In sub-Saharan Africa, many of the traditional approaches to land recording have proven ineffective. Disputes are a common occurrence, investment is scarce and the communities’ poorest are directly affected. In order to resolve this issue, an EU initiative was put in place to deliver an array of land tenure-recording tools, so as to address the region’s ongoing challenge of mapping millions of unrecognised land rights in a quick and cost-effective way.

Satellite photo with marking of individual plots of land

Approximately 70% of land tenure rights are not properly mapped in developing countries, and traditional surveying methods are both expensive and time-consuming. The EU-funded project its4land (InnovaTionS for LAND tenure) provides East African communities with access to emerging geospatial technologies, such as smart sketch maps, drones and geo-cloud services, in order to enable land-recording activities that are end-user responsive, market driven, and fit-for-purpose.

The project partners developed an innovative range of land-recording tools based on geoinformation technologies that respond to the needs of end-users, such as local communities, SMEs, NGOs and governments. One of the software tools that was set up by its4land, SmartSkeMa, works by extracting objects from a map, each represented by small symbols. The user is then able to integrate the newly sketched information into existing geo-referenced datasets, improving the visualisation of maps as necessary. Upon their development, such tools are marketed as a product or service and then made available to the general public.

Project members from Belgium, Germany and Netherlands organised site visits and workshops in Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda to assess the needs of their stakeholders, potential market opportunities and end-user readiness. In Kenya, its4land worked on mapping land usage rights in the land of the Masai Mara; this was a challenge because, within Masai villages, land ownership is often struck upon verbal arrangement with little to no bureaucratic process. The team drafted drone data guidelines, and designed, tested and validated customisable workflows for land administration, establishing legal requirements on data acquisition for all three East African countries.

The local, national, and international partnerships that have been established drive its4land’s project results from the research world into the commercial. Its transdisciplinary work has developed supportive models for governance, capacity development, and business capitalisation. This experienced consortium is part of a multi-sectorial, multi-national, and multidisciplinary initiative, which includes industry experts and researchers from the University of Twente, KU Leuven, Hansa Luftbild, the University of Münster, Esri Rwanda, Bahir Dar University, INES Ruhengeri, and the Technical University of Kenya.

Thanks to the project’s efforts, the EU has helped in building a strong network across the region, reinforcing strategic collaboration between Europe and the East African community through a scalable and transferrable ICT solution to what was previously a very complex problem.


More information

Interview with project coordinator

its4land project video

Cordis factsheet