China: China concluded a rural land registration pilot project in Feidong County in the Chinese province of Anhui. The project provided farmers in two villages digitally generated rural land certificates, giving them clearly defined rights in the newly introduced land registration and cadastral systems.
The project was conceived with a World Bank funded study tour in 1998, and the project team includes, in addition to ILS, Anhui Agricultural Commission, Trimble Navigation, ESRI, ESRI Canada, Landsea (formerly the Rural Development Institute), Digital Globe and Beijing Landstar Digital Technology.
Eight provincial rural land registration pilots were initiated by the Ministry of Agriculture, with the Feidong project being one of them. The experiment differs from the other pilots in two areas: firstly, clear & accurate mapping and delineating of every household’s unconnected land parcels; and secondly, the application of modern land management systems and geospatial technologies to support the capture and maintenance of land data.
The pilot was undertaken by Feidong County Government with funding from United States Trade & Development Agency (USTDA). A consortium of US technology companies, led by International Land Systems, participated in the planning and implementation of the project.
The accuracy threshold defined by the Anhui Agricultural Commission was 50cm, which gave the project team a baseline to test the geospatial methods applied in the mapping process. Total station surveying and digitised imagery were used to map the villages. Handheld GPS and digitised imagery were also used to test the effects of different topographic features.
The team concluded that not one mapping method would be entirely applicable for the entire province and each method would produce errors. Therefore, the selection of methods was based on speed, cost-effectiveness, error rate and also costs of error-adjustment.
Many practical challenges were encountered during the process. Previously farmers had to pay tax for the land they cultivate, resulting in underreporting of actual land size; however, under the new scheme where registered land is more of an asset rather than liability, the totally area of agricultural land reported actually surged by more than 30 per cent. In addition, farmers have been leveraging the empty space on the slope or near the ditch to cultivate crops and vegetable. Determining the rights for these tiny patches of land was not an easy endeavour.
There are also parcels with no clear line of demarcation or covered by thick vegetation, making digitised imagery impossible. Parcels sometimes are co-owned by relatives belonging to different households with no clear documentation of the arrangement.
Earlier, in 1950s, collective farming system was introduced across China, making rural land ownership ‘collective’, in an unsuccessful economic experiment. In 1978, households of Xiaogang village, Fenyang County of Anhui Province de-collectivised their land contract rights from the collective to individual households. The subsequent rural land reforms allowed households to assume individual control over agricultural output, therefore increasing agricultural output dramatically across the nation. In 1992, as part of the continuous reform, urban residents were provided with the opportunity to sign 70-year on land, whose ownership still belonged to the state.