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land administration

A disaster that could have been avoided: Enhancing resilience with land and geospatial data

Alvaro Federico Barra's picture
Areas affected by the August 2017 mudslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
Areas affected by the August 2017 mudslide in Freetown, Sierra Leone.
(Photos: Robert Reid and Ivan Bruce / World Bank)

On August 14, 2017, after three days of intense rain, a massive side slope of the Sugar Loaf – the highest mountain in the north of Sierra Leone’s Western Area Peninsula – collapsed and slipped into the Babadorie River Valley.

The mudslide affected about 6,000 people. Up to 1,141 of them were declared dead or missing. The deadly disaster also caused major destruction of infrastructure near the capital city of Freetown.

What caused the slope to collapse? A complex set of factors, such as record-breaking rainfall and nature of the slope, may have contributed to the incident. However, many expert assessments suggest it was mainly "a man-made disaster" due to the rapid urbanization and expansion of Freetown – coupled with poor urban planning.

Like most West African cities, Freetown is plagued with unregulated building structures, residential housing in disaster-prone hilltop areas, and unplanned settlements that intensify deforestation and increase the risk of mudslides. To make things worse, many of the properties affected by the August 2017 mudslide were encroaching on the Western Area National Park, a forest reserve that still holds one of the last reserves of unspoiled forest in Sierra Leone.

Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity

How Africa Can Transform Land Tenure, Revolutionize Agriculture, and End Poverty


The greatest development challenge facing Sub-Saharan Africa today is lifting 400 million of its people out of extreme poverty. The continent has abundant land and mineral resources to meet the challenge, but only if land governance can be improved.  A new study, Securing Africa’s Land for Shared Prosperity, offers a ten-point program to improve land governance by accelerating policy reforms and boosting investments at a cost of US $4.5 billion over 10 years.

Far East solutions for nearby land questions

Menberu Allebachew's picture

I recently had the opportunity to organize and take part in an exchange learning visit to Thailand and Vietnam. The visit was aimed at improving the effectiveness of Ethiopia’s land administration system by enhancing stakeholders’ understanding of the sector’s policies and institutional constraints and how to address them through integrated but multi-faceted reforms and programs.

Over the past decade, Ethiopia has successfully implemented the worlds’ largest rural land registration program. The registration is implemented equitably and with clear positive impacts on conflict, productivity, investment, and rental market participation. However, constraints still exist. There’s a disconnect between urban and rural registration and administration, stagnant policy revisions remain, and there is often weak institutional capacity to act on and implement innovative ideas with the required speed.
When I first entertained the idea of heading to the Far East to learn from the experiences there, I was very skeptical and thought Vietnam and Thailand were just way too far… and I don’t just mean geographically. Once I arrived there, I realized that I was wrong and was pleasantly surprised to discover lots of very useful lessons that can help to initiate, improve, or at least reaffirm the course of Ethiopia’s land administration system.