Mobile And Blockchain Tech Used To Address Land Issues Across Africa

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Written by Peter Pedroncelli

 

Land issues across the continent have existed for many years, but mobile and blockchain tech is allowing governments and communities to address such disputes.

Issues such as corruption and illegal evictions have contributed to problems with determining who land belongs to, but technology is beginning to be used to provide solutions for these particular problems.

In Kenya, a new app has been developed and deployed that aims to resolve the root causes of historical land injustices.

An app, called Timby, which stands for ‘This Is My Backyard,’ has being deployed among the indigenous Sengwer community in Kenya to increase evidence-based documentation of illegal evictions and forest degradation in the Embobut forest, the Sengwer’s ancestral land, according to Timeslive.

The Timby app, which is being used in 25 more countries and works in 11 languages, recently won a grant in a global philanthropic challenge, Reuters reports.

Timby was one of five winners of a global competition run by the Minneapolis-based GHR Foundation that recognizes ideas that address urgent community challenges. The Kenyan app will share a $1 million prize with the other four winners.

The Kenyan government and the Sengwer community have been at odds for many decades. The Sengwer have suffered evictions since the 1970s, but the situation has worsened in recent years. The resumption of forced evictions in 2014 has resulted in death, arrests, injury and destruction of property.

land issues
Photo of a burning home taken by a member of the Sengwer community using the Timby app. Photo – Timby

The Sengwer live in the Cherengany hills of western Kenya, where they say the Embobut forest is their ancestral land. The claim has brought them into conflict with the government, which has put policies in place to protect both forest reserves and water catchments in the area.

Designed and developed in Kenya, the Timby app aims to help shift the debate so that what can be pursued is a mutually beneficial approach in which the Kenyan government agrees to recognize Sengwer land rights, and the Sengwer agree to protect and restore their forests.

Land issues addressed by technology

Other technologies have also become prominent in the effort for governments and the private sector to deal with land issues across Africa.

Through companies such as BitLand, Blockchain is being used to clarify the land ownership issue in Ghana, which is open to corruption and fraud due to the fact that verifiable ownership paperwork is not available.

The Ghanaian real-estate market is rife with fraud in the form of multiple title deeds for one piece of land.

The Ghanaian government has enlisted local tech startups to develop blockchain systems that can offer landowners the necessary paperwork that can be verified and trusted, according to Cryptoslate.

The same decentralized technology is at play in East Africa, where one of the continent’s biggest tech adopters have disrupted the real estate market.

Land LayBy, a Kenyan real estate firm with a tech arm, develops land and sells lots to Africans living in the diaspora.

The company is planning to launch its first digital registry in Kenya, which will be supported by Harambee tokens, a cryptocurrency that facilitates land option contracts.

These contracts have been validated since 2014 and allow local residents to own land without the need for bank loans, paving the way to the unbanked community, according to Medium.

The government is Kenya is driving the focus on tech. Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta launched a blockchain and artificial intelligence task force for the purposes of deploying these technologies within the country’s existing economic framework, according to BusinessAfricaDaily.