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The impact of land titling on poor Honduran households


A new impact assessment of the Land Administration Project in Honduras (PATH) sheds light on the extent to which land titling has helped poor Honduran households feel more secure about their land tenure – and, in turn, be more willing to invest in improving their properties.

Since 2004, the World Bank-financed PATH has sought to improve the transparency of property information, land administration services and tenure security in Honduras.

With FAO’s technical support, the project has carried out surveys on property boundaries, value and ownership, and facilitated land titling. It has also focused on recognizing indigenous land and territorial rights, and on strengthening land administration institutions, including municipalities.

Assessing trends                                                    

“Land tenure security is crucial for helping poor households improve their livelihoods and resilience,” said Fabrice Edouard, an FAO agronomist.  

“The PATH aims to develop a methodology on tenure security at country level, using a participatory method and relying on widespread consultations,” he said, adding that the PATH’s second phase had just finished. “The survey method for this kind of project was developed for the first time in Honduras, and is based on the FAO/World Bank toolkit for assessing land administration projects in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

For the assessment, a team of specialists interviewed a representative sample of households whose land had been surveyed during the PATH’s first two phases.

In total, 1,800 households were surveyed at the beginning of the project and over 2,000 at the end, representing more than 40,000 people who had received a title through PATH II.

This enabled the team to compare households in similar circumstances that had either received land titles under the PATH or not – that is, the treatment group and control group, respectively. In particular, the study looked at their economic situation, assets and social capital, as well as their access to services and capacity development.

The surveys of PATH I beneficiaries were analyzed quantitatively in order to confirm trends detected in PATH II, as PATH I beneficiaries had previously been granted land titles.

Greater tenure security

Nearly 90 percent of the land titles granted under PATH II were for residential use, while 5 percent were for production purposes or businesses. More than half of the beneficiaries were women.

According to the assessment, the beneficiary households had a greater sense of tenure security and felt less likely to be dispossessed of their land or homes. Compared with the control group, these households felt their property values had increased by about 30 percent.

Around one-fifth of the households with a land title invested their own resources in improving their properties, with about 20 percent more women than men opting to build a new house.

The assessment shows that without active land titling projects such as the PATH, “poor households in Honduras have few opportunities to obtain land titles on their own,” said Sherry Ordoñez, a monitoring and evaluation specialist with PATH in Honduras, adding that when they do manage, the recipients are usually men.  

Lessons and recommendations

The assessment’s findings and lessons can help inform the design of PATH’s third and final phase, as well as other interventions on land rights and titling.

The PATH’s efforts, for example, focused on urban populations, with many of the regularization processes still pending in rural areas. Given that households tend to increasingly invest in their properties after obtaining a land title, formalizing property could have a greater economic impact in rural areas.

Since the project, there has also been an increase, albeit modest, in the collection of associated taxes.

Land administration institutions need to be strengthened in their ability to resolve potential land tenure conflicts.

Finally, there is only minimal evidence that land titles improve poor households’ access to different types of services. Therefore, efforts need to focus on linking work to regularize land ownership with rural and territorial development processes to help increase economic benefits for the most vulnerable.

For more information about the assessment, click here.

Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT  (CC BY 2.0).


Photo Credit: CIAT