The module 3 corresponds to the level of intervention of subnational entities, i.e. Municipal Districts and Indigenous Communities and Territories (ICT) where LAPs seek to promote multipurpose land administration systems.

Module 3: LAPs and Subnational Entities

Experience of LAPs at subnational level

Implementation of the municipal cadastre

Traditionally in Central America, land management and above all cadastral implementation have not been a priority for local governments. This situation is explained not only by the costly investment that this requires, but also by local authorities’ fear of reviving tenure disputes or losing political popularity due to the taxation involved in cadastral registration.

LAPs seek to increase municipal cadastral tax bases, which correspond for the most part to physical maps. To achieve this they carry out the collection of municipal information, train staff and provide certification to municipalities so that they can update the cadastre without the additional intervention of the programme.

Consequently, the cadastral updating work carried out by LAPs has meant a great increase in municipal cadastral bases. Although local governments generally concentrate their efforts on urban cadastral mapping, as this requires less effort and represents greater tax benefits, there have also been increases in rural cadastral bases. In the Comayagua department in Honduras, several years after the closure of the first phase of the LAP, several municipalities reported increases in tax receipts from rural areas and even reported a lower payment default rate in urban areas. It should be noted that municipalities in this department adopted ingenious collection mechanisms, such as tax collection tours.

Taxation management by municipal governments

The increase in receipts resulted mainly from a rise in the number of tax payers, not in property values. This is explained partly by the efforts made in cadastral mapping, but also by titling processes implemented at municipal government level. Generally speaking, the cadastral tax bases of municipal governments previously registered between 40 and 70 percent of property in urban areas and a lower percentage in rural areas. With the intervention of LAPs, all countries saw an increase in this base, particularly in urban areas.

Municipal governments strengthening titling processes and reducing the time taken to obtain titles has been another decisive factor. In Nicaragua, according to the final evaluation report of the Land Administration Programme (PRODEP) “the time taken to title land by the municipal route was less than in other cases”. It should be pointed out that in Nicaragua the results are more visible as there were few previous cases in which the municipalities had direct responsibility in the field of tenure regularization.

In countries such as Guatemala and Nicaragua, there are permanent mechanisms for the certification of cadastral professionals and technicians who have supported these processes. Tax collection in Guatemala has shown significant successes. The monitoring over 7 years of 11 municipal districts in the Petén department in Guatemala, which received the support of LAP I, revealed that the various municipalities succeeded in doubling taxes raised on property1.

Tax collection and updating in Guatemala

Tax collection and updating in Guatemala

After monitoring for 7 years the 11 municipalities which received the support of LAP I in the Petén department, a study2 revealed that they succeeded in doubling taxes raised on property. In the case of Sayaxché and Santa Ana, the increase in 2011 was 11 to 16 times that raised in 2005. Note that the increase in collection is usually more visible in municipalities which had a poorer fiscal tradition at the start of the project.3.

In terms of training and educating staff, the results have been less remarkable as, despite training efforts, not all municipalities kept staff trained after government changes. In other cases former cadastral heads had moved to positions as managers or treasurers and this had given them the opportunity to draw up new collection mechanisms and policies using the available cadastral information.

Support for indigenous communities

The Central American region has seen historical titling efforts at community level. This form of titling recognizes a territory in favour of a main population centre corresponding to the community, and in some cases adjacent localities have also been included (for further details see Powers of ICT in land administration).

There are several forms of titling of ICT, the first being community titling, which was adopted by Mexico in the 1917 Constitution, based on titles granted by the Spanish Crown to indigenous communities during the colonial era. This same model has been used for titling in some indigenous communities in central Honduras and the western part of Guatemala. The second form of titling considers a territory belonging to several communities. This mechanism was adopted for titling indigenous territories in Panama, Costa Rica and more recently through LAPs in the Atlantic area of Nicaragua and Honduras. Several population centres share a single title through this titling method. The model is based on traditional forms of use of territory in which a group of population centres carries out hunting, fishing or gathering of forest species in the same space. Territorial, intercommunity or comarca titling generally involves a second-level local authority being set up to which the state formally grants ownership or right of enjoyment. This can be based on legal recognition of territory as a specific legal entity (territory of the autonomous regions of Nicaragua, a Comarca in Panama) or by creating a legal figure, such as a civil association or cooperative (Atlantic area of Honduras and Costa Rica)4.

Once the communities have obtained the corresponding titles, new land administration powers are created within the territories. For these new powers, LAPs support the definition of these functions, the strengthening of local institutions, the creation of internal regulations, and local governance factors (see fact sheet on Analysis of tenure governance in ICT). With the recognition of titles, changes are similarly generated in the organizational structure of territorial administration agencies, for which LAPs offer backing of a different nature.

Territorial management and administration programmes in indigenous communities and territories

Territorial management and administration programmes in indigenous communities and territories



Intervention area

What it means for indigenous land

Source of cooperation



Land Administration Programme (PRODEP)

4 departments (38 municipalities) 2 autonomous regions

Demarcation and titling of 15 indigenous territories in the Southern and Northern Atlantic Autonomous Regions (RAAS/RAAN)

WB, Millennium Account Fondos Nórdicos



Honduras Land Administration Project (PATH), phase I and II

10 departments 27 + 21 municipalities

Demarcation and titling of 3 indigenous territories in the Gracias a Dios department

WB, Fondos Nórdicos



National Land Administration Programme (PRONAT)

5 provinces 21 municipalities

Demarcation of two comarcas (Ngobe Bugle and Kuna Yala) and the indigenous territory of the Teribe-Naso




Land Administration Project (LAP) Phase I and II

8 departments 12 + 41 municipalities

Application of the regulation for communal land declaration (Law on cadastral information registration)




Programme for the Certification of Ejido Rights and Titling of Estates (PROCEDE)


Demarcation of indigenous communities. Titling of ejidos in the names of their members

Mexican government funds


Source: World Bank and the Agrarian Ombudsman of Mexico


1 Grünberg, J. & al. (2012).
2 Idem.
3 Idem.
4 FAO (2012).