The nation is planning to launch drones to implement cadastral mapping, a digital mapping system that defines land ownership, on 13,000ha of farmland across six regional states for the first time.
The mapping, which aims to solve disputes related to land tenure, is planned to be carried out by six drones operating in Amhara, Benishangul, Gambella, Oromia, Tigray and Southern Nations, Nationalities & Peoples’ regional states. The drones will produce a detailed digital map that contains spatial data, coordinate area and GPS locations of individual parcels.
The Ministry of Agriculture & Livestock Resource, under its Sustainable Land Management Programme, will apply the new system. This 50-million-dollar project was funded by the World Bank and launched a decade ago to address environmental problems by reducing land degradation and improve land productivity. The project is expected to be phased out by April 2019.
The regions were selected on the basis of their status as farmland in highland areas and in possession by private land users, according to Tigestu G. Meskel, director of Rural Land Administration & Use at the Ministry.
“In the lowland areas many of the lands are communal,” said Tigestu, “and we use a different approach to deal with these areas.”
Before applying the system, the Ministry will pilot it at three sites. For the pilot project, it is in the process of procuring a single drone costing about 22,000 dollars.
“The largest portion of the cost is for the software and the applications, which are very technical,” said Meraf H. Wolde, a cadastral specialist at the Ministry.
Experts of the Ministry travelled to Tanzania last year to acquire the technical and practical skills to master the drone technology from the Zanzibar Mapping Initiative.
Before settling on cadastral mapping with a drone, the Ministry considered three other options: buying satellite images from international companies, taking aerial photographs from a plane, known as orthophotos, or using drones. Previously, the Ministry was paying the Information Network Security Agency 15 to 20 dollars per hectare for orthophotos.
“The process used to take months to implement due to weather conditions, such as clouds and rain,” said Tigestu. “And it also exposed the Ministry to additional costs when taking images of small areas, as the planes take pictures of larger regions.”
After mapping weredaland administration bureaus will present farmers with second level holding certificates, which contains details of the land, such as its boundaries, size, fertility and soil type. It will be replacing the first holding certificate, which did not have much details and made use of traditional techniques.
Though first holding certificates were eligible in the eyes of the law, they have been a source of disputes, according to Tigestu.
The Ministry has assessed 64,000 court cases due to land tenure, where 90pc of disputes that landed in court were inheritance, divorce and usufruct claims.
“Second level certificates can solve such issues,” said Tigistu.
According to a study conducted by the World Bank that compared first and second level certificate holders, farmers with second level certificates greatly invested in their farms, and their productivity is 40pc higher than first-degree certificate holders.
In Ethiopia, there are 50 million farmland parcels held by farmers, of which 98.8pc are first level certificates. The Ministry plans to give second level certificates to 28.6 million farmers by 2020. To date, 17.7 million farmers are in the process of acquiring second level certificates and 9.4 million have already received the documents.
Yihenew Wondie (PhD), a lecturer at Addis Abeba University’s School of Electrical & Computer Engineering, celebrates the Ministry’s use of drones.
“Considering the nature of drones, the Ministry made a perfect choice in using them,” said Yihenew.
The Ministry of Health is also in the process of using drone technology to distribute medical supplies and equipment to remote areas of the country. The Ministry is in the process of selecting companies that will supply and manage the drones.
Currently, the country does not have a law to regulate and license the use of drones. The Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority, the sole government agency responsible for the administration of all air transport and operations in Ethiopia, is in the process of drafting a proclamation on the use and operation of drones.
“We are still in the process of drafting the proclamation,” said Anmiut Lemma, corporate communications director for the Ethiopian Civil Aviation Authority.
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