Legitimate land tenure and property rights: fostering compliance and development outcomes. Rapid evidence assessment


This rapid evidence assessment (REA) seeks to address the question of which policies and interventions or approaches have been successful in fostering compliance with legitimate land tenure rights and what impact these strategies have had on development outcomes.

The research reviewed for this paper shows that there is evidence that a range of strategies employed by government, civil society and local communities have improved tenure security and property rights. There is also some evidence that these strategies have resulted in some immediate or short-term outcomes, i.e. improved living conditions for vulnerable groups such as women. However, there is limited and mixed evidence that strategies have had an impact on development outcomes. Many of the examples that were found to have fostered compliance have not been in place long enough for evidence of positive outcomes on poverty reduction, gender equity, and access to formal credit, or public services to emerge and manifest themselves. More specifically, the results of the REA can be summarised as follows:

  • The search results produced 113 references. Of these, 61 were of high quality, 50 of moderate quality and 2 of low quality. A total of 74 were of the primary research type and 38 of the secondary research type. The evidence base is variable, reflecting the diverse nature of land tenure categories under different legal systems and social and economic change.
  • A total of six policies, approaches and interventions were successful in fostering compliance with legitimate tenure systems and achieved positive development outcomes in particular contexts. These include: freehold ownership through land titling; leasehold; land registration and land use certification; community land trusts (CLTs); common or communal ownership; and private land rental.
  • Freehold ownership through land titling was the dominant example of compliance with statutory tenure and property rights in the literature search, accounting for 62 of the total of 113 publications revealed by the search strings. This reflects, in large part, multiple claims that land titling leads to positive development outcomes. There is, however, evidence showing these claims are contested.
  • A total of 25 high or medium quality studies described seven policies or interventions—including temporary occupation licenses, certificate of rights, land use rights certificates, among others—that fostered partial compliance with legitimate land tenure norms. They achieved increases in tenure security and positive development outcomes but have received less attention than land titling. As such, these strategies may deserve more consideration by both researchers and policymakers as they are less costly and more easily implemented than land titling, while achieving sufficient levels of tenure security to encourage investment and land property improvements.
  • There is a medium body of evidence (11 studies of moderate and high quality) highlighting that land titling can have a positive development outcome in terms of gender equity.
  • There is a small body of evidence (less than 10 studies) showing that successful tenure policies, approaches and interventions build incrementally on what has proved to work at local or regional level and enjoy social legitimacy.
  • Overall, the literature reviewed for this REA has provided mixed evidence of a link between the tenure strategies and positive development outcomes. Because of these limitations, caution must be applied when using the conclusions from those studies as a basis for policy formulation and implementation, especially in the absence of additional research.

This report has been produced for Evidence on Demand with the assistance of the UK Department for International Development (DFID) contracted through the Climate, Environment, Infrastructure and Livelihoods Professional Evidence and Applied Knowledge Services (CEIL PEAKS) programme, jointly managed by DAI (which incorporates HTSPE Limited) and IMC Worldwide Limited.


Payne, G.; Mitchell, J.; Kozumbo, L.; English, C.; Baldwin, R. Legitimate land tenure and property rights: fostering compliance and development outcomes. Rapid evidence assessment. Evidence on Demand, UK (2015) vii + 44 pp. [DOI: 10.12774/eod_cr.september2015.paynegetal]

Legitimate land tenure and property rights: fostering compliance and development outcomes. Rapid evidence assessment

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