The lack of an adequate land ownership register in Guatemala is described by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) as "a serious hindrance to economic development, particularly for the country's impoverished smallscale farmers." The government of Sweden is therefore supporting efforts to train Guatemalans - over 400 so far - as land surveyors, and to create a modern and reliable land register. "Ultimately," Sida states, "the project will also enhance equality, since both women and men may be registered as landowners, and with land as collateral, it will be easier for women to secure loans and to take control of their own finances."
Edgar Pineda, project manager for Swedish Technical Assistance, an agency funded by Sida to move the land registry process forward, says, "It has been shown in many developing countries that providing legal security by establishing a land register promotes food and income security, as well as security for family dwellings. Such is the hope for Guatemala." He reflects that the process of registering ownership has been impossible in the past because of missing information on the ownership, contents and geographic situation of a large number of properties. "Therefore," he continues, "when the final peace agreements were signed ten years ago, the establishing of a national cadastre (property description) was one of the issues agreed upon." An initial version of a framework for a registry was developed, which became the Registro de Información Catastral in 2005.
Data on approximately 150,000 properties has been gathered, but this is only about five per cent of the estimated number of properties in the country. Despite the seemingly slow progress, Pineda says what has been accomplished so far serves as "a reliable basis for obtaining the same degree of security for those who do not yet possess it." Although it will take perhaps 20 years to complete the registry, Pineda sees it as a necessary step "in order to achieve benefits for society and landowners, not only by securing land rights and facilitating the land market, but also by improving economic and social development, environment planning and monitoring, and making land tax a more efficient instrument for financing local development."