Rural poor people in Madagascar strengthen resilience through land tenure

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Rural poor people in Madagascar strengthen resilience through land tenure

©IFAD/Laura Chumillas

Women at work in a rice field. Madagascar: Project to Support Development in the Menabe and Melaky Regions

In western Madagascar, IFAD-supported projects have been helping people in rural areas gain legal rights to their land – a key tactic in the fight against poverty.

When smallholder farmers own their land, they can use it as collateral to access credit. Land ownership also gives them more incentives to invest in better farming techniques and manage their land sustainably. These approaches can strengthen resilience in a country where 78 per cent of the population live on less than US$1.90 per day.

In 2005, the Government of Madagascar introduced a national programme to help citizens formalize land ownership. However, to apply for certification, applicants must prove their legal identity, which deters many rural people. Since 2006, IFAD has supported rural communes and helped establish local land offices to ensure that services are accessible and affordable, particularly for poor rural people and women.

With IFAD support, rural communes have issued nearly 16,000 duplicate birth certificates and more than 10,000 identity cards, enabling rural people to access administrative and financial services. And farmers are not the only ones benefiting.

Justin, a retired teacher, is one of many rural people now able to gain rights to their land easily and affordably. “The land office here is a really good thing,” he says. “In this region, there are a lot of land tenure issues. Some people have even killed or have been killed. Land certification helped put an end to this situation.”

Justin had never thought of legally owning his land before. But as he got older, the idea became more important to him and his family. Since his children can now inherit the land, they will have a strong foundation to build prosperity.

In addition to supporting land tenure, IFAD supported projects have introduced more environmentally friendly farming methods, better irrigation and improved seed varieties. As a result, smallholder farmers have seen substantial increases in their harvests. Average yields of many of the main agricultural crops and staple foods have more than doubled – with irrigated rice, upland rice and beans showing the strongest increases.

This story was originally published in IFAD’s 2016 Annual Report.