The issue of private property and land ownership is a big area in need of intervention for the purposes of national development.
“The Peruvian economist and neo-liberal thinker Hernando de Soto has famously advocated that poor people should be given formal individual title to their land so that they can use it as an asset to develop, leveraging finance and investing in development, and this moving from the informal to the formal economy, unleashing growth potential. In Nigeria, the approach has been adopted in some quarters in Lagos State, Governor Fashola liberalized the award of Certificat of Occupancy by licensing some official other than the Governor alone to do so, and this freed up the real-estate development market."
Implications from CDD:
“Will it work in rural West Africa? One danger to turning villagers into individual landowners en masse would be the risk of banks foreclosing on loans to them and seizing their farms if the land were used as collateral—this real-life situation happened when drought struck and harvests collapsed in the US Mid-West of the 1930s. Even if not, making rural land more tradable might mean previously public assets get concentrated in the hands of just a few meaning loss of livelihoods and even harder lives for the rural poor.”
Implications from IFTF:
Lack of access to modern private property is widely accepted by development economists as a major hurdle in national development plans. If the land that people have been living on and utilizing (and according to customary law is their private property) can be taken away at any moment by the government or a corporation that purchased the land form the government (as is happening with land grabs) people lack the necessary incentives to improve the land. Imagine putting all your earning and hard work into your land, only to have to government take it away with minimal to know compensation. These are the same principles that prevent multinationals from investing in countries that have lax private property laws.
It is also important to be careful when we talk about private and public lands, while we often consider indigenously owned land “public” it is almost always owned and considered private. It may be communally owned within a family or clan, but rarely, if ever, have societies lived under truly public lands. Traditional ownership laws meant that if a family was living on, and utilizing land, they could not just be told to move. Someone else could not lay claim to that piece of land without a fight. Today, because many rural communities have not been able to acquire title deeds to land they have occupied for sometimes hundreds of years, the government can claim they do not own the land.
CDD June 2011 pg. 9