This year’s fall became a turning point for land reform in Ukraine. Parliament is now discussing a package of laws that will establish the foundation for a comprehensive land reform in order to promote agriculture development, particularly for smallholders, and improve efficiency, accessibility and transparency of land administration. Alongside this regulatory reform, a monitoring system and an ombudsman are being established to ensure compliance.
The law package includes lifting of the moratorium to end the shadow land market and enable access to finance, together with crucial safeguards laws to prevent land concentration, promote transparency and access to information, protect rights, empower local government, and ensure sustainable land use and environmental protection. The Working Group of Ukrainian technical and legal experts, which have been supported in their work by the Land Transparency Program and USAID, has provided advisory support to the parliamentarians. Draft laws approved in the first reading by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine are the draft Law #2178-10 on land turnover, the draft Law #2194 on improving land management and land administration, draft Law #2195 on mandating of state and municipal land sale via e-auctions, and draft law #2280 on spatial planning and sustainable land use. The remaining part of the legal will be discussed in the next sessions. On December 4, the Verkhovna Rada will hold a parliamentary hearing: “Land reform: the Ukrainian model of agricultural land turnover.”
In October and November, the Program has accelerated its analytical work in order to provide data and analysis to the Government and Parliament on how best to support the agricultural sector, in particular smallholders. To enable small and medium farmers to acquire land and invest, institutions are put in place to expand access to finance for this category of farmers, again supported by the Program.
The programming is providing assistance on developing the Land Governance Monitoring System and the establishment of an Agrarian Registry, which will include all farmers: from small to large. This agrarian registry will make smallholders visible thus enabling much better targeting of state support and technical assistance to SME farmers. The establishment of the agrarian registry will also be used to help land holders to correct errors in their land records, register land and register leases. The latter is needed to ensure that also farmers who rent land are protected and benefit from state support. Finally, the Program has made an important contribution towards strengthening land use transparency: satellite observation data on agricultural land use and registered land can now be viewed and analyzed by anyone who is interested.
More detailed information below on some key legislation and using satellite imagery for monitoring.
The 10 land reform components planned by the government – from its general design to draft laws on institutional changes – were also discussed during the “Efficient Land Governance” panel, during the XIXth International Economic Forum in Lviv on October 31 – November 2. The presentation reaffirmed the government’s systemic approach to the land reform. Participants debated implementation issues, like securing land property rights, financial instruments to support small and medium farmers, creation of the agrarian registry to better target support to now often “invisible” small and medium farmers.
28 land information and administration deregulation initiatives were brought together in the single draft Law #2194 on improving land management and deregulation. These reform initiatives will eliminate most corruption niches in current land administration and ensuring a simple access to land information. These changes will contribute to economic growth, facilitate institutional reform, and ensure real decentralization to local governments. Draft law #2194 was approved in the first reading.
Draft Law #2195 on e-auction sale of state and communal land parcels and land rights (lease, superficies, and emphyteusis) was approved in the 1st reading by the Parliament. Online conversion of trades will significantly reduce corruption opportunities. The law stipulates some restrictions: the minimum price may not be lower than the normative monetary valuation; the maximum lot area may not exceed 20 ha; the guarantee deposit should be increased up to 30% of the starting price; and the tenant will have the pre-emptive right to buy the land parcel.
Piloting the agrarian registry: Every year, Ukraine spends about UAH 6 billion (or around USD 250 million) of taxpayers’ money to support farmers through various programs. An analysis of the existing programs has shown that the subsidies seldom reach small and medium farmers nor improve agricultural productivity. Moreover, many small land holders do not have up to date and error free land documents. The agrarian registry that is currently being piloted, will make smallholder farmers visible. It will be established in 2020 and this process will provide an opportunity for land holders to correct errors in land documents and register land and leases. A complete farm registry that includes all farmers, also smallholders, will be used by government to target state support will make it easier for banks and extension services to develop and provide financial products and technical support that small and medium farmers need to invest and expand their business.
A new geoinformation resource for Ukraine is available through the Portal https://geoportalua.com/worldbank was created by UkrGeo geodata producers association with the support of the Program. It has topical geoportals and data on land registration and agrarian land use nation-wide. Data on unregistered land and on winter and summer crops grown in 2019 on any land plot larger than 3 ha have just been uploaded. An overlay of these crop data with unregistered land from State Geocadaster shows that about 4 mn. ha of the reported 14 mn. unregistered land is cultivated with crops, some 6 mn. ha is under forests, and about 4 mn. ha are under pasture/grassland. The Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Agriculture is currently soliciting stakeholder and local input to validate these data.