Secure rights to property are vital for people to escape poverty. Such rights enable them, for example, to access and transfer land, borrow money using their house as collateral, graze their animals on common land, use water for irrigation, and collect fuelwood in forests. These rights are often formalised and guaranteed through state law.
But attempts to strengthen private- and common-property regimes have not always produced the expected results. Instead, local disputes often arise. This is because these rights are subject not only to government regulation, but also to customary norms and local power relations. Further, rights that are recognised by the government do not by themselves guarantee that people may use a piece of land in a productive way. Pro-poor property reforms must therefore be accompanied by efforts to strengthen legal security and local acceptance by considering customary practices as well. Support for land and labour productivity is also required, as the poor often lack the necessary means to benefit from land.