In the 1990s, a lack of legal security in rural property rights was identified as one of the main obstacles to economic development in the Cochabamba Tropics. As this is an area that has been recently settled, in most cases property rights were originally based on the occupation of state-owned lands, recognized at the time of settlement by territorial organizations formed by settlers, or on land endowments by the National Institute for Colonization in the 1970s and 1980s.
Over the years, these property rights, acquired through possession or endowments, were transferred to third parties through private documents. As a result, today more than 60% of land owners in the Cochabamba Tropics have obtained their land by purchasing it. Without a title issued by the State and registered in Derechos Reales (the Property Registry System), land rights are not legally established and informal land owners do not benefit from all of the safeguards provided by the law.
In order to overcome this state of legal insecurity, troubling most rural/agrarian property, the Bolivian government began a project to regularize land rights based upon the National Agrarian Reform Service Law (Ley del Servicio Nacional de Reforma Agraria), better known as the INRA Law of 1996. This law exists today in a second stage known as the new Community Reorganization of Agrarian Reform Law (Reconducción Comunitaria de la Reforma Agraria) of 2006.
Through a bilateral agreement supporting alternative development in the Cochabamba Tropics, the Bolivian Government and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID/Bolivia) partnered to manage a project focused on the fast, large-scale regularization of property rights in the Cochabamba Tropics. This project served as an additional component to the integrated development focus offering economic development alternatives in the region.
Initially, the Project was to last for thirty months with the primary objective of helping the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (Instituto Nacional de Reforma Agraria, or INRA) finish land titling in the Cochabamba Tropics, a process that began in 1999 with the assistance of a program financed by the European Community. With this new support from USAID/Bolivia, it was anticipated that INRA would not only verify land ownership rights and title all of the region’s properties, but also develop and validate a fast, large-scale, low-cost property rights regularization process that could be applied in other similar regions of the country.
In October 2006, the Project was extended for eighteen months in order to incorporate as many tracts of land as possible into the property rights regularization process, and to support a municipality of the region in developing and launching the first integrated municipal cadastre in the country, as an instrument for administrating municipal territory.
When the Project concluded in May 2008, 467,259 hectares of land, corresponding to 37,073 properties had been incorporated into the property rights regularization process in the Cochabamba Tropics, and the Municipal Government of Villa Tunari had completed the installation of the first integrated municipal cadastre in the country. Both achievements have a nation-wide impact since, on the one hand, the tools that were developed and validated by INRA have been included in the new INRA Law and the National Land Ownership Verification and Titling Plan (Plan Nacional de Saneamiento y Titulación) and, on the other, the Bolivian Federation of Municipal Associations (Federación de Asociaciones Municipales de Bolivia, or FAM) has adopted the integrated municipal cadastre as a national model for its members.
The role of the Bolivia Land Titling Project (BLTP) was to provide financial and technical assistance to four government institutions involved in the process of regularizing property rights and in establishing a municipal cadastre. INRA and the Office of Derechos Reales are the key institutions in the regularization of property rights. These two institutions, as well as the Municipal Government and the Vice-Ministry of Urban Development are involved in the development and installation of the municipal cadastre.
Results-oriented management was used with these institutions as a mechanism for efficiently allocating resources based on concrete goals and the achievement of agreed-upon results. In order to facilitate results oriented management, a monitoring and evaluation system was designed and implemented to allow both employees and the concerned public determine where and in what stage one’s paperwork was. For its users, this system dispelled the mystery and frustration of cumbersome legal paperwork that characterize many public services in Bolivia and that encourage informality in issues such as property rights.
This Final Report is divided into four sections that attempt to communicate the rich experience of all those involved in the processes, both land owners and public employees. In Section One, the geographic and demographic characteristics of the Cochabamba Tropics are described. In Section Two, the complex process of regularization, also known as land ownership verification (saneamiento) and property titling (titulación), is addressed. Sections Three and Four present the Project’s impact on public service beneficiaries and institutional capacity building. Testimonies in the beneficiaries’ own words are presented throughout the Report in order to highlight the Project’s impact on individuals, the region and the institutions involved.