The module 4 Corresponds to impacts on beneficiary households where LAPs seek security and legal certainty about land ownership.

Module 4: Household Livelihoods

External factors influencing impacts at household level

The experience of LAPs in Latin America for almost 20 years has shown that impact levels derived from regularization and titling processes have limitations in poor urban or rural households. The political, social, cultural and institutional factors that are capable of influencing the project results should therefore be considered. Taking into account environmental potentials and threats will help to formulate interventions more suited to the situation of each country and conduct a more accurate project implementation and evaluation.

As regards land, household livelihoods are influenced by policies, institutions, and the cultural and social setting in which they exist. These factors can include the following:

  1. Land policies and their means of implementation.
  2. Other development programmes started by the government and/or national financial institutions can facilitate access to production requisites from land.
  3. The cultural setting and municipal capabilities regarding land use planning and the development of services and infrastructures.
  4. The local setting in terms of economic dynamism and disputes relating to land tenure and the use of natural resources.

The aspects that influence impacts at household level

The aspects that influence impacts at household level

Influence of the policy and institutional framework

As mentioned in the methodological proposal, this tool does not address evaluation of land policies and legal framework, extensively dealt with in the VGGT and LGAF. However it examines its influence within the scope of LAP impacts.

The coherence of the policy and institutional framework strongly influences the scope of regularization programmes. Firstly, the constitutional and regulatory framework should provide men and women with the same rights to access, use and control of land, as well as their freehold right to these. The experience of titling programmes in Latin America has shown that women are not always able to benefit fairly from programmes, and this is explained partly by the fact that in some cases titles could not be registered in the Land Register by women, wives or daughters1. A legal framework that recognizes indigenous territories and their forms of governance2 is also necessary. For a tenure regularization or titling programme to have positive impacts, it must be supported by institutions that allow recognition of individual or joint ownership or possession of all individuals, as well as by programmes facilitating access to services of different types (public, financial, and technical assistance, etc). A legal framework that allows the regularization of possessions has significant effects on more vulnerable populations, in particular in urban fringes. 3

See the International Property Rights Index

See the International Property Rights Index

The World Bank publishes annually an index of the protection of rights to physical property and intellectual property which serves as a comparison of the situation in various countries in the world. This index includes the political and legal environment as a key variable. It states that even the most comprehensive legal framework for property rights cannot be delivered without a strong legal authority and an independent judiciary to enforce them4. When institutional capabilities are weak, beneficiaries encounter limitations to obtaining benefits from regularization processes.5

Secondly, the legal framework and institutional organization encourage an infrastructure of LAP activities and contribute to the efficiency and sustainability of regularization, information updating and user awareness efforts. At the same time this facilitates access to land administration and property valuation services. The constancy and robustness of the legal framework similarly enables households to commit and adapt themselves as well as possible to land administration systems and regulations. Experience in Latin America has shown that frequent changes in land regulations and in the associated policies generate a climate of uncertainty among households and hinder understanding of the applicable processes and standards, and this can contribute to tenure disputes (see the example of experience in Nicaragua).

See the International Property Rights Index

See the International Property Rights Index

In Nicaragua the annulment and overlapping of legal frameworks from the 1960s onwards caused an increase in disputes and a feeling of widespread insecurity in relation to land tenure. The Agrarian Reform carried out by the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) during 1960-1980 led to the distribution of unoccupied land through the Agrarian Reform Law and promulgated several decrees for the confiscation and expropriation of abandoned or mismanaged land to create state-run farms. During this period the government carried out several titling processes to use and operate state-run farms and cooperatives, as well as joint titles for indigenous communities and titling of individual parcels through titling previously unregistered former owners.

In 1990 the National Opposition Union (UNO) government transformed legal frameworks, legally annulling the validity of former laws and creating new regulations to govern land granted in the past. All of this resulted in the review of agrarian reform titles and the reversion of former legal provisions in favour of previous owners or private buyers. The legal and institutional situation of tenure is currently characterized by the overlapping of - currently or formerly – legal documents, which grant the same rights to part or all of the same properties to different individuals. This situation has caused not only increasingly severe polarization between small and large landowners, but also great insecurity and lack of confidence in relation to the durability and validity of titles granted by the state.

The National Property Management Programme in Nicaragua, funded by the government and the World Bank, aims to strengthen the legal, institutional and procedural framework to solve problems related to the lack of reliable information about property and the legal security of households located on land that has been reformed, registered in the state’s name or belonging to municipalities6.

Influence of other government programmes and financial systems

The role of the government in implementing credit access, production incentive or environmental protection programmes has been shown to potentiate the benefits of LAPs, particularly for small farmers and landowners. The aim should therefore be the linking of LAPs and government or private programmes related to credit access initiatives and social or environmental transfers, as well as production investment, food security and housing improvement.

The financial system and its provision of insurance services are similarly necessary to increase access to financial services for the most vulnerable households which do not use title guarantee deeds for fear of losing their land. A further key aspect related to the financial system7 is the legitimacy and recognition of titles granted by the state. The state should guarantee and provide incentives for private banks to use titles as mortgage security, otherwise it may result in the exclusion of new titles when accessing banking services8. As regards transfers by the state, indigenous communities or rural households with individual or joint property titles have been able to benefit from monetary transfers through payment for environmental services, such as in the case of the PINFOR and PINPET in Guatemala or the PPSA in Costa Rica.

As widely demonstrated, regulation does not lead directly to a change in technology or an improvement in production, and state intervention is therefore necessary to facilitate access to technology or inputs. Without incentives for peasant-based agriculture, the results of LAPs would be reflected only in producer-exporter groups and would accentuate the concentration of land as in the case of Petén in Guatemala9.

In Latin America where land distribution is still very unequal, markets are largely controlled by powerful groups which have greater facilities for accessing property. In these cases state policies in favour of groups that are more disadvantaged in terms of land market access or vulnerable when selling their properties should intervene through subsidized credit, land transfer or other redistribution mechanisms.

Influence of the municipal institution

Municipal governments can have a key role within LAPs in increasing benefits at household level as they provide services and infrastructures to regularized parcels and housing. It is therefore important that rural communes and communities also have access to municipal services and infrastructures. In many Latin American countries these populations are excluded from basic services because they do not have titles and do not pay land taxes, and this hinders their access to land administration services and other services needed to improve their livelihoods.

Municipalities or territories where internet access and/or other means of communication are limited or which have a high staff turnover in public agencies similarly have limitations on the implementation and sustainability of administration and information systems.

As the municipality is the area of citizen participation closest to households, it assumes great legitimacy and powers in various sectors10. To facilitate tenure regularization, LAPs help to strengthen the rights and obligations system of citizens and hence their ability to participate in politics and their representativeness by allowing them to be included on electoral rolls for the district where they live.

See module 3 for further information about the municipal context.

Influence of the local setting

For LAPs to have greater impacts, they require a local setting that allows them to become firmly established. As regards the social setting, it can be said that in communities where disputes are constant and recurring, tenure regularization can have minor effects, particularly if there is no confidence in the national legal system11.<br/>Furthermore, this type of intervention has proved to have better and greater impacts on settings where disputes have not been able to be resolved by the local authorities12 (see the example of local disputes and property deeds, i.e. in Guatemala). The presence of social support networks has helped to strengthen the perception of security in terms of protection against violence, theft and eviction13.

In Latin America where different cultures coexist and with a large indigenous population, the value and function of land differ and strongly influence forms of land management and administration. LAPs consequently need to take into account the cultural aspects and territorial claims of indigenous peoples. LAPs also need to have a good knowledge of the social context so as not to leave out former land beneficiaries, as demonstrated in other regions14 or has occurred in the case of titling in Honduras, or in the case of communal cadastral declaration in Guatemala.

The existence of armed groups, gangs and other players capable of controlling land in Central America contributes to an atmosphere of violence and harassment which can erode the benefits of titling and reduce legal security of tenure15. It is therefore important to take this context into consideration, as it is generally the most vulnerable who are affected; this has been the case with small farmers and indigenous communities in Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and Colombia.

The economic setting has been shown to have an influence on both the effects and the intervention of LAPs. Production and land market dynamism has influenced the need for regularization, particularly in areas where economic development is greater and where the land market is more active. The Honduras LAP therefore decided to prioritize the more dynamic areas of the land market, considering that the need for registration and cadastral information updating and regularization was a priority to support economic growth in these areas.

Example effects of titling over land tenure disputes

Example effects of titling over land tenure disputes

A study conducted in the department of Alta Verapaz and in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, shows that the positive effects of titling vary according to the predominance of disputes and mechanisms to resolve these.

In the communities studied, the majority of titles dated from the late 19th century when the government encouraged the conversion of communal land to private land for coffee production. This titling was implemented at the initiative of the owners or through local authority influence. However, in areas where the cultural values of common property were strong and where both internal disputes and the presence of external speculators were reduced, populations did not seek titles. Over time, and through inheritance and the land market, land tenure became mainly individual, although there were no formal titles to reflect this.

The study shows that titles had a positive effect on parcel use, particularly where there were disputes; the longer the dispute had been ongoing, the greater the positive effect of titles. It also shows that the positive effects of titling are more marked in communities affected by land rights disputes that had been ongoing for more than 10 years. In other words, in communities where disputes tend to be resolved relatively quickly within the community itself, a formal title seems far less important for the efficient use of the parcel16.


1 Deere C, L. ( 2000).
2 Ortiz, P. (2010).
3 Payne G.(2002).
4 IPRI. (2013).
5 Banco Mundial (2010).
6 Merlet, M. (2002).
7 Boucher, S., & Guirkinger, C. (2007).
8 Field, E., & Torero, M. (2006).
9 Grunberg, J., & al. (2012).
10 Lindemann, T. (2005). 
11 Chang (2002) en Marcours, K. (2009). 
12 Marcours, K. (2009). 
13 De Souza, F. (1998). 
14 Colin, J. P., & al. (2010). 
15 FAO (2010).
16 Marcours, K. (2009).