Ayelech Kidie Mengesha publishes research on impact of land registration program in rural Ethiopia

18. February 2022
photo of scholar Ayelech Kidie Mengesha
Land degradation and deforestation are major problems generally in developing countries and specifically in Ethiopia. In two recently published papers APPEAR scholar Ayelech Kidie Mengesha investigates the impact of land registration program on sustainable land use practices and gender equality.

Unsustainable land use practices in Ethiopia cause land degradation and threaten agricultural production and sustainable rural livelihoods. Empirical evidence suggests that land tenure insecurity is one reason for land degradation and unsustainable land use practices. Land reform is a key to maintaining tenure security and achieving sustainable development goals. The government of Ethiopia has launched rural land registration and certification program since 1997/1998 to improve tenure security of landholders. As a result, there has been remarkable progress in rural land registration and certification in Gozamin district, Ethiopia. However, there is insufficient scientific evidence about the impact of rural land certification on sustainable land use practices. Hence, to fill this knowledge gap, my research focused on analyzing the impact of land certification on sustainable land use practices (tree planting, terracing, composting) in Gozamin district. In addition, other key factors affecting sustainable land use practices and some institutional and organizational gaps/weaknesses of the land administration systems of Ethiopia were identified. Household survey, key informant interviews, focus group discussions, and field observations were used to collect data.

My study shows that land certification has a positive contribution to tenure security of landholders as well as sustainable land use practices in Ethiopia. Most of the landholders who certified their land has applied sustainable land use practices on their plots of land (planting trees, applied composting, and building terraces). In addition, the age of the head of the household, getting consultancy from experts, land size of the household, the education level of the head of the household, and the access to tree nursery sites are important factors for tree plantation.

Therefore, as land tenure insecurity is generally a challenge in many developing countries, attention should be given to activities supplying land rights to the people. Appropriate land tenure rights should be considered as an entry point for the empowerment of the poor. Thus, other countries, specifically developing countries can learn from the success in Ethiopia and emphasize on furnishing land tenure rights for the development of their country and thereby to maintain the sustainability of rural livelihoods.  

Another focus of my research was on the impact of land titling on gender equality. Women, especially, in developing countries, have been considerably denied land rights and other property rights. Customary land tenure systems limit women’s access to rural land and natural resources. Similarly, the past governments of Ethiopia denied rural land rights to women. This situation increases poverty and gender inequality with respect to access to land and other natural resources. As indicated above the government of Ethiopia has launched modern land registration and certification program also with the aim to improve tenure security of rural households as well as women’s land rights. Women’s land rights are constitutionally recognized in order to reduce the past gender-based discrimination and improve gender equality in access to rural land in Ethiopia. The Amhara region of Ethiopia has recognized the past discrimination of women and thus enact legislations that provides women’s equal land rights. As a result, rural land has been registered either jointly (by the name of husband and wife) or individually (by the name of male or female only). 

In order to investigate the impact of rural land registration on women's access to land and natural resources the following methods were applied: (1) document analysis of the legal framework and institutional settings, (2) a household survey of 200 sample respondents, (3) focus group discussions, and (4) key informant interviews. The results show that rural land titling/registration is an essential contribution to women’s access to land and natural resources. The land registration program is a means to avoid the previous problems of the patrilineal land tenure systems. Nowadays women are significantly more aware of their land rights than during previous periods. Land registration programs strengthen women’s self-confidence with respect to their land rights. However, women’s access to land and natural resources is still hindered by some administrative processes and by patriarchic ideologies of the local people. The study recommends that the ambitious land registration and certification program should be accompanied by a code of conduct for local officers, by monitoring and evaluation of local policy implementation, by constant awareness raising in rural societies, as well as by further education and learning offers for civil servants.

Finally, the findings of my research can support policymakers, development practitioners, and land administration institutions in their endeavor to improve land tenure security, sustainable land use practices, and women’s land rights in developing countries in general and particularly in Ethiopia. 

Ayelech Kidie Mengesha is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences (BOKU), under the supervision of Univ.Prof. Dr. Gernot Stöglehner (BOKU), Assoc. Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr. Doris Damyanovic (BOKU), Ass.Prof. Dipl.-Ing. Dr.nat.techn. Reinfried Mansberger (BOKU), Ass.Prof.Dr. Sayeh Kassaw Agegnehu (Debre Markos University, Ethiopia). The published papers are part of her PhD project conducted within APPEAR project EduLAND2 that aims to improve land administration education in Ethiopia and to improve living conditions of the local population. 


Mengesha, A. K., Mansberger, R., Damyanovic, D., & Stoeglehner, G. (2019). Impact of Land Certification on Sustainable Land Use Practices: Case of Gozamin District, Ethiopia. Sustainability, 11(20), 5551. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11205551

Mengesha, A. K., Damyanovic, D., Mansberger, R., Agegnehu, S. K., Stoeglehner, G. (2021). Reducing Gender Inequalities through Land Titling? The Case of Gozamin Woreda. World Development, 145, 105532. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2021.105532.