SEATTLE — Founded in 1981, Landesa, previously known as the Rural Development Institute (RDI,) has dedicated itself to giving land rights to some of the world’s poorest individuals. Landesa was recently in the spotlight on Forbes.com as one of the groups taking on large challenges in more remote areas of the world.
Founder Roy Prosterman is a law professor at the University of Washington and graduate of Harvard Law School. The United States Government recruited Prosterman to institute his land reform ideas in Vietnam in the early 1970’s. Prosterman’s program gave land rights to one million tenant farmers and had significant results in increasing rice production and decreasing Viet Cong recruitment.
In 2004, Prosterman’s colleague Tim Hanstad became RDI’s second CEO and president. Hanstad is part of various organizations such as the Clinton Global Initiative, World Economic Forum community, and the Global Washington Policy Panel.
In 2010, the organization changed its name from the Rural Development Institute to Landesa, meaning “land” and “destiny.”
Since its founding, Landesa has taken up efforts in over 50 countries, has offices in the U.S., China and India and has a staff of over 100.
Here is why you need to know about Landesa and all the good this organization is doing for the world’s poor:
1. It has helped over 400 million people gain the rights to land.
Including founder Prosterman’s work in the 1970’s, Landesa has helped families in many countries, including but not limited to South Vietnam, the Phillippines, El Salvador, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, China, Moldova, Ukraine and India. This totals to over 109 million families who now officially have legal rights to land, both education and legal aid of these new land rights, or recognition of their land tenure by the state. Many of these families have gone from not having secure land or not having any land at all to now having land security.
2. Its work not only helps the world’s poor, but improves life for everyone.
Since these families have gain access to land, agricultural productivity in the developing world has majorly increased, as Landesa has worked in over 45 developing nations. Additionally, this improvement has also improved access to health and nutrition and school enrollments in villages all over the world. Lastly, the rural poor now have been given a huge amount of land wealth they may not have had before Landesa’s programs.
3. It tailors all of its land rights programs to countries in which it is invited to intervene.
Landesa summarizes their process in four steps: research, design, advocate and implement. These steps were clearly demonstrated in their program in India, called Community Resource Persons: Hope for the Landless Poor. The government of Odisha invited Landesa to evaluate its program to give land to over half a million of its poor who had no land.
In researching, Landesa and additional researchers met with poor rural families and officials in about 88 villages across Odisha. In designing, Landisa developing a program to train the young people in the villages (Community Resource Persons) to figure out which families did not have title to a homestead plot, and then help Landesa in the process to get land rights for these families.
In advocating, Landesa met with the state government to assess the model they had thus far developed. In implementing, Landesa was given the ability to test its model and after finding success, the model has been adapted in seven out of ten districts.
4.It is especially passionate in securing women’s rights to land.
In 2009, Landesa created its Center for Women’s Land Rights with the mission to “strengthen and secure women’s land rights.” The components of this program include strengthening the laws regarding women’s rights to property, creating a library that could provide laws and resources, establishing a two-year fellowship program to train and mentor legal professionals to attain these goals and encouraging others in the developing world to join and support the program.
– Julie Guacci