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STARS: towards land tenure security in Sukumba, Mali

“No stopping half-way!” This is the powerful message we heard from Lassina Dembele, two mayors and a half-dozen town counselors in Sukumba, Koutiala district, Mali, when local authorities hosted a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation delegation in a community meeting at one of the STARS project sites in Mali, October 6, 2015.

  • Group photo of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/STARS delegation meeting with Governor Sylla (Molobala), the mayors of Koningue and Nafanga, and town council members in Sukumba, Mali, Oct. 6, 2015. Group photo of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation/STARS delegation meeting with Governor Sylla (Molobala), the mayors of Koningue and Nafanga, and town council members in Sukumba, Mali, Oct. 6, 2015.

From land use conventions to services and beyond

Chaired by the Governor of the Molobala arrondissement and in presence of elected representatives from the Koningue and Nafanga communes, this meeting exposed the complex issues surrounding land tenure security in rural communities, and how local authorities were able to set a successful example of land conflict resolution through the establishment of land resource management conventions. Over the past 1.5 years, these by-laws effectively eliminated the need for financially and socially straining court hearings to settle land conflicts between farmers. Developed with STARS partner AMEDD,*1 these by-laws are the social pre-requisites to the establishment of imagery-based land tenure information services, precursors of emergent and equitable land markets in rural Africa.

AMEDD Director Bougouna Sogoba discussing the rationale behind land resource management conventions with Governor Sylla.

Local and national stakeholders working hand in hand

Among the consensual decisions reached by these pioneering communities is the interdiction of land sales to potential buyers coming from outside the community, regardless of whether they are of foreign or Malian origin, from Bamako or from the district headquarters Koutiala 40 km away. Except for habitation purposes strictu senso, and only after approval by the communal assembly. Combined with the direct involvement of rural hinterland authorities in the 5-yearly revisions of the district master urbanization plan (regulating the growth of Koutiala), this provides a solid base for the securement of rural land capital, and a compelling illustration of appropriation by local authorities of land use rights. Colonel Checkine M. Dieffaga, the national director of PAFOC*2 hailed the process and pledged to report it as an exemplar of successful decentralized management of land resources to H.E. Mohamed A. Bathily, Minister of State Domains and Tenure Affairs.

PAFOC National Director Colonel Dieffaga

Scaling up and out

Soon, Col. Dieffaga will look forward to showcasing the next step in the deployment of next-generation land tenure information services: mLocGovTM, a ground-breaking land tenure and land use information platform provided by STARS partner MANOBI S.A. is being scaled up to bi-univocally pair a phenomenal database of 63,148 parcels for the entire Molobala arrondissement with the biometric census database available with each constituent commune. That stepping stone is now made possible with the involvement of Prof. Kalifa Goita, a Koutiala native who also heads the CARTEL,*3 working with a crisp WorldView2 imagery base provided by DigitalGlobe.

Biometric census printout sheets covering the walls of the Sukumba meeting hall.

It also builds upon mayors’ demonstrated interest in using mLocGovTM to secure production plots for all farmers under their constituency, and upon their realization that agile, computerized solutions constitute the last missing link towards effective transfer of competences: this will give them a significant head start in preventing future peri-urban conflicts AND in implementing national land tenure management plans.

STARS’s next goal? A non-stop march to Africa’s giant, Nigeria, to also cover Kano State’s Bebeji Local Government Area, and its mindboggling 260,000+ parcels. Rural cadasters are now rising into place. Like LEGO blocks. And the locals are in control.

To learn more: or see the STARS website at:

Photo credits: Z. Diakite © ICRISAT, 2015

*1 AMEDD - Association Malienne d’Eveil au Développement Durable, Koutiala, Mali

*2 PAFOC - Projet de gestion du patrimoine foncier communal (the Communal Land Capital Management Project)

*3 CARTEL - the Center for Remote Sensing Research and Applications at Université de Sherbrooke, Canada