Observations with local government partners in Ovejas Montes de Maria Region
Authors: Laura Bermudez and Kevin Barthel
In what was once an epicenter of violence in rural Colombia, lives now a hopeful and welcoming community. Ovejas is a small rural municipality two and a half hours southeast of Cartagena, located in the state of Sucre. Through the Colombian Government’s Land and Rural Development Project (LRDP) funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Tetra Tech http://www.tetratech.com/en/projects/land-and-rural-development-project-colombia,
Land Alliance is supporting LRDP to develop strategies to strengthen the municipality of Ovejas’ technical capacity to organize and use land information to meet the needs of local governance to underpin economic and development – and support the ‘maintenance of formality’.
During our recent visit to Ovejas we had the opportunity to meet with the municipal leadership and found a team of motivated individuals working within a very limiting context. While there is general willingness to formalize the very complicated land tenure situation left behind by years of civil conflict and lack of governance, there is also a significant lack of local technical resources and a disconnect between the local government and the regional offices of the national government agencies charged with formalizing land tenure and providing up-to-date technical data.
In this context, building local capacity to use land information for the purposes of physical development and land use planning, protection of natural resources, collection of property taxes and permitting and licensing is a significant challenge. To address this challenge the Land Alliance team is working to incorporate international experience with local ownership of the strengthening process and its outcomes. For example, Land Alliance is exploring how to help local technicians link existing tax roll databases with mapping software and geographic information systems. The team is also providing recommendations on the establishment of a local “Oficina de Tierras” (Land Office), which will be a localized and accessible one stop center to find information land and land-related services.
As the Colombia Government begins to update the land and cadastral information as part of a massive effort to formalize rural land rights, the municipality of Ovejas, like many small rural municipalities in Colombia, will soon have the ability to use the resulting land information to ‘maintain formality’ and develop a prosperous future for the municipality and its people.