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Turning Assets into Usable Capital
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Peace Talks

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- Turning Assets into Usable Capital

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- Do You Have To Show Your Underwear?

By: John Drysdale

High Level Session at UN Headquarters, New York on June 30th, 2004
Presentation by Cadastral Surveys Limited on Surveying and Mapping for Rural and Urban Cadastre in Somalia [Somaliland]

“With the indispensable, daily cooperation of the Somaliland Ministry of Agriculture, in the field and in the in-house work station, the shared success that the ministry and Cadastral Surveys have enjoyed with surveying and mapping hitherto non-existent farm boundaries in the Gabiley and Dilla Districts of South West Somaliland, during the last three years in particular, has in great measure been accomplished by the enduring partnership that happily persists between the United Nations Development Programme for Somalia, the grateful Somali farming community and the implementers of this unique endeavor to bring peace to the farmlands, where there was conflict; to bring absolute security of tenure through freehold title, and prospective collateral.

In this presentation, Cadastral Surveys Limited, a UK Non-Government Organisation operating in Somalia (Somaliland) under the title ‘Somaliland Cadastral Surveys’, addresses some issues presented in an ECOSOC paper prepared by the International Land Coalition - Ifad Rome - for the High Level Session.

The ECOSOC paper makes the generalization that property owned by urban and rural poor in Africa and elsewhere is for the most part insecure and thus not fungible. The paper argues that informal property rights need to be formalized if assets are to be turned into usable capital.

Cadastral Surveys’ five-year experience in addressing this problem in Somaliland, since 1999, has resulted so far in 24,700 Somali returnees from refugee camps in Ethiopia being peacefully resettled on 4,123 farms, each farm averaging 5 hectares or 12 acres. Until the Somaliland Ministry of Agriculture and Cadastral Surveys jointly demarcated with concrete blocks their respective farm boundaries, the farmers were at war with each other. Their boundaries (and farm ownership) to this day are identified by Ministry officials and plotted by Cadastral Surveys from converted theodolite measurements on maps (using GIS/Arcview and Mercator’s coordinates) and entered on a 34-field database per farm. The database, which includes, inter alia, map coordinates of each boundary turning point, forms the bases of title deeds issued by the Minister of Agriculture. With a freehold title deed a farm-owner can theoretically (see below) seek collateral at 50 per cent of the value of his or her land.
The value of rain-fed agricultural land varies according to its proximity to roads and permanent wells for watering livestock; its average seasonal rainfall per year (400-600mm); soil water retention; soil fertility and regular crop rotation. The principal crops are maize and sorghum. In the case of much smaller fruit and vegetable farms, which are irrigated mechanically from shallow wells on the banks of dry water courses, the value of land per hectare is two or three times the value of rain-fed farms.

In cooperation with the Gabiley elected local government, Cadastral Surveys has also surveyed and mapped (using Mercator’s coordinates) the town of Gabiley giving each street, and corresponding private and commercial properties, serialized, combined alphanumeric postal addresses. This is premature because in Somaliland, being a de facto Republic only, international postal services are forbidden. The database for Gabiley has 43 fields per property allowing for the daily entry on a computer of revenue and other transactions. With comprehensive laminated registration cards for each property, the Mayor’s office can readily convert the data into freehold title deeds, if they so desire.

On both counts, rural and urban, the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Gabiley local government, together with Cadastral Surveys and their joint partner, the United Nations Development Programme, have satisfied the criteria of converting informally held property into usable capital if only the government of this, as yet internationally unrecognized country, were permitted (which it is not) to approach the World Bank for financial assistance. The government was about to introduce an agricultural credit bank three years ago but it was frustrated by Saudi Arabia’s trade embargo on imports of Somaliland’s livestock on the hoof, allegedly because of non-existent Rift Valley Fever. The adverse effect that this embargo had, and still has, on government export revenue, curtailed, inter alia, the introduction of a credit bank. Money-lenders, as such, do not exist in Somaliland.

The introduction of financial services from the lively Somali private sector would not be impossible, as was the case (albeit government controlled) during the sovereignty of the Somali Democratic Republic (1969-81). But training and capital from external sources would now be required. Currently, farmers can secure small informal loans from the business community, on the basis of their title, for such services as fresh seed, fertilizer for irrigated farms, land clearing and halting erosion, hiring tractors instead of using their bullocks, camels or even donkeys for the initial, heavy seasonal ploughing, and the collective hiring of vehicles daily to transport milk to markets some 50 kilometres away. Somali farmers, being agro-pastoralists, also possess domestic livestock – oxen, lactating cows, burden camels, donkeys and ruminants - as part of their assets.

The country has no external debts which is due, in part, to their negligible borrowing capacity as an internationally unrecognized state, and, in part, to the not insubstantial invisible exports of incoming remittances from the vast Somali Diaspora employed overseas.

Recurrent costs in Somaliland of surveying and mapping six farms a day with two teams, amounting to an average of 30 hectares a day, or two kilometres of streets a day with corresponding houses, are around US$18,000 a month respectively, including comprehensive databases and registration certificates. In the last three years, these costs have been met by the implementers’ partner, the United Nations Development Programme for Somalia as part of its comprehensive Capacity Building Programme. This has included provision, for example, for Cadastral Surveys to train all its field and in-house staff, including a field survey team from part of the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture.

Urban surveying and mapping would be cheaper if up-to-date satellite images were used. Satellite images would have little merit in Somaliland’s agricultural areas as there are no visible boundaries.

As for legal property systems, the lower house of Somaliland’s parliament has passed two pertinent legislative bills both of which respectively regulate titles to real estate and agricultural land holdings. Both do away with former leasehold requirements, now substituted by freehold possession. Three principal effects of this have been lower administrative costs, real interest in collateral over an extended period, and greater care of the environment – a significant reduction in tree felling for example and more attention to gulley erosion.

Cadastral Surveys has an all-Somali workforce of thirty persons, other than the Director, who has dual nationality (British and Somaliland). The NGO has required no foreign consultants or technical assistance since its inception in 1999. Cadastral Surveys has written its own technical manual on surveying and mapping which is being used as a teaching aid by the University of Hargeisa Institute of Land, Soil and Water Surveying. With 30 students studying for a 12-month Diploma, the Institute is expected to provide future surveyors, cartographers and database construction staff. All the necessary teaching equipment, including Theodolites, Digitisation and GIS software, has been donated by De La Rue plc of London.”


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