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Land regularization of Lesotho

Photo: Jakob Riise/COWI


With the overall objective to reduce poverty in Lesotho, COWI (Denmark) and ORGUT Consulting (Sweden) successfully carried out a project seeking to strengthen the property rights of legitimate land occupiers.

Millennium Challenge Cooperation (MCC) formed a compact constituting an agreement between the Government of Lesotho and the Government of USA setting up an administration entity – Millennium Challenge Account Lesotho (MCA-Lesotho), with the main objective to reduce the poverty in Lesotho by stimulating economic growth.

Lesotho is a small kingdom surrounded by one neighbouring country, the Republic of South Africa. The country has a population of approx. 2 million, of which 40 % live below the international poverty line.

The Compact includes the regularization or formalization of real property rights of informal land settlements through mass registration, reduction of costs associated with resettlement, land development, land use planning and registration of land. In March 2012, COWI was awarded the contract.

Orthophotos as a means to register land owners

The project was implemented in the urban and peri-urban areas of the capital city Maseru. By use of digital orthophotos, COWI registered the formal ownerships of 50,000 claimants through public outreach campaigns, where the owners identified their property to paralegals and with the information entered immediately into the system on the spot in the claimant's neighbourhood. The formal owners received registration documentation and later a deed of their property. The ownership was recorded in Lesotho's existing land information system.

The services provided also included designing a land information system, assessment and recommendation of relevant legislation, surveying and mapping, capacity building of the client and stakeholders as well as overall project management.

Updated registration systems securing the rights to land 

In little over a year, COWI-ORGUT handed over 48,000 adjudication records in a complete information system (database and lease generation software), enabling the Land Administration Authority of Lesotho to complete the lease distribution to claimants by the end of 2013.

Furthermore, the project has led to an updated and expanded register of real property rights with improved quality for the areas of the cities of Maseru including nearby Mazenod, as well as Hlotse and Maputsoe, in the north of Lesotho.

The project introduced digital registration on a major scale as one of the first in the world enabling accurate maps of parcels and claims of ownership within a very short time frame. The digital registration further facilitated quality assurance procedures at an unrivalled level.

LAST UPDATED: 13.04.2017