Improving land governance

BY: Dr Wordsworth Odame Larbi
Dr Wordsworth Odame Larbi

Good and responsible land governance and an efficient land administration system, including land use planning, are one of the pillars for sustaining food security and nutrition in Ghana.

It is estimated that five per cent of the total population in Ghana are food insecure and two million people are vulnerable to becoming food insecure.

It is further estimated that 68 per cent of the land in Ghana are used for agriculture, while 15 per cent are used as permanent natural pastures.

While 51 per cent of the cereals, 60 per cent of the fish requirements and 50 per cent of meat consumed in the country are produced in-country, less than 30 per cent of the raw materials needed for agro-industries are produced in-country.


An efficient and well-functioning land administration system is one of the key infrastructure for development.

Unfortunately, it is estimated that only 10 per cent of the total lands in Ghana are titled or registered at the Lands Commission.

The need to improve the land governance framework in Ghana is more urgent now than ever.

The Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT) provide a framework, standard and best practice models for improving the governance of tenure and is advocated for use to improve the situation in Ghana.

The document was endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations in 2012.

Since the Ghana National Land Policy was launched in June 1999, the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources has undertaken two major projects to implement the policy.

These are the Ghana Land Administration Projects Phases I and II.

The projects have focused on improving the land administration system and included institutional reforms of the public land sector agencies through the passing of a new Lands Commission Act, 2008 (Act 767).

It also included piloting of systematic title registration in Accra and Kumasi, piloting of customary boundary demarcation of 10 customary land areas – ­­­­­­­­­one in each region, establishment of 87 customary land secretariats to support the management of customary lands, development of the Ghana Enterprise Land Information System (GELIS) to improve the land administration framework and the enactment of a new Lands Bill.


Key challenges to improving the land governance regime and framework still exist.

These include improving the overall policy and governance framework for tenure governance, undertaking responsible large-scale land-based investments, protecting the tenure rights of legitimate tenure rights holders, deepening the recording and documentation of tenure rights across the country to provide accurate data for decision-making and participatory land use planning and using appropriate and fit-for-purpose technologies and methodologies for mapping and comprehensive capacity development for all key stakeholders.

The Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security provide the framework, principles, standards, guidance and best practices models for improving the governance of tenure.

It places primary responsibility for responsible governance of tenure on the State as the primary duty bearer and policy maker.

It also recognises the roles of all key actors in the land governance landscape to make contributions to the responsible governance of tenure, through the workings of effective multi-stakeholder platforms and comprehensive capacity development.

The fundamental principles include the recognition and respect of all legitimate tenure rights holders and their rights, safeguarding legitimate tenure rights against threats and infringement, the promotion and facilitation of the enjoyment of such rights and access to justice to deal with infringements of the legitimate tenure rights.


The VGGT also advocates the application of the following principles in pursuing responsible governance of tenure of land, fisheries and forests: human dignity, non-discrimination, equity and justice, gender equality, holistic and sustainable approach, consultation and participation, rule of law, transparency, accountability and continuous improvement through effective monitoring and evaluation.

The principles take into account power imbalances in pursuing tenure reforms as well as the free, prior and informed consent of local land users in decisions on land investments.

These principles set new parameters and change the rules of the game by placing tenure security in the centre of development, ensuring that legitimate tenure rights are protected.

Responsible governance of tenure and tenure security provide incentives to local people to invest in their land for improved food production, food security, improved nutrition and improved environmental management.  

As we pursue more tenure reforms in the country, and particularly in the implementation of the new Lands Bill it will be important to bring on board the principles of the VGGT.
The writer is a Land Tenure Officer with the Sub-Regional Office for Eastern Africa of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the UN, Addis Ababa.