professional valuers, a committee of farmers or some combination of valuers and farmers. It may be neccesary to involve experts, neutral parties and members of the local management committee to achieve transparency. Rules for handling objections to the valuation of parcels will have to be devised.
4.27 How will changes that are made during the project to ownership and valuation be handled? Transactions may occur during the period between the finalisation of the inventory of ownership and the completion of the reallocation of land. People acquiring land in the consolidation area should accept the consequences of the project as if they had been a party to the original agreement. Procedures must be defined to ensure that change in ownership and other rights are considered in the reallocation and payment of costs.
4.28 Will any limitations or restrictions be placed on values to land and improvements during the implementation stage? Some countries do not allow owners and tenants to take action to change property values without authorisation after a decision has been taken to proceed with the project. Improvements done without authorisation may not be taken into account when reallocating land.
4.29 How will the detailed consolidation plan be prepared and approved? The detailed consolidation plan shows how the land parcels will be re- allocated, along with the public facilities and other improvements to be constructed. The persons responsible for drafting the plan must be identified. These may be land consolidation specialists from the private sector (e.g. land surveyors, agronomists, land use planners, etc.) or from the lead government agency. Their relationship with the local management team and project manager must be defined.
4.30 The process through which farmers and other interested parties will participate in the preparation of the detailed plan must be elaborated. More participatory systems allow for those drafting the plan to meet with farmers and other parties individually and in groups to provide their views. A bottom-up approach with a focus on active participation by land owners is especially important in Central and Eastern Europe as a result of the history of top-down planning.
4.31 Because of competing requests of farmers and other participants and the constraining effects of local topography, preparation of the detailed consolidation plan may require several iterations to satisfactorily address comments made in reviews. All systems in Western Europe require a public review of the draft consolidation plan. Decisions will have to be made as to the formality of the process: some systems require extensive public notice of the meeting and, at the meeting itself, remarks and objections are documented. Parties may also be given the chance to provide comments in writing within a specified time following the meeting. A revised draft plan must be prepared following review of the comments. The iterative process thus enables objections raised by participants to be incorporated in the reallocation design.
4.32 Rules will have to be established for approval of a plan once consensus appears to be reached. Will it be necessary for participants to vote on the plan and, if so, how many participants will have to agree to the plan for consent to be granted? A decision will have to be made on what action can be taken by a person who objects to the plan. Can the decision be appealed to the courts? Appeals to the court have the potential for causing the failure of the pilot project. If a scheme is based on voluntary participation there is little or no need to enforce the plan upon a dissenting minority. Mediation and facilitation skills may be crucial in ensuring that agreements are reached and an important aspect of a pilot project will be to enable project personnel to acquire these skills.
4.33 Most systems provide that the plan becomes final after its approval by the competent authority after objections, if any, have been resolved. The competent authority, usually the lead agency, will have to be identified.
4.34 How will the consolidation project be implemented? The people who will undertake the work must be identified along with the process for selecting them. Will surveying of re-allocated parcels be done by the private sector or by the state? Similarly who will undertake the construction of public facilities and other improvements? Will the work be put out to tender and, if so, how will the selection be made?
4.35 How will the change to property rights occur? The project will result in a major change to the legal status of parcels and rights. Because existing parcels will disappear and new ones will be created, there will not necessarily be a simple transfer of rights from one owner to another. Procedures must be devised for making the new situation legally effective, e.g. all changes can be made legally effective in one ruling. The legal records to be given to each owner on completion must be identified.
4.36 Along with defining the rules of the game, a number of steps will have to be taken in order to get the game started. Support for the initative must be obtained, organizational links must be established, enabling legislation for the project must be passed, project costs and sources of funding must be identified, and people must be provided with the necessary skills. These steps are summarised in Box 9 and are further described below.
4.37 Defining the land consolidation strategy. Aland consolidation pilot project should be seen as part of the implementation of a land consolidation strategy from the start. Preparation of a land consolidation strategy will provide the context for the pilot project, allowing people to see it not as an isolated event but as part of a coordinated response to problems of rural development.
Actions which need to be undertaken include:
4.38 Identifying and managing the risks associated with the pilot project. A pilot project, by its very nature of trying something new, brings potential risks. A land consolidation pilot project can be especially risky because it restructures land tenure arrangements, and land rights are a particularly sensitive matter to owners and governments. A poorly designed project can negatively affect the livelihoods of the poor, and can cause environmental damage. The risk of such effects occuring must be avoided. Even a well-designed project can have negative effects if it is poorly implemented. If land consolidation is to be used as an effective instrument in rural development, it is crucial that land consolidation pilot projects are successful. Negative results and bad publicity could prevent further consolidation efforts from taking place in the future. Risk avoidance is an important part of the risk management strategy. In a pilot project there is no point in trying to impose land consolidation on people who do not want it, or in trying to involve other central government agencies in a project against their will. Assessments such as a SWOT analysis carried out at the start will help to identify particular risks and the ways to reduce the severity and frequency of risks which cannot be avoided. Once the project starts, good project management is essential to prevent risks from arising.
4.39 Getting support for the project. Widespread support for the project will be required in order to make it a reality. Support must be won from a number of actors.
Strong political support at the national level is essential because of financing and legislative needs. Support of local politicians in project sites is required in order to attract local resources to the project. The message of the importance of land consolidation in rural development must be conveyed, with appropriate explanations as to why land consolidation solves problems and brings benefits.
Support of line ministries is important if they are to contribute to land consolidation projects. Explanations must be provided as to how land consolidation can improve their projects.
Support of farmers and other stakeholders is crucial since a project will result in the reorganization of their property rights. Explanations must be provided as to how the project will benefit them and their community.
In each case, carefully tailored messages will need to be prepared and disseminated in workshops, brochures, etc.
4.40 Establishing the organizational links. Linkages between the various agencies will need to be established in accordance with the assigned roles and responsibilities. Horizontal links will be needed between central government agencies, e.g. through an inter-ministerial council. Vertical linkages will be needed to bring together central government, local government and community organizations. Central to establishing these linkages is how the various rules associated with roles and responsibilities will be framed. Establishing a Steering Committee can be a good idea as part of the management of the project.
4.41 Providing enabling legislation for the project. For many countries, current legislation may be sufficient to carry out a pilot project. In other countries, existing land consolidation laws may be ineffective and some elementary changes may be required to address their deficiencies. In yet other countries, legislation may be needed to allow consolidation to proceed. A legal analysis of the proposed rules of implementation should identify whether new legislation is needed for the pilot area. A considerable amount of legislation may affect the proposed consolidation process and the relevant laws should be reviewed. Box 10 provides examples of legislation that might have an influence on the pilot project. The analysis may result in a reframing of some rules in order to provide a more effective approach to the project.
4.42 The analysis may show that no specific land consolidation legislation is required to carry out a pilot project. If new legislation is needed, the appropriate form must be identified (e.g., Presidential Decree or Government regulations). A Land Consolidation Act should not be prepared for pilot projects, and instead, the experiences of the pilot project should inform the subsequent preparation of a comprehensive law for administering a land consolidation programme. Enabling legislation for the pilot project, and any subsequent legislation for an ongoing programme, should not diminish the nature of rights that people hold.
4.43 Getting the right mix of human resource skills. The skills needed to design, implement and monitor the project should be identified and appropriate training provided. Skills in facilitation and negotiation are increasingly important as the many competing interests of stakeholders will have to be resolved if the project is to be successful. Training may have to be provided for people in central government agencies, local governments, communities and the private sector.
4.44 Getting appropriate technical resources. Technical resources that reduce the time and costs of the project should be acquired. Advantage should be taken of remote sensing, geographic information systems, satellite positioning systems and the semi-automated preparation of land consolidation plans.
4.45 Preparing draft manuals. Draft manuals for various procedures (legal inventory, valuation, appeals, reallocation, final certification of rights, etc.) should be prepared to guide activities during implementation. These manuals should be revised to reflect the experiences of the pilot, making them more useful for subsequent projects.
4.46 Defining, costing and managing the project. In conjunction with the identification of the various rules needed to establish the pilot project and the interaction between various government agencies and local organizations, the scope of all activities will have to be defined and costed. These activities would include:
Building support, i.e. the costs of communication programmes to get the support of key stakeholders (workshops, brochures, etc.)
Preparation and enactment of enabling legislation.
Training of people.
The consolidation project itself including costs of public facilities and other improvements, land improvements, technical costs of reallocation, administrative costs, etc.
4.47 Funding for the project must be identified and steps taken to secure contributions from the central and local governments, participants and donors.
4.48 Finally, attention should be paid to managing the design and implementation of all activities to ensure that quality, budget and time schedule are maintained. Mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the project should be put in place. For a number of countries, the project management experience gained in recent land registration projects will be helpful.
4.49 Learning from others. Throughout the process, the experiences of others should be evaluated and incorporated in the process. The experiences of Western European countries will be very useful. The experiences of other Central and Eastern European countries will also be extremely important because each transition country will have to devise solutions with a realistic view of the resources available for addressing its particular land fragmentation patterns and needs for rural development. Partnerships and other arrangements to share information should be developed between those responsible for land consolidation in the various countries.