Colombian Farmers Receive Land Property Titles
A group of 290 Colombian farmers from the Southern Tolima region of south-central Colombia are today receiving ownership titles to the land they work and live on, after participating in Colombia´s first major land validation project, which was designed and is being implemented by IOM.
Since the project began in 2009, farmers in this region have received 533 land titles. Most were property of the State, but Colombian Law establishes that farmers who have lived on the land for more than ten years can claim ownership and obtain title. In other cases, farmers had inherited the land from their parents or grandparents but had never carried out the formal process of obtaining title to the estate.
IOM officials working on the project travelled to the municipalities, identified informal properties and interviewed farmers to encourage them to participate in the project in order to receive title to their land.
Most of the farmers told IOM staff that they had not formalized the tenancy of their land due to not knowing the importance of possessing a formal title to their property, the costs involved, and the lengthy procedures.
Most Colombian farmers do not hold a formal property title of their land. According to the Rural Property Formalization Program of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, approximately 48% of the country´s rural properties, or more than 1.7 million farmers, do not have formal ownership.
The lack of titles has made it easier for illegal armed groups to grab land from farmers. More than 360,000 families have lost their land to the hands of armed groups, and the government created the Land Restitution Program to help them. It hopes to hand back more than two million hectares to the victims of violence.
With the title to their property, farmers participating in this project will be able to access credits, subsidies and assistance offered by the agricultural sector to promote the development of productive projects. Possessing a formal title will also prevent dispossession in areas controlled by illegal armed groups, which is the case in Southern Tolima.
"The Southern Tolima project taught all participating organizations that major land formalization processes are very effective when farmers are directly approached by the institutions. The promotion of formal land tenancy in Colombia will bring great benefits to the communities and the country as a whole," says IOM Colombia Chief of Mission Marcelo Pisani.
Based on the lessons learned during this process, IOM and USAID have decided to support the Ministry of Agriculture in the development of major land formalization projects in four other municipalities, benefitting approximately 3,800 farmers.
The initiative, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), was supported by the Colombian Institute for Rural Development (INCODER), the government entity in charge of land access and productive development policies.
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