Contact person for provided information:

Last modified on 10-Mar-2017

Author for sections A, B, C, E: Habtemicael Weldegiorgis
Organization - Cadastral Office, Ministry of Land, Water and Environment (MLWE)
Position - Director General
Address - Cadastral Office, MLWE, P. O. BOX - 976, Asmara, Eritrea
Email address: habtatw(at), habtemicael_weldat(at)

Author  for section D: Amanuel Bereket
Organization - Department of Land, Ministry of Land, Water and Environment (MLWE)
Position - Unit Head (Cartography Unit)
Address - Land, Department, MLWE, P. O. BOX - 976, Asmara, Eritrea
Email address: abereket79(at)


Part 1: Country Report

A. Country Context

A.1 Geographical Context

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Eritrea is located in the strategic area of the Horn of Africa. It is bordered by the Sudan to the North and West, Ethiopia to the South, Djibouti to the South East and the Red Sea to the East.

It has a land area of 124,320 sq km, including some 390 islands, and a population of about 3.5 million. Asmara is the largest and capital city. Eritrea shares more than 1,000 km coast along the Red Sea stretching from Ras Kasar to the Strait of Bab el Mandeb. The main ports are Massawa and Assab. Eritrea has nine nationalities, each with its own language and cultural heritage: these are Tigrigna, Tigre, Saho, Afar, Bilen, Kunama, Nara, Hidareb, and Rashaida.

Based on broad similarities of moisture and temperature, natural vegetation cover, soils and land use, Eritrea is divided into six agro-ecological zones. They are the Moist Highland Zone, Arid Highland Zone, Moist Lowland Zone, Arid Lowland Zone, Sub-humid Escarpment Zone and Semi-desert Zone. The altitude ranges from 110 meters below sea level in the Danakil Depression to 3013 meters above sea level at the Mount Soira, in the Highlands. The main rivers (seasonal) that flow westward include the Barka and Gash (Mereb).

It has diverse climate ranging from hot arid, adjacent to the Red Sea to temperate sub-humid in isolated micro-catchments within the eastern escarpment of the Highlands. Annual rainfall ranges from less than 200 mm in the Eastern Lowlands, 450-600 mm in the Highlands, and 600-800 mm in the southern part of the Western Lowland to about 1,000 mm in a small pocket of the Eastern Escarpment. Mean temperature varies between agro-ecological zones, ranging from 18°C in the highlands to 35°C in the lowlands.

Eritrea has an agrarian economy with about 65 % of the people living in rural areas. There is no comprehensive land use planning. However, land classification of three administrative regions has been prepared.  And land is divided into agricultural, pasture, enclosure, mining area, urban, semi-urban, village lands, etc.

A.2 Historical Context

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From the beginning of the 16th century, Eritrea had fallen under the control or influence of different external  powers, first the Ottoman Turks 1557-1857), followed by the Egyptians; and from the end of the 19th century (1890) it was consecutively ruled by Italy, Great Britain and Ethiopia. During the Second World War, Italy was defeated by the British forces and Eritrea became a British protectorate (1941-52). In 1952, Eritrea was forcibly federated with Ethiopia by a United Nations resolution NO. 390/A.

The federal relation with Ethiopia was systematically abrogated by the Ethiopian Emperor, Haileslassie 1. As a result, the Eritrean people were forced to wage an armed struggle for liberation in 1961 that culminated in the liberation of the country on May 24, 1991. In 1993, Eritrea got its formal independence through the United Nations sponsored referendum in which 99.8% of the people voted for independence.

From 1991-1997 Eritrea and Ethiopia developed a very good relationship. Nevertheless, the peaceful development of these two neighbouring countries disrupted with the start of the ‘Border War’ (1998-2000). In 2000, both countries agreed to settle their ‘border issue’ through arbitration. Despite this, Ethiopia refused to abide by the final and binding ruling of the Boundary Commission of April 2002 and as a result an environment of ‘no war, no peace’ situation prevails.

A.3 Current Political and Administrative Structures

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Eritrea is of a presidential republic, the president is elected by the National Assembly. The Government is composed of three bodies: the Legislative, Executive and Judiciary. In the Executive branch, the President nominates posts for the ministries, authorities, commissions and offices. The cabinet of ministers as an executive body is chaired by the president.

Eritrea is divided into six administrative regions, each with its own regional governor. These administrative regions are Anseba, Debub, Debubawi Keih Bahri, Gash-Barka, Maekel and Semienawi Keih Bahri. It has 57 sub-regions, 699 administrative areas and 2,564 villages, towns and cities. Each sub-region, kebabai (area) and village has its own administrator; the last two are elected by respective eligible residents.

A.4 Historical Outline of Cadastral System

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The Eritrean Cadastre system was established at the end of the 19th C during the Italian colonial administration. The Notary Public that authenticates contract agreement and secure transfer of property transactions was also established during this period. The registration was carried out on voluntary basis, mainly confined to urban areas and some lands allotted to Italian settlers on concession basis for commercial agriculture. The registered property had simple survey plan, land records related to ownership, area and plot number. The main purpose was to guarantee security of property ownership for Italian settlers. It kept records with utmost care. But, the system remained voluntary and sporadic and despite its long history, still remains at rudimentary level, unable to support land management. The cadastral system was organized within the High Courts for more than a century, until it was reorganized into the Ministry of Land, Water and Environment (MLWE) in August 1999. The Registration Law, NO. 95/1997 transformed the voluntary nature of registration into a compulsory one. However, due to inadequate capacities, in practice it has not gone far from the voluntary one.

B. Institutional Framework

B.1 Government Organizations

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According to the Registration Law (NO. 95/1997), the Cadastral Office registers all land and other immovable property erected over land. The Department of Land of the MLWE surveys land, records land parcels and allot to individuals and legal persons. Cadastral surveying defines and demarcates land parcels physical boundaries. The Cadastral Office formally registers land after it has been allotted by the Department of Land and buildings are registered upon the issuance of certificate of building by the Regional Technical Offices. Organizations that are responsible for cadastral surveying at national level include the Mapping and Information Centre, Department of Urban Planning of the Ministry of Public Works, Department of Land, etc. The Regional Departments of Infrastructures (technical offices) are responsible for planning and providing certificate of buildings constructed according to plan.

B.2 Private Sector Involvement

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Prior to some15 years ago, private individual surveyors were involved in cadastral surveying.  At present, there is neither private sector involvement in land registration nor in cadastral surveying. But the need for private surveyors’ involvement in surveying activities looks indispensable.

B.3 Professional Organization or Association

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Currently, outside the government institutions, there is no professional organization or association related to cadastral surveying or mapping.

B.4 Licensing

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Educational qualification is a required criterion in the licensing system for cadastral surveying professionals.

B.5 Education

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The Department of Civil Engineering in the Eritrean Institute of Technology (EIT) provides degree (BA/B Sc) and diploma courses. In addition, other vocational schools, such as the Asmara Technical School, and other technical schools in Deqemhare (Don-Bosco), Winna (Nakfa), Mai-Habar, and the National Vocational Training Centre at Sawa, provide drafting and surveying courses at certificate levels.  There are about 320 annual graduates, out of which about 50 are in degree and 270 in diploma and certificates.

C. Cadastral System

C.1 Purpose of Cadastral System

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The Eritrean cadastral system was established by the Italian colonial administration to ensure security of property ownership for Italian settlers. Even now, the main purpose remains to be the establishment of security in land use rights and ownership of immovable property erected over land through publicity and legal protection. It has multiple purposes: registration of land and building with right holders and owners, transfer of land use rights (in cases when right holder dies and use right passes to an offspring on conditional priority to land improvement made by the deceased, land allottedon lease-base is not developed, etc) and ownership of property erected over land, provide information and statistical data, support in planning, guarantee for mortgaging immovable property other than land for credit from banks, etc.

C.2 Types of Cadastral System

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A cadastral system for the registration of land and other immovable property erected over land exists. There is still sporadic registration with focus on urban housing. The cadastral system registers buildings that are built according to plan and have building license; informal or illegal settlements are outside the formal registration system. As in many developing countries registration of informal settlement is a problem. However, registration of land purchased from right-holders (as land is state-owned land sale is illegal) where dwelling houses are built without prior plan and permit has started after due processing by a special committee. The Cadastral Office provides ‘Temporary Certificate’ with the intention of upgrading them later to permanent certificate when building certificate is given.

C.3 Cadastral Concept

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The cadastre, as a parcel-based land information system includes title registry and related processes of right and ownership transfers. This cadastral concept is manifested by the Cadastral Office’s mission, ‘to protect and guarantee security of immovable property ownership and use-rights over land’. The main mission of the Land Department’, which is also in the MLWE, is ‘to ensure the implementation of sustainable land management and guarantee optimum use and fair distribution of land’. Thus, urban, semi-urban, and rural lands for housing, farming (be it for usufruct rights or commercial agriculture), enclosures, social services and other purposes are surveyed and divided into plots and parcels for allotment and reserve purposes by the Land Department. The cadastral surveying defines by giving Id number and demarcates boundaries and sub-divisions.

The cadastral Office registers all rights over land and duties that emanate from such rights, other immovable property erected over land, provides information of rights, that is, ownership, usufruct and lease and related processes. A building is qualified for registration upon fulfillment of land lease contract, construction permit, approved plan and building license given by the technical offices. A land lease for commercial agriculture and other social services is also registered upon fulfillment of certificate of lease contract and proper survey plan. Data contained in the cadastre include survey plan showing property identifier, property address, location, land use, land and building area, building date and type, building purpose and license, boundaries, etc.; proprietorship data such as owners/right holders name, address, id number, spouse name, date of purchase, vendor’s name and address, etc; and encumbrances such as mortgage and pledge and their release, etc.

C.4 Content of Cadastral System

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The cadastral components include land survey that provides parcel identification and demarcates boundaries and sub-divisions, land and building register with their related processes of right/ownership transfer, register for encumbrances, such as mortgage, pledge and their releases. The registration is parcel-based and certificate of title of ownership or right is provided. The level of computerization has been low due to inadequate capacities up to the end of 2016; there was simple database that supports the manual system. In this current year of 2017, digital database that includes all relevant information about land parcel and building and related processes and registers for encumbrances is becoming operational. However, it is mainly of textual data, short of spatial data, that is, the cadastral map.

D. Cadastral Mapping

D.1 Cadastral Map

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A cadastral map is a map which provides detailed information about real property and the boundaries of all the parcels or lots within a specific area. In general, it shows the cadastral lots and other details of the cadastral surveys, which are surveys made of extensive areas covering an entire municipality (city) or part or extension of city or village (part of it) consisting of several or many parcels of land undertaken for the purpose of title clearance and land registration.

Our cadastral map specifically reflects the ‘Area Development Plan’ that provides the location of parcels, vehicular and pedestrian access, parking, open space and other social services within the area. The end result of the map is just to give PID (parcel identification number) and register the use of the parcel of the land in Data Base.

Our maps have all the map elements such as content (Series name: Name of the area, locality, and state), map scale (Shown both graphically and as a representative fraction), sheet name (including number, edition), map index, north arrow, contour interval (if it is given with the Cad file), horizontal datum, legend, date of publication, copyright, title, name of Surveyor/Company, and border; and the map projection we use is the one, which is most recently developed and widely used datum, WGS 1984. Though we haven’t standardized our map scale, they are drawn on larger scales (ranging from 1:500 up to 1:3000). We simply use the scale of the map just to fit the map frame and should be printed in A0 paper only.

Our cadastral map should at most have clarity, order, balance, contrast, unity and harmony in order to be readable by all the target groups.

The data model of the map is vector data model; and is first designed by Auto-Cad and Arc-Info and further processed and finalized by Arc-GIS.

Figure 1: Cadastral map of Eden in Zoba Anseba, Sub Zoba Elaber'ed.

D.2 Example of a Cadastral Map

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a) The cadastral map of Eden in Zoba Anseba, Sub Zoba Elaber’ed:  It is a small town and this cadastral map is an extension to it. Its target is to integrate the dispersed five villages found in the vicinity of Eden town (Figure 1).

b) The Cadastral Map of Tsaeda-Christian, Sub-Zoba Berik, Zoba Maekel: This is a big village and centre of the Sub-Zoba Berik. This cadastral map is the expansion of it and will solve the settlement problem of the inhabitants in particular and the country in general (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Cadastral Map of Tsaeda-Christian, Sub-Zoba Berik, Zoba Maekel

D.3 Role of Cadastral Layer in SDI

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Generally speaking, the cadastral map plays a great role to the government of Eritrea in facilitating all land-based developments.  A cadastral map foresees to achieve the following goals:

a) National Goals such as:

  • Endorsement of social equity (social development and social justice) by securing housing problems.
  • Ensure proper management of the land.
  • Improvement of habitat through development of human settlements and proper management of environment.
  • Accelerate regional development especially the rural areas.

b) Executive Branch Goals such as:

  • To provide comprehensive and accurate data on land resources of the country.
  • To accelerate settlement and adjudication of land titles.
  • To facilitate and accelerate public land management and disposition.
  • To provide an effective base to accelerate the land use and classification for socialized housing programs.
  • To provide economic data for land based developmental studies and projects.
  • To provide mapping basis for land zoning and land use programming.

E. Reform Issues

E.1 Cadastral Issues

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The main challenges that the cadastre currently faces include incomprehensive cadastre, which is characteristic of sporadic registration and un-integrated textual and spatial data. In addition, Notary Public Offices are not reinstated in all regional seats. As a result, fast and secure transfer of property transactions is not possible and government revenues from property transactions are not collected in time. Moreover, compulsory registration is not implemented according to the Registration Law, due to inadequate institutional capacities. Furthermore, the issue of registration of informal settlements (unplanned houses) remains largely unresolved.

E.2 Current Initiatives

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The Cadastral Office intends to implement the compulsory Registration Law in order to enable management to have well-informed plans at the central, regional and local levels. Modern database is becoming operational. Inadequate human capacities had been a constraint for a long time, but now enhancement of these capacities is underway. Pilot project of usufruct land rights has already been completed and allotted to five villages in the Serejeqa Sub-Region of Central Region. In this current year, 2017, there is a plan of nation-wide allotment of usufruct land rights. With such plan of work, mapping and land use planning initiatives are expected to be on the rise.

F. References

Last modified on 10-Mar-2017

Government of Eritrea (1994) Proclamation NO. 58/94:  A Proclamation to reform the system of Land Tenure in Eritrea, Asmara, Eritrea.

Government of Eritrea (1997) Proclamation NO. 95/1997: A Proclamation to Provide for the Registration of Land and other Immovable Property, Asmara, Eritrea.

National Statistics Office (NSO) (2013) Eritrea Population and Health Survey 2010.

Weldegiorgis, H. (2015) Land Tenure in Eritrea, Presented at FIG Working Week 2015, ‘From the Wisdom of the Ages to the Challenges of Modern World’, Sofia, Bulgaria, 17-21 May 2015.

Weldegiorgis, H. (2009) The Cadastral System in Eritrea: Practice, Constraints and Prospects, Presented at the FIG Working Week, ‘Surveying Key Role in Accelerated Development’, Eilat, Israel, 3- 8 May 2009,

Weldegiorgis, H. (2012) The Challenges of Developing Cadastral System in Eritrea, Presented at FIG Working Week 2012, ‘Knowing to Manage the Territory, Protect the Environment, Evaluate the Cultural Heritage’, Rome, Italy, 6-10 May 2012

Weldegiorgis, H.(2016) Cadastre as a tool for Sustainable Development, Presented at the International Conference on Eritrean Studies, 20-22 July 2016, Asmara, Eritrea

World Book (1994), The world Book Encyclopaedia, E Volume 6, World Book, INC, a Scott Fetzer Company, Chicago, USA

Part 2: Cadastral Principles and Statistics

1. Cadastral Principles

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1.1 Type of registration system

title registration
deeds registration

1.2 Legal requirement for registration of land ownership


1.4 Approach for establishment of cadastral records

both, systematic and sporadic
all properties already registered

2. Cadastral Statistics

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2.1 Population


2.2a Population distribution: percentage of population living in urban areas


2.2b Population distribution: percentage of population living in rural areas


2.3 Number of land parcels

--- Number of land parcels per 1 million population

2.4 Number of registered strata titles/condominium units

--- Number of strata titles/condominium units per 1 million population

2.5 Legal status of land parcels in URBAN areas:

percentage of parcels that are properly registered and surveyed
percentage of parcels that are legally occupied, but not registered or surveyed
percentage of parcels that are informally occupied without legal title

2.6 Legal status of land parcels in RURAL areas:

percentage of parcels that are properly registered and surveyed
percentage of parcels that are legally occupied, but not registered or surveyed
percentage of parcels that are informally occupied without legal title

2.7 Number of active professional land surveyors


2.8 Proportion of time that active professional land surveyors commit for cadastral matters (%)

--- Approx. full-time equivalent of land surveyors committed to cadastral matters

2.9 Number of active lawyers/solicitors


2.10 Proportion of time that active lawyers/solicitors commit for cadastral matters (%)

--- Approx. full-time equivalent of active lawyers/solicitors committed to cadastral matters