Uttaran Spotlight

Documenting Land Rights in Bangladesh

In an effort to reduce conflict and provide a foundation for sustainable development, the government of Bangladesh has launched an ambitious program to document all land rights in the country and create a modern national digital land registry.

The government enlisted trusted local non-profit Uttaran to ensure that the land rights of poor and vulnerable groups, such as religious minorities, low castes, women, and the elderly, were also documented and included in the registry. As part of this pilot project, Uttaran was also responsible for educating communities, particularly vulnerable groups, about the pilot digital land survey and registration process.

Initially, Uttaran created and printed reams of survey forms and went door to door in Jamalpur sub-district interviewing families to identify vulnerable landowners. Uttaran’s field staff then sent stacks of completed paper survey forms back to their main office where the data was entered into spreadsheets.

Recognizing that such a cumbersome process was slow, costly in staff time, prone to error, and a tremendous waste of paper, Uttaran turned to Cadasta Foundation for help.

With an eye toward collecting specific, transparent, and accurate data on landowner households, Cadasta worked with Uttaran to develop a tailor-made data collection form and used a smartphone/tablet based data collection application, GeoODK (a way to collect and store information on a three-dimensional map and a suite of tools that allows that data to be visualized and analyzed). Cadasta migrated the existing data already collected by Uttaran over to the new platform, so that the organization didn’t have to start from scratch with interviewing the same families all over again.

Cadasta provided training to Uttaran staff in September 2016. In a matter of a few weeks, Uttaran staff were able to migrate existing data and continue with field data collection, reaching more than 13,000 families. The data collected included key documents that support ownership claims.

Within a few months, the government and Uttaran had begun using the data to educate land owners and communities about their legal rights. This accelerated the issuing land titles for these families, and enabled the government to expedite its launch of the country’s first digital land rights database.

Guided by the data collected, Uttaran is also working to support community involvement in these processes, to ensure that communities understand the importance of the survey and registration, the rights of vulnerable individuals and communities, and the steps necessary to legally secure
their rights.

“We are eager to expand this pilot project further,” said Mamun Ur Rashid, Project Coordinator for Uttaran. “It is now tested. And it is now proven that it can work. Our staff are using this tool and sharing our knowledge. These digital tools are making everything easier.”