An end to property disputes for two communes of Central Burundi

In order to defuse the property disputes between the inhabitants of the communes of Makebuko and Itaba in Burundi, student surveyors and topographers of Topo San Frontières are making their expertise available to the local land ownership services.

Humanitarian and Development

Communes of Makebuko of Itaba, Gitega Province, Burundi

Assane Mbaye

€ 4,000 (2014 winner of Student Solidarity Awards), Selection Committee of May 23, 2014 to the Selection Committee at 2014/05/23

Project leader

Topo sans frontières, student association of l'Ecole supérieure des Géomètres et Topographes (College of Surveyors)

"My missions as a Veoliaforce volunteer have taught me the importance of topography: in addition to the downstream step of any development project, it represents for the local population the first tangible document attesting to their ownership. This made me realize the huge task that still needs to be done in this area, especially in this part of Africa where, upon a closer look, conflicts are mostly associated with the challenges of property issues."

Assane Mbaye

Since 2003, the nonprofit Topo Sans Frontières (TSF) of students of the Advanced School of Surveyors-Topographers (ESGT) of Le Mans has been sending its members on community-benefit missions across the globe. In the field, in partnership with local nonprofits or NGOs, they work on topographic surveys, a preliminary and essential phase for any construction project (water supply, dams, schools, etc.). After Madagascar, Sri Lanka and Burkina Faso, the missions have been focused on Burundi since 2012.

Socio-property diagnosis...

In Burundi* (Central Africa), land was traditionally an inalienable, collective resource, passed on from generation to generation. Time has eroded this family arrangement, and over the years, land has become a commodity. Today, demographic pressure, the absence of ownership deeds, and the breakup of the land inherent in successions, are generating serious property insecurity that hampers agricultural development and hence aggravates poverty. As evidence, 80% of the conflicts filed before the courts are property disputes.

The aim of the 2014 mission of the TSF students is to support the land ownership services of the communes of Makebugo and Itaba in Gitega Province (Central Burundi) to draw up cadastral plans together in order to define the property boundaries. Local professionals provide their knowhow (procedures, customs, etc.) and in six weeks, the students will mark the boundaries of more than 200 plots: survey drawing and property certificates, installation of a cadastral database and, above all, training of the local agents in the use of the topographic equipment (levels, tacheometers, etc.) and in the new measuring techniques ultimately aimed at enabling them to manage their service themselves. To wind up, quality control of the work will be carried out so that the land ownership services have objective data on the quality of the work done, and so that each proprietor, knowing the exact boundary of his plot, can make more effective use of it.

... and training of the local agents at the heart of the project

Sessions aimed at clarifying the issues prompting the studies and the objectives of this approach are organized in advance with the communal and zonal authorities, leading administrators of the commune, the hill chiefs, the Bashingantahe (local dignitaries) and the population of each hilltop. TSF also works closely with the nonprofit APDH (Association pour la Paix et les Droits de l'Homme), which has been developing property expertise since 2003 throughout the country in order to identify the problematic issues and the expectations of the proprietors. The mission ideally addresses the needs identified by the local partners.

The jury of the Student Solidarity Awards, particularly impressed by the exchange and transfer of skills between the TSF students and the local professionals, has rewarded the project by awarding it the 1st prize of the 2014 event.

Assane M'Baye, the sponsor, is himself an expert in topography and accustomed to Veoliaforce missions (topographic missions connected with cholera prevention in the Democratic Republic of Congo).

* Burundi is one of the poorest countries in Central Africa, out of 11 million inhabitants, 90% live off the land.