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Habitat International 24 (2000) 231 } 240

Reconciling informal and formal land management: an agenda for improving tenure security and urban governance in poor countries
Wilbard J. Kombe , Volker Kreibich *
University College of Lands and Architectural Studies (UCLAS), University of Dar es Salaam, P.O. Box 35176, Tanzania Fachgebiet Geographische Grundlagen, Fakultat Raumplanung, University of Dormund, D-44221 Dortmund, Germany

Abstract This paper is concerned with the agenda for reconciling informal and formal institutions and procedures of urban land management in developing countries. It argues that progress can be made in overcoming the de"cits of the formal system by gradual integration of the informal sector into decision-making concerned with housing land supply, security of tenure rights, lay-out regulation and land servicing. Studies of informal housing land development in Tanzania o!er ample evidence about the close linkages between the two sectors. Success in this area would require the recognition of existing informal institutions, the decentralisation of land management responsibilities and the extension of current urban planning legislation to cover such situations. The paper concludes that if the potential of the informal sector is tapped in land regularisation, then the legal framework for property and land management must provide a clear separation of ownership rights and land-use prescriptions. The public sector should retain the right to de"ne the principles and concepts for the distribution and assignment of land use, while the individual entitlement to private property ownership should be guaranteed and protected. 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
Keywords: Urban land management; Informal sector; Informal institutions; Local governance

Introduction Urban governance in most developing countries, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, is facing two major challenges: the increasing need for land management and the provision of infrastructure resulting from rapid urban growth, and the decreasing "nancial and administrative resources of the

* Corresponding author. E-mail addresses: (W.J. Kombe), (V. Kreibich) 0197-3975/00/$ - see front matter 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0 1 9 7 - 3 9 7 5 ( 9 9 ) 0 0 0 4 1 - 7


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public sector as a consequence of declining economic performance, political instability and institutional decadence. The high rate of urbanisation has thus already outgrown the capacity of municipalities to plan and control urban growth and to provide housing land and services (Stren, 1989). The growing gap between the need for urban governance and the available administrative services cannot be closed in the foreseeable future by continuing the conventional practice of highly centralised, top-down urban management with unrealistic legal norms and unachievable standards. The only way out of this structural dilemma is to take cognisance of the potential of socially regularised land management at the grass-roots level which has built up as a reaction to unreliable and ine$cient public sector interventions in many of the so-called informal settlements. This paper sketches out an agenda for reconciling informal and formal institutions and procedures of urban land management in developing countries. It starts from the proposition that the de"cits of the formal system can be partially overcome by a stepwise integration of the actors, institutions and procedures which are being deployed in informal or socially regulated local decision making for housing land supply, security of tenure rights, lay-out regulation and land servicing. This assumption corresponds with the new perception of informal or socially regulated land management in the international planning literature and by governments. Initially, the attitude and response of national governments toward the self-initiative of urban low-income households consisted of active hostility or benign neglect (Zaghloul, 1994) and government measures ranged from passing tough, stringent regulations to exclude such settlements from any infrastructure extension plans to outright demolition (Cheema, 1993). Eventually, however, governments have been forced to acknowledge that &informal' settlements exist because of or in response to public policies (Dowall, 1991). Government attitudes are now shifting from initial hostility toward viewing low-income groups as the real builders and designers of large parts of cities (Cheema, 1993) and providers of a!ordable housing, sometimes making up the majority of all housing units built (Brennan, 1993). The &informality' or &illegality' of their settlements is increasingly considered as an externally imposed residual category (Tarver, 1994; Glenn & Wolfe, 1996) and their potentials and limitations are becoming subjects of much urgent research and policy deliberation. This agenda has been taken up with an empirical investigation into the performance of local institutions regulating tenure security, housing land development and settlement growth in Tanzania (Kombe & Kreibich, 1999). It has substantiated and complemented former research
 The term &social regularisation' is preferred to &informal' or &self-regularisation' because it denotes the community context of decision making and control of the grass-roots.  The study on the potentials of informal housing land regularisation was undertaken over a period of two years in three cities in Tanzania. The "eld work has been based on an appraisal of the settlement structure with air photographs in order to develop a typology of informal settlements. A survey of formal and informal institutions involved in land management in 29 selected Wards of the three cities provided information about the performance of the public sector in land management and the extent of informal institutions. Based on this information and the settlement typology one saturated settlement and three settlements undergoing consolidation have been selected for in-depth study. In these case-study areas 150 detailed household surveys have been conducted focusing on the role of house-owners in land transactions and property rights, spatial regularisation and land servicing. In addition, extensive interviews were held with key o$cials and committee members of the Ward administrations and of grass-root institutions in order to understand the relationship between formal and informal land management practices. Interviews with o$cials in the three municipalities helped to validate the information obtained at the grass roots.

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Fig. 1. Linkages between informal and formal land management in Tanzania.

of the authors (Kombe, 1994,1995; Kombe & Kreibich, 1997) and the international debate by providing robust evidence that the potential of socially regulated land management is already compensating major de"cits of the public sector. The study of informal housing land development in Tanzania has also generated ample evidence about the close interlinkages between the two sectors (Fig. 1). They can be negative and con#icting, when communal needs are neglected or settlements intrude on marginal land, or positive and complementary, when the informal sector is developing an &appropriate' system for land registration to secure property rights and to arbitrate land disputes. In Tanzania, as in some other developing countries, disputes about land ownership or access to plots can even be resolved by the courts of law irrespective of the illegal status of the land concerned. The informal sector has even imitated and adopted a number of normative values cherished by the formal sector. The contribution of the socially regulated land management sector to Secure Tenure and Urban Governance } the new global campaigns of the UN Agency for Cities, HABITAT } will be considerably stabilised and improved if certain institutional reforms and a strategic reorientation in the use of scarce "nancial and administrative resources can be achieved. They are presented in the following main section of this paper as an agenda for reconciling informal and formal land management in poor countries.

 See also the article by W. J. Kombe in this issue.


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Policy review areas: institutional framework for change In the light of the foregoing it is mandatory that the limited public resources available (technical, "nancial, equipment, etc.) be strategically deployed to support the incremental formalisation of the informal land management and housing development sectors. Overnight overhaul is, from the resources point of view, neither feasible nor socially admissible. The strategic combination of the informal and formal land management systems is considered an unavoidable compromise and the single most important policy area which requires un#agging state statutory support. The challenge is, therefore, to "nd the proper balance between the state and private actors in the management and planning of urban land. Recognise existing informal institutions The social regularisation process and its institutions have } unlike the formal sector institutions } tried to cope with the changing social, economic and political situation and even adapted some of the prevailing normative values. Ensconcing the potential for social regularisation implies adopting a progressive policy stance that includes identi"cation with and backing of neighbourhood institutions which have been accepted and which regularise land management fairly well in the informal housing areas. This, however, requires simpler land registers, including adopting incremental tenure arrangements and systems of guaranteeing individual property rights. The idea here is not to do away with the formal system, but to bring the informal sector to the mainstream of the land management system. Admittedly, these are reforms which challenge the attitudes and status of bureaucrats who have so far favoured a control approach. In this regard, re-orienting the planning bureaucracy would appear equally important. Decentralise land management functions Decentralised operation is one of the main factors that have made informal housing land development e$cient in terms of prompt housing land supply. In the absence of up-to-date cadastrals amidst intensifying informal land markets, most local governments do not have su$cient information about the extent and nature of land development, on-going land transactions and development, day-to-day con#icts which emerge from con#icting interests in land and, most importantly, on land ownership in the local communities. It is, therefore, logical that neighbourhood organisations be supported or revitalised and given the mandate to regularise the management of informal land in their areas. Decentralised land management is perceived as a necessary strategy in order to sustain the social regularisation of informal housing land development. This is also a measure to build on the local actors and their experience including neighbourhood leaders, committees and organisations as well as private persons who have accumulated rich experience in regularising land development. Institutionalising decentralised land management and empowering neighbourhood communities would also facilitate other important roles such as ensuring property tax collection and mobilising resources for infrastructure provision. In this case, assisting neighbourhood organisations to establish and maintain up-to-date property registers would be a multifunctional strategy.

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Mabogunje (1992, p. 20), discussing the need for a new urban development paradigm, argues that it is critical for the states in Sub-Saharan Africa to devolve powers to the local governments and neighbourhoods or Wards. The use of neighbourhood communities to supplement municipal capacities to provide services is not a new phenomenon; it is said to have been practised in Great Britain already in the 19th century (Mabogunje, 1992, p. 20). Dowall (1996 :iv) adds that with the devolution of power to the grassroots, reform measures can be better adjusted and structured to blend with the local land market conditions. Provide a supportive legal and xscal framework and incentives Urban planning legislation in most countries (viz. The Town and Country Planning Ordinance cap 378 section 24 in Tanzania) allows occupiers of land that has been declared a planning area to prepare their plan and submit the same to the planning authority. It also provides for land pooling in areas where land has been irregularly developed (section 27 of the Third Schedule of the Ordinance in Tanzania). In such cases individual parcels of land are pooled together, planned (essentially to secure land for community facilities and services) and redistributed to the owners. The two legal provisions appear ideal for regularising land development in informal areas, quite in consonance with the spirit of supporting informal land development, particularly empowering neighbourhood communities to take up more responsibilities in regularising housing land development. It is, however, interesting to note that these provisions are hardly practised (Nnyka, 1997). Worse, the statutory rights conferred to landowners to prepare a plan are not a common knowledge to many. Land use planning has been traditionally considered too technocratic to be handled by a lay person making planning a prerogative of planners. The reforms would, therefore, require a reorientation of the urban land management bureaucracy so as to renew their know-how and be ready to learn from those who are steering land-use changes at the grass-roots. It is also worth noting that even if some plans were to be prepared by the local communities the provisions require that they be in compliance with o$cial government procedures. In principle, plans made by a community or by an individual have to pass through the planning scrutiny to get the necessary approvals before they are implemented. Under such an approach a plan would take at least a year and a half before it is ready for implementation. Surely this would neither augur well with the impetus with which informal settlements are presently growing nor match the simplicity and expeditious nature of the self-regularised land development operations. It is necessary to review the legislation and to de"ne speci"c clauses so as to legitimise semi-regularised informal housing land as an integral part of the urban land-development process. Concurrent with the legitimisation is the need to de"ne a simpli"ed statutory framework which actors in the informal housing neighbourhoods have to comply with. Local government holds a key position in community or neighbourhood-led land regularisation. For instance, it will be directly involved in overseeing the proper interpretation of the city or municipal structure plan at the local community level, setting minimum land parcelling (lot) sizes, preparing and establishing community land registers, de"ning "scal measures for mobilising local resources for land servicing and making the decentralised land management system sustainable. In short, the state is responsible for putting the institutional structure in place for steering the informal land regularisation process and de"ning a mechanism for sharing costs and bene"ts.


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The issue here is not to transfer the formal standards and procedures into the informal areas, but to bring the informal sector from the periphery to the centre of the urban land management system. It is necessary to remove the present stigma about land use planning as a public process through which individual land is appropriated followed by the superimposition of regular plot sizes and forms in an area. Land use planning does not have to be a threat to private interests on land, thus it should not necessarily lead to an appropriation or loss of legitimate rights of owners. On the contrary, it should be positively looked at as a process which confers value to land. The need for establishing a mechanism for creating competition among neighbourhood communities is an important consideration which has to be institutionalised in the neighbourhood-based land regularisation process. For instance, in order to check irregular housing land development and reduce problems associated with future land servicing, local community organisations would have to be empowered to take to task or sue those who violate community regulations. In short, there is a need for putting in place a mechanism for threatening the rights of those who do not comply with community norms including building local resistance against violators. On the other hand, local governments should be advised to adopt a preferential policy treatment which ties priorities for issuing ( junior) titles and providing trunk services in the informal settlements conditional to the local communities providing for adequate areas for communal facilities and services.

Reorientation towards strategic intervention The limited resources available to the public sector for land management and service delivery require a reorientation of urban planning concepts and measures towards strategic "elds of intervention. Short-term e$ciency and long-term sustainability should provide the decisive criteria for deploying the limited and, in the future, even more restricted "nancial and administrative resources. Dexne areas of competence and accountability for the state and for the local communities The essence of integrating informal land transactions and settlement development into formal land management is to pull together untapped resources of both the private and popular sectors. The paucity of resources, particularly in the public sector, demands, however, limiting roles and action areas to strategic intervention "elds where the available resources including the competence of the public sector can be optimally used. Indeed, one of the main objectives of widening the scope of actors involved in the management of urban land is to build the public capacity needed to intervene in informal land transactions and development. At present, neither local nor central government is playing an active role in self-regularised land transactions and development. On the other hand, the informal land development system does not guarantee or provide for democratic participation of residents in the land development process nor mechanisms for ensuring that landowners and subdividers ful"l their obligations to the public. The case of public action is therefore both economically and politically legitimate. Whilst the need for the public sector to cooperate with grass-root actors in the informal sector is indisputable, it is necessary to preserve the dynamism of the informal markets. This includes

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maintaining the entrepreneurial capacity of the informal sector, e.g. by allowing the diverse actors involved in land markets to continue playing their roles. Thus, the ultimate objective of the state should be to consolidate the functioning of land transactions and development by forging new associations and complementarities of interests among the various actors, viz. landowners, buyers, the civic society (neighbourhood organisations) and utility agencies without sti#ing the markets. Speci"c areas which require public action can be derived from the following needs: E establish a #exible framework for socially regularised land management; E legitimise and provide for junior titles speci"cally for socially regularised neighbourhoods; E prepare municipal or city strategic plans (&broad brush structure plans') including demarcation of land for trunk services; and E check the construction of housing on hazardous lands and address environmental problems in saturated informal settlements. Limits for lot sizes which can be put into the market are crucial in this context. Plot sizes which are only su$cient to accommodate a room or two do not allow for providing other essential services such as sanitation. It is, therefore, necessary for the public to de"ne minimum permissible lot sizes, especially for land transactions in booming and saturated settlements. Enhance the grass-roots capacity to manage land The achievements observed in terms of spatial order and fairly regular plots in urban settlements in Tanzania which have been former Ujamaa villages can be traced to the initiatives taken to train &barefooted surveyors cum planners' and equipping key actors with basic skills related to parcelling and orderly siting plots and buildings (Kombe & Kreibich, 1999). In order to make local leaders and committee members responsive to and capable of handling increased roles in the management of land it is necessary to improve their technical capacity or competency. This includes enhancing their awareness on matters pertaining to land servicing, imparting para-legal skills, parcelling and land-measuring standards, and land transaction and development control procedures. Breeding barefooted surveyors and planners for assisting local communities is a task which can dwell on existing resources because often there are quite a number of settlers in the local communities who are enlightened and have basic skills, for instance masons, carpenters, teachers, and even persons with a technical education background. Informal settlements with a socially mixed population like in Tanzania which o!er homes for low-, middle- and high-income groups provide many options for enhancing the local capacity for land management through building on a rich mixture of skills and potentials. Well-established administrative structures like the Sub-Ward and Ten Cell leaders in Tanzania may have engendered social capital which can provide another viable entry point for building capacity for land management at the grass-roots.

 For further details see Clarke (1991, p. 102).


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Assist in institution building Formalising informal land transactions and development is a daunting e!ort but technically, economically and politically inevitable if the transition from bureaucratic land delivery to marketled land supply is to be smooth, and most importantly, if the transformation process is to be supported from below. In other words, these reform processes have to be based on the realities existing in the local environment. Needless to caution that the public intervention process has to be diligently administered lest the land markets go underground or fuel speculation in land. Decentralised administrative units like the Ward and Sub-Ward administrations in Tanzania are the most important structures for institution building at the neighbourhood level because they have and can play cross-cutting roles in the local communities. Even though the Sub-Ward leaders in Tanzania are not o$cially mandated to regulate land development in their localities, the land question seems to lie or at least cut across a number of the 13 main tasks which they are administratively obliged to deal with: E to maintain residence registers, E to protect the welfare of the settlers and their properties, E to resolve disputes which do not have to be resolved by the Ward Committees or courts of law and E to ensure a clean living-environment including deployment of measures to prevent infectious diseases. Owing to the intricacy associated with land-management issues it might be necessary to set up a special committee at community level that is responsible for supervising and monitoring land management and resolving land use con#icts. The main role of local governments will be to provide technical support to the local committees and to ratify their resolutions. In order to be e$cient, the local governments will have to be entrusted with a certain degree of "nancial and technical independence from the central government, because the strength of the grass-root committees shall depend on how enabling and supportive the respective local government is.

Conclusions In many developing countries urban land development is increasingly operating outside the o$cial system under the in#uence of unfettered land markets. A growing number of land seekers "nd the informal sector more responsive to their demands for housing land while the public sector "nds it increasingly di$cult to manage urban growth according to its legal norms and the needs of the citizens. Building upon the subsisting social regularisation mechanisms of land management can, however, o!er an opportunity window for successful public intervention. The lessons from studying informal land management in typical urban settlements in Tanzania justify the recommendation of a policy which can reconcile the informal with the formal system.
 According to the government notice number 3 of 7th January 1994.

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Firstly, like other market systems, the subsisting informal land markets largely operate on the exchange of value against value. The initiatives undertaken by local communities to register and protect individual property underline the important function of land markets for the accumulation of wealth in a society. In fact, the sustainability of land markets depends on security. Some sense of accepting the values owned by other individuals and the community is prevailing in informal land markets. They are not anarchic suggesting the evolution of mechanisms for the exchange of values. Secondly, optimal land management indispensably entails public guidance. Liberal economists, excited by the collapse of the state-controlled economies in Eastern Europe seem to increasingly believe in delimiting the role of the state in land management or eliminating it entirely. The wholesale transplantation of this argument into Third World countries would, however, have signi"cant e!ects on the monetary value of urban land and, subsequently, on social welfare and economic productivity. The external costs resulting from unfettered non-public participation in land transactions and development would, in the long run, outstrip the short-term private gains. The supervision and guidance of the developing urban land markets by providing policy directives and a corresponding and reliable legal framework will remain an indispensable domain of the state. Thirdly, the legal framework for property and land management has to provide a clear separation of ownership rights and land-use prescriptions. This is considered a precondition to develop the largely untapped potential of the informal sector in land regularisation. The public sector should retain the right to de"ne the principles and concepts for the distribution and assignment of land use, while the individual entitlement to private property ownership should be guaranteed and protected.

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