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Ethiopia Strengthening Land Administration Program

ELAP LandCertificateManAugust 2008July 2013

Development Challenge

Ethiopia is the second most populous country in Africa, and despite years of foreign development assistance and food aid, the country still struggles to address the root causes of food deficits and poverty. Central to this struggle is the need for land laws and a system of land administration that supports secure property rights, broadens access to land, and supports incentives for improved land-use management. Land is one of the most important assets of any rural population, particularly for the poor. In Ethiopia, land tenure has experienced dramatic shifts between feudal and socialist land policies that have left people insecure and uncertain about their property rights. After years of displacement and land redistribution, land policy is now aimed at providing people with clear land title and secure tenure. The Government of Ethiopia (GOE), through the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MOARD), has embarked on a national action plan of land titling and certification that aims to provide all rural households with robust land and property rights.


Ethiopia’s legal and regulatory framework, however, is complex. It gives regional government’s considerable autonomy over land policy and systems of administration. Each state government is in the intricate process of interpreting federal land policy over land as an important step in efforts aimed at economic growth, market development, sustainable natural resources management, and increased agricultural productivity. Moreover, the GOE lacks the resources to rapidly scale-up work on land certification, while suffering from severe capacity constraints, both nationally and in the regions where land tenure and property rights reforms are the most progressive. While multiple donors are expressing interest in lending support, managing and coordinating these interests is a major challenge, particularly given other problems of interagency coordination within and between regional and national government.



ARD’s work with land tenure and property rights (LTPR) in Ethiopia began with the Ethiopia Land Policy and Administation Assessment in 2004, which led to the following projects: (1) Strengthening Ethiopian Land Tenure Policy and Administration Program (ELTAP), from January 2005–June 2008; and (2) the current Ethiopia Strengthening Land Administration Program (ELAP). The ARD-implemented ELTAP reformed the legal framework for land and property by harmonizing regional land administration and use laws with federal legislation; improved the awareness of land users and stakeholders about land administration and land use laws and regulations; and strengthened the capacity of federal and regional governments to implement second-level land registration and certification. Despite the improvements through ELTAP, many technical and policy challenges remained that are targeted under the follow-on ELAP project.


ARD implements the 5-year, $5 million USAID-funded ELAP project, which further strengthens rural land tenure security by:

  • Component 1: Strengthening the Legal Framework on Land Administration including undertaking legal assessments and workshops; legal review, consultation and development; and training and capacity building in areas of primarily sedenary agriculture (Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Tigray regions) and pastoral agriculture (Afar and Somali regions).
  • Component 2: Promoting Tenure Security to Enhance Investment in Land including refining methodologies for registration/cadastral surveying; organizating registration teams and providing support for regional land agencies; supporting delivery of land certification/registration and issuance of certificates; cadastral survey and mapping, and training of trainers.
  • Component 3: Increasing Public Information and Awareness of land rights in both areas of sedenary agriculture (Amhara, Oromia, SNNP and Tigray regions) and pastoral agriculture (Afar and Somali regions).
  • Strengthening Capacity of Federal and Regional Land Administration Agencies to Conduct Land Reform and Deliver Land Administration Services including facilitating donor coordination, and establishing Memorandums of Understanding with GOE and donors to promote property rights reform and strengthen land administration.


ARD works in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MoARD) and the Regional Land Administration Agencies (RLAs) of six regional states: Afar, Amhara, Oromia, Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples (SNNP), Somali, and Tigray. Other partner institutions such as the Ethiopian Mapping Agency (EMA), universities and research institutions, and private sector are engaged in specific training, public awareness, and research services.



Key accomplishments under the ELAP project (as of June 2010) include:

  • Assisting Somali and Afar regions with drafting their Land Use and Administration proclamations and Afar region with its pastoral land tenure and administration proclamation land policy;
  • Facilitating USAID’s participation in the Ethiopia Framework for Sustainable Land Management;
  • Organizing consultative meetings on issues, problems, and constraints to land right transactions and facilitating rural land access for commercial investment;
  • Providing technical and financial assistance to the MoARD in drafting a white paper on reforming and streamlining land administration and land use operations in the country; and
  • Targeting high-potential investment area for expansion of work on land certification and facilitating land transactions.


These reforms combined with the former ELTAP project have collectively increased tenure security and resulted in positive impacts in areas of:

  • Increased investment by smallholders in soil and water conservation and planting perennial crops including timber;
  • Expanded area in intensive crop production;
  • Enhanced land rental markets;
  • Enhanced gender equality in land tenure rights; and
  • Reduced land disputes.
Categorized under
  • Land Tenure and Property Rights
  • Africa (Sub Sahara)