This year marks the 20th anniversary of the International Day of Peace, a day committed to strengthening the ideals of peace among all nations and peoples by promoting non-violence.[i] In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), local researchers at the Sharing the Land (STL) Center at Christian Bilingual University successfully promote peace in communities through a community-based, participatory approach to land management. Over the last year, USAID’s Research Technical Assistance Center (RTAC) has worked with the team to help create lasting impact.
In many parts of the DRC and across Africa, rural lands have not been surveyed or registered, and inconsistencies between traditional and formal systems of land ownership and use often result in disputes. Without effective governance to address these inconsistencies and grievances, land disputes can lead to or exacerbate conflict. In the eastern parts of the DRC, up to 80 percent of disputes in courts and tribunals are related to land.[ii]
To address this issue, STL researchers have piloted their innovative, participatory approach in several areas of the country to reconcile ideas and practices about land from both legally registered and informal land users, electronically document land ownership rights, and establish transparent processes to resolve and prevent land disputes. By actively involving land stakeholders in the process, they cultivate community ownership of the resulting systems, and in turn sustainability, which has led to a documented reduction of conflict over time.[iii]
To expand this successful land management approach and promote its uptake and understanding, RTAC team members worked with STL researchers to communicate their research for development impact. In April 2019, RTAC facilitated a Research-to-Action (R2A) Planning Workshop with STL researchers to better understand their policy goals and audiences and to strategize effective communications messages and a targeted dissemination plan to ensure research utilization. In the ensuing months, STL and RTAC members co-created a policy brief (available in English and French) that calls attention to land ownership and governance as a global challenge, highlights the success of the STL approach in resolving land disputes and documenting land tenure, and demonstrates the potential of this approach for land policy reform in the DRC and throughout Africa. Translating research to accessible language, along with producing a visually appealing product, can encourage decisionmakers to incorporate STL’s innovative research in policy decisions.
Since hosting the R2A workshop and finalizing the policy brief, RTAC’s work with the STL research team has already advanced development impact. Land administrations in the pilot areas have integrated the mapping technology into their daily management. In one of the pilot areas, the mayor of the city recommended that STL’s research continue so that it can support the creation of a local urban development plan, facilitate the demarcation and zoning of the city limits, and establish the connection between stability in the region and land occupancy. Other local authorities in the DRC have already expressed interest in clarifying the limits of their administrative regions and duplicating the STL approach.
The DRC has been working on national land reform since 2017. By showcasing this research in a compelling way, the STL research team has secured a key role in the country’s land reform process, with a focus on preparing the national land policy and developing a tenure security policy for local communities.
Learn more about the STL approach and its pilot successes: Sharing the Land: Applying Innovative Approaches to Meet Community Needs for Effective Land Management in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
[ii] Gillian Mathys and Koen Vlassenroot, «Pas juste une question de terres: litiges et conflits fonciers dans l’est du Congo» PSRP Briefing 14, Rift Valley Institute, 2016 ; and Moctar Ficou, «Conflits fonciers en RDC : les puissants dictent leurs lois aux propriétaires» LandPortal, 2019.
[iii] Séverin Mugangu Matabaro, A Midterm Review of the Support Project to The Land Administration in the Implementation of the Land Information System (LIS): External Evaluation Christian Bilingual University of Congo, Integrated Research Institute, 2017.