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Simprints adds facial recognition to Mozambique land ownership records

biometric digital identity verification for fraud prevention

Simprints is supplying a biometric identification layer to land tenure records as part of a project to create land ownership registries in Mozambique. The facial recognition technology is intended to improve the accuracy and efficiency of enrolling and verifying claimants to land rights.

Mozambique is reported to have generally very good policies for land governance, but difficulties at the local level cause disputes which lead to insecurities around ownership and usage. At the individual level, boundary disputes can even affect what crops people decide to sow in case someone from a neighboring community seizes the land.

Mozambique’s land registry is managed centrally with claimants having to travel to their provincial capitals to deal with any issues. A series of pilot schemes were devised to test new ways to register land. A UKaid-funded study into the new formats highlights the issue with the existing approach: “it is extremely difficult and prohibitively expensive for rural Mozambicans to engage with bureaucracies in distant provincial capitals. Multiple trips and significant costs can be involved in requesting a title. The combined financial, bureaucratic and logistical barriers make the process of formal titling a very difficult process.”

A Cadeia de Valor de Terra Comunitária (CaVaTeCo) or ‘The Community Land Value Chain’ is establishing ways for communities to delimit their community land, and within that individuals and families can claim their own plots. Education sessions are held with communities and support is given to help individuals identify their plots as well as allow the community to decide what areas are designated community land.

A video by the Land Portal, which collates land ownership project data from around the world, uses satellite mapping to demonstrate the process.

CaVaTeCo is an ODK-based platform, an open-source data collecting system where information can be gathered locally on- or offline. The system is legally proving the existence of the rights to the land as communities delimit and register their plots. Simprints is partnering with Terra Firma, a local land consultancy implementing the CaVaTeCo scheme, to supply facial recognition to tackle the issue of proving the identity of the title holders.

According to the Cambridge-based firm, the addition of its biometric verification to the CaVaTeCo platform improves the efficiency and accuracy of registering and verifying claimants and improves ongoing management of the system, without the need for physical records.

These alternative routes to rights ownership are recognized by the state even though it is not the state managing the process. A national campaign launched in 2015 aimed to register 5 million plots, but fell short of its targets and failed to create a system that could be easily updated as ownership changed.

The Tenure Facility is running one of the projects to delimit 60 communities and 45,000 family parcels in three districts of Nampula Province and two in Zambézia Province, although they have faced delays due to COVID-19.

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