Land Registration in Guatemala

Land Registration – for peace and development 

Guatemala has since more than 100 years a Land Register (Registro de la Propiedad de Inmuebles) with titles to land and a mortgage registration. But there is no sufficient description of the objects for ownership and mortgaging, since there exists no land cadaster, and many land tenants fail to apply for titles. Furthermore the uncertain and unbalanced land tenancy situation has caused a lot of land conflicts and even been one of the reasons for the 36 years of civil war in the country. The Peace Treaties, finally signed in December, 1996, brought a new approach to the land issue, and in 1997 the Government of Guatemala adopted a broad national program on land administration and land management (Tema Tierras).

It included:
- the establishing of a cadaster and the modernisation of the Land Register
- the strengthening and reorganizing of the national mapping
- the establishing of an entity for solving land conflicts
- the reforming of the system and organization of land and property taxation, and
- the establishing of a land fund and other measures for rural development.

Different parts of this huge program were fulfilled in parallel projects governed by the Ministries of Agriculture and Finance and the Secretariat for Peace, with a Technical/Juridical Unit (UTJ) as a coordinator. The Ministry of Agriculture through UTJ was responsible for the establishment of a national cadaster.

Swedish expert advice
Swedesurvey was supporting UTJ mainly on strategic issues concerning cadaster and land register, surveying and mapping. Swedesurvey also gave an extensive support on capacitation since there was a serious lack of skilled personal in these fields. Swedish consultants were involved in:
- the elaboration of proposals for a cadastral law and technical standards for the establishment and maintenance of a national cadaster
- the choice of methodology for surveying, mapping and for data capture, storage and distribution in connection with the national cadaster
- parts of the modernization of the National Geographic Institute (IGN), which is responsible for the national mapping and basic geodetic networks
- the designing and carrying out of capacitation programs
- the coordinating of pilot projects being realized in different regions.

Other issues being influenced were the preparation of a local project for the transformation and updating of cadastral information established in the late 60's and early 70's in a part of the country, and the preparation of a document on the possible application of land consolidation as a mean for the development of existing small farming.

The Swedish input of experts during the project period was about 65 man-months. The project was financed by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) at a total sum of SEK 8.824.000 (USD 1,1 million). Sida was also financing UTJ activities with a corresponding amount (USD 1,1 million).

The establishing of a national cadaster, covering the whole country, will take more than a decade, maybe two. So far the job has only started. Still a lot of work remains and strategic decisions are to be developed and to fix the necessary legal, technical and administrative standards, train and recruit staff, carry out information campaigns, etc. Guatemala needs international support for a long time to come, and the kind of support that Swedesurvey can offer will certainly be asked for also after the termination of this project.