Why digital land rights records matter: Lessons from Cyclone Idai

Editor's note: The full version of this opinion piece by GLP Member Antonio Inguane is available on the Thomson Reuters Foundation's website.

Tropical Cyclone Idai made landfall in Beira, the second largest city in Mozambique on March 14, 2019. The cyclone is considered one of the worst disasters to ever strike the Southern Hemisphere  and destroyed almost everything in its path. The storm killed more than 1,000 people, with thousands more missing, and affected the lives of more than 3 million people in Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.

The loss of public records and personal documents, such as birth certificates, property registration forms and land ownership deeds, are already having a tremendous impact on recovery efforts.

Unfortunately, there is not a straightforward solution for these kinds of challenges. What is needed is a proactive, mitigating approach involving the government, civil society organizations, and local communities in the disaster response without disrupting existing systems.

International organizations like Cadasta Foundation provide tools and technology solutions that enable individuals, communities, organizations, and governments to fill critical data gaps and make data-driven decisions for planning and recovery efforts.

Using state-of-the-art ESRI mapping and analytics software with GPS-enabled smartphones and tablets in remote field locations, Cadasta makes the most advanced technology and data sets available to groups that may otherwise find it inaccessible and unaffordable.

By using bottom-up approaches and tools like those offered by Cadasta, local communities and organizations can help expedite and decentralize the storm recovery process. Their involvement ensures that even the most remote and marginalized communities are represented in the recovery process while also helping to avoid escalating conflict and tensions during reconstruction.  

Antonio Inguane is an international development and natural resources professional that works with Cadasta Foundation as a regional trainer