Land tenure and certification

parcels demarcated

certificates available for collection

certificates approved


Within rural societies, land is a source of identity and dignity. Secure access to land is fundamental to the livelihoods of rural households. It provides a source of food and income through agricultural production, as well as shelter, and reduces vulnerability to hunger and poverty.

LIFT is supporting the registration and certification of over 14 million land parcels, recognising the rights of all legal landholders, through its second level land certification (SLLC) process. This makes it one of the largest land registration programmes in the world and a global leader in large-scale land registration. LIFT is working with the Government of Ethiopia to transfer these processes into standard government practices. Examples of specific procedures include the appropriate steps required to register the land rights of polygamous households and orphans, as well as specific approaches to ensure the inclusion of women and vulnerable groups in the SLLC process, thereby guaranteeing their land tenure rights are protected.

The Benefits of SLLC

During the 1990s the government launched a large-scale land demarcation programme now known as first level land certification (FLLC). Although a success in terms of its scale and reach, FLLC certificates only contained information on the parcel size and landholders’ details. They did not include specific information on the boundaries of landholders’ parcels. Furthermore, as more focus was given to land demarcation instead of establishing a land administration system to record subsequent land transactions, many certificates became out of date after the initiative. This, coupled with the fact that households were unable to prove their boundaries, resulted in a high incidence of boundary conflicts and land tenure insecurity.

The benefits of SLLC are twofold. Firstly, it ensures that through the demarcation process the details of the landholders (textual data) as well as the boundary parcels (spatial data) are verified and documented, so that certificates can include this information to reduce conflicts between neighbouring farmers over the boundary between their land. Secondly, when subsequent transactions are recorded, landholders are provided with updated land certificates, ensuring that the register of interests in land is accurate and up to date.

About the process

LIFT’s approach to land demarcation and certificate issuance follows a proven strategy, which involves several key stages to ensure public engagement and transparency throughout the process. It also considers the barriers that women and vulnerable groups face in achieving land security and their resulting impact on inclusivity.

Stakeholder engagement

Activities conducted

Sensitisation workshops are held with relevant institutions within the woreda (administrative district) to inform the woreda governance structure of the aims of LIFT and establish division of responsibilities in implementation.

Ensuring inclusivity

LIFT engages with community level rural land actors and undertakes mapping of women and vulnerable groups who face tenure security issues that require additional consideration during demarcation.

Public awareness

Activities Conducted

This is the first stage of SLLC and starts one month before actual land demarcation. It raises awareness of SLLC through public meetings that inform landholders of the benefits of SLLC and the process involved, to ensure their participation.

Ensuring Inclusivity

Women-only public meetings are organised to ensure that information on SLLC reaches them and their concerns on tenure security can be voiced and heard in the absence of men.

Demarcation and adjudication

Activities conducted

Once the public awareness stage is completed, demarcation and adjudication commences. This is the process of gathering parcel holders’ personal details and surveying their parcel boundaries.

Field teams, accompanied by local representatives, visit each parcel and walk along the parcel boundary with the landholder and neighbours. They mark this on an aerial photograph map of the area (spatial data) and record the details of the corresponding landholders (textual data).

If there is a dispute that cannot be resolved immediately about who is the true landholder of the parcel, or a disagreement about the parcel boundary between neighbours, the dispute is recorded and referred to the local justice system.

Ensuring inclusivity

The data collected from the community mapping exercise on vulnerable groups and their locations are used by the field teams to alert them to specific individuals who will need additional support during the demarcation process.

Data entry

Activities conducted

After demarcation, the textual and spatial data collected by the field teams is entered as follows:

Textual data is entered onto a computer database called iMASSREG, wherein two data entry technicians enter the same data for each land parcel separately. This ensures that the correct information is entered, and if any details differ between the two entries this is flagged by the system and reviewed.

Spatial data is entered by scanning the field team’s annotated aerial photograph maps . A technician then digitally records the parcel boundaries captured in the field, creating a digital map of parcels which can be linked directly to the textual data.


Public display

Activities conducted

Once the information is entered onto the database it is displayed to landholders at a public display event. Landholders can then confirm that their parcel boundaries are correct on a map and that their personal details are also correct. This helps to resolve any errors and ensures transparency – the whole community can see the information.

Ensuring inclusivity

In order to ensure that the rights of household members are fully captured, both husbands and wives must attend public display events to verify the parcels and that their details have been correctly recorded.

Certificate approval

Activities conducted

Once landholders have confirmed that their parcel boundaries and personal details are correct, this is approved by the woreda land administration and printed as certificates.

Certificate collection

Activities conducted

Once certificates are printed these are distributed to landholders, often at large distribution events.

Ensuring inclusivity

Both the husband’s and wife’s names must be called out during certificate collection events so that wives are aware of what certificates they are named on as landholders.