This Land is Not for Sale: Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure in Tanzania

In East Africa it is more common to see land marked as “not for sale,” rather than “for sale.” People put up these signs because it’s the main way for them to safeguard their property without formal land rights. If landowners don’t have proof of their property rights, they could fall victim to bad land transfers or even land grabbing.

The CARE team in Tanzania is working to make it easier for families to claim their land rights with our Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST) solution. MAST is an open source application used on smartphones to help individuals claim their land rights. The technology is inexpensive and 3 times faster than traditional GPS methods!

The CARE Scale by Design Accelerator and Challenge aims to showcase innovative programs like MAST. We spoke with team members Jane Mgone and Thabit Masoud about what it’s been like to participate in the Accelerator so far. How is it helping them tackle the biggest barriers to scaling the innovation?

“It’s really helping us to think through what it would look like to scale and how to design for scale,” Jane said.

While the Accelerator has pointed a spotlight on land issues in Tanzania, unfortunately, the funding for this small pilot in 3 villages has ended for CARE. Another organization is picking up the pilot but will only be reaching about 40 more villages, which remains just a scratch on the surface. How do we keep this promising innovation from the metaphorical graveyard of abandoned pilots?

Whitney Adams, Senior Advisor for Design and Innovation, reflects that this isn’t an uncommon story. “Unfortunately, organizations like CARE are constrained by available donor funding and sometimes promising innovations simply don’t have their next donor or path to scale lined up. The project has to end and staff move on to the next job. We hope the Accelerator will help teams think about the big picture from the beginning. How do we scale outside this one project? What would a realistic business model look like at scale?”

Instead of relying on donors or the public sector to pay for scale, the team is considering a business model to make MAST self-sustaining. Can the service be sold directly to landowners? Our current estimate puts the cost around $30 per plot. But what if we could get it down to $10 per plot? Would we have a customer and a sustainable innovation then?

Jane and Thabit have been sharing concepts and ideas learned throughout the Accelerator with their colleagues. What is the key thing they want you to know about what they’ve learned? “We really need to think outside the box, aside from doing traditional work.” Jane wants to know, “How can we have a greater impact? How can we do something that the people really want and need, something that can spread like wildfire throughout the world?”

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