Canadian Aid for Communal Land Titles to End in March

Canadian funding for ethnic minority communities in the process of applying for communal land titles will run out in March, and other donors have not yet signed up to take over the task, officials from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), which currently provides the funding, said yesterday.

CIDA is supporting five indigenous minority communities in Mondolkiri province’s Keo Seima district through the complicated and expensive procedure for acquiring shared, communal land titles before its year-long contract to assist the communities ends in March.

“Only Canada [directly] supports the land-titling program now,” said Kan Vibol, project field manager of CIDA’s Cambodia Land Administration Support Project.

Mr. Vibol said that two minority groups in Keo Seima’s Sre Preah commune—called O’Chra and Kati with 31 and 44 families, respectively—are due to receive communal land titles of about 500 hectares each in early January, after they complete a month-long “public display” to show that they are not in conflict with outside developers.

“After the public display [of] 30 days, [if there is] no conflict, no complaint…they will issue the title,” he said.

Three more communities, in Sre Preah and Sre Khtum communes, are expected to receive titles in March, just as CIDA’s various projects in Cambodia come to an end.

“If we allow the government to do it alone…the process, the number of community registered will be late and very slow,” Mr. Vibol added.

And communal land titles don’t come cheap—or quickly.

CIDA will spend about $30 per hectare of land issued to the five minority communities it supports, Mr. Vibol said, adding that about $15,000 for 500 hectares is paid in three installments to about a dozen provincial-level Land Management officials and Royal University of Agriculture graduates responsible for the surveying fieldwork.

Mr. Vibol said that when CIDA leaves Cambodia in March, either the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ) or Finnmap—a private Finnish company contracted to provide technical support to minority groups applying for collective titles—could take over the work CIDA is doing. But other than those organizations, “I don’t see anyone that would be interested in supporting land titling,” he said.

Although Cambodia’s Land Law was created in 2001, the first communal land titles were not issued until December last year—to an ethnic Kreung village and an ethnic Tampoun village in Ratanakkiri province.

In March, a third title was granted to a Bunong group in Mondolkiri’s O’Reang district.

Volker Muller, land rights program team leader at GIZ, which funded the first three indigenous groups to receive communal titles, said the German aid organization had no immediate plans to continue CIDA’s work.

“We never considered to take over this role from CIDA,” Mr. Muller said, adding that the European Union might seek that responsibility.

“The number of donors involved in the land titling is small. It’s only Finland, Germany and Canada,” he said. “The only one still interested is the E.U.”

(Additional reporting by Phorn Bopha)

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