An Overview of Frontier Technologies for Land Tenure: How to Avoid the Hype and Focus on What Matters

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Secure land and natural resource rights are key ingredients for rural transformation, social inclusion, and the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. In many cases, these rights are not formally recorded, and statutory land administration systems are inaccessible to rural communities. The rapid development of geospatial technologies and systems, combined with participatory methods for social empowerment, have contributed significantly to addressing these challenges and in developing fit-for-purpose land administration/land recordation systems that promote land tenure security, but with the plethora of options currently available, it is challenging to know which technologies are appropriate for what circumstances and purposes. This paper reports on the findings from a joint FAO/IFAD project that addresses this problem. Thirteen one-hour interviews were conducted with knowledgeable experts to showcase which technologies are being used for what purposes and by whom, the associated benefits and challenges, and what the future may hold. We conclude that technologies are best used in partnership with communities and as integrated solutions, that successful implementations must incorporate maintenance plans, and that the real challenge is not the technology–it is the social, legal, and political context. These findings are useful for governments, NGOs, academia, donors, and others involved in land-related projects aimed at benefitting small-scale farmers.