Productive Safety Net Programs (PSNPs) have so far prioritized investments on public lands. Their other intended effects were to protect beneficiaries from distress sales of their assets and build-up of assets such that they could graduate from the program. After the first 5 years a very low share of the households in the program in Tigray has graduated. Some believe this is because the households have incentives to stay in the program and therefore are unwilling to make investments such that they would graduate. We see, however, that the areas with most graduation in Tigray are areas with irrigation and good soils. One may therefore ask whether the PSNP has been too unproductive and could be made more productive by investing more on private land?

Our baseline survey in 1998 showed that the majority of households perceived the land degradation problem to be largest on private lands. The most important reason for too little investment in conservation on private land was stated to be lack of labor. Could therefore the high level of labor mobilization for conservation of communal lands have a negative effect on investments on private land?

More fundamentally, do households in Tigray have sufficient incentives to invest on their private lands? Our research has shown that the provision of land certificates has enhanced tenure security, maintenance of conservation structures and land productivity on private lands. But could there still be underinvestment on private lands? Our 1998 baseline study gave several important reasons why public investments on private lands may make sense. First, soil and water conservation requires technical skills in technology design. Second, implementation requires coordination across farms as spatial externalities are substantial and can lead to conflicts. Third, labor mobilization is important to ensure equal treatment across farms and leads to labor transfer from labor-rich to labor-poor households that otherwise may have failed to conserve their land.

The new Land Laws (proclamation and regulation) aim enforce sustainable land management and the new 2nd Stage land certificates also state the obligations of the owners. Law enforcement may be difficult in this area, however, and has not yet been implemented. Implementation could make labor-poor households tenure insecure. It may be better to use the PSNP labor to help conserve the land of such households. If more PSNP labor is also directed towards irrigation investments where there is irrigation potential this could also help more households to reduce their dependency on the PSNP.