The demand to address property rights issues is increasing from both United States Agency for International Development (USAID) field missions and host country governments. The increase in demand is due, in part, to a growing awareness among development practitioners of the role played by property rights (and natural resources access and use) in economic growth, governance, and conflict and resource management. USAID and its partners have learned several important lessons from the last decade of research and policy work in regard to the relationship between property rights and economic growth, productivity, natural resource management and conflict. In particular,
- Secure property rights are a critical component of economic development and social stability. Inappropriate property rights policies and institutional structures that are not synchronized with economic, political, and environmental realities can undermine growth, erode natural resource bases, and catalyze violent conflict. Conversely, strong property rights systems, which are viewed as legitimate, transparent, and negotiable, can lead to increased investment and productivity, political stability and better resource management.
- In development programming, property rights are most frequently dealt with in the context of land reforms and land tenure reform. Programming decisions made in a variety of sectors that take land tenure into consideration can have profound impacts on land use and management, agricultural systems and associated natural resource management.
Issues and constraints regarding property rights vary from region to region, and they will continue to evolve over time. The most volatile of USAID-presence countries, and those that are often in the greatest need of property rights reforms, are fragile states. Since property rights are so closely linked to development agendas across the globe, there is a need to understand how these rights shift as economies move through the stages of economic growth and democratization (and, in some cases, from war to peace) and how these shifts require different property rights interventions.
In light of these concerns and issues, a Community of Practice on Land was created by USAID in Washington to serve as a hub of information sharing (see our brochure). In addition, the Land Resources Management Team was formed within the USAID/Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade (EGAT) Bureau to coordinate issues of land tenure and property rights programming with other USAID bureaus and operating units.
In October 2003, USAID awarded Tetra Tech a 2-year task order, Awareness Framework: Property Rights and Natural Resources Management, under the Broadening Access and Strengthening Input Systems (BASIS) indefinite quantity contract. Under the BASIS task order, Tetra Tech and its partners, the Rural Development Institute (RDI) and the University of Wisconsin Land Tenure Center (LTC) developed a land tenure and property rights framework, and a set of tools that could be used to help guide USAID through future property rights programming. Under a second USAID contract awarded in August 2004, the Lessons Learned: Property Rights and Natural Resource Management task order, Tetra Tech and partners developed a series of papers and best practice documents, conducted land tenure program evaluations, and developed Land Tenure and Property Rights short courses for U.S. government (USG) foreign assistance practitioners and government policymakers in host countries. Much of this work can be viewed at the USAID Land Tenure and Property Rights Portal.
Tetra Tech and partners continued these and new activities under a third USAID contract awarded in October 2007, the Property Rights and Resource Governance (PRRG) Project. In August 2012, USAID awarded Tetra Tech the Strengthening Tenure and Resource Rights (STARR) indefinite quantity contract.