SEATTLE — Landesa is an international nonprofit organization working to alleviate global poverty by securing land rights for poor communities around the world. It partners with governments on laws, policies and programs to improve land rights.
Why focus on securing property rights to reduce poverty?
Previous Landesa programs that involved improving land security “boosted agricultural productivity in the developing world by billions of dollars per year, improved health, nutrition and school enrollment in hundreds of villages across the globe, and placed scores of billions of dollars in new land wealth in the hands of the rural poor.”
When families transition from unstable shelters to having protected and recognized land rights, many new opportunities become available to them.
They can build permanent homes to live in, which provides increased safety and stability. Their official land rights make them more likely to receive government assistance. In addition, having proof of land ownership makes it much easier for these families to receive loans.
When people obtain property rights, they become free to invest in their land, meaning that more effort is made to develop agricultural businesses which positively affects the entire community and boosts economies.
In addition, studies have shown that families with secure land rights tend to have higher levels of education and nutrition. This may be simply due to the increase in income that follows having access to your own plot of land to cultivate.
Secure and officially recognized property is also protected from land grabs, which are the purchase of very large plots of land in developing countries. When wealthy individuals or corporations acquire officially unclaimed rural land in emerging countries through land grabs, communities who live on that land are often evicted with no compensation, even if they have lived there for decades.
On the whole, families that lack land rights must overcome many more obstacles to escape poverty. Landesa is working to expand access to land and improve regulations in developing countries so that land policies offer poor families more routes to land access, and therefore more routes to prosperity.
Landesa only operates in countries by invitations from governments or local NGOs. After the organization has been invited, their method to secure land rights for impoverished families typically involves four different steps: research, design, advocacy and implementation.
For example, the research stage of Landesa’s program in India involved meeting with “poor rural families and officials in 88 villages across ten districts” to determine exactly why land rights were an issue. Their research conclusions were that the government did not have enough resources to allocate land nor the ability to identify who should qualify for government-sponsored land rights programs.
This led the organization to step two, program design. To solve the problem of limited governmental resources, their proposed method was to run local initiatives in each village. These initiatives trained young people to effectively identify landless families and help them through the government-sponsored process of land acquisition.
Landesa then advocated for the application of this model to officials in the Indian government. In terms of implementation, Odisha, a state in eastern India, requested for Landesa to trial its program design in a few of its villages.
The strategy proved successful, and is now in use in seven districts in India, “increasing the government’s capacity to provide homestead plots to landless families in a cost-effective and impactful way.”
There are many benefits that impoverished families are able to enjoy when they receive secure land rights. In many cases, the acquisition of property rights gives people the leg-up they need to beat poverty.
Landesa is helping struggling communities in 54 different countries obtain property rights, and is therefore helping fight global poverty.
Since its inception in 1981, the organization has assisted 400 million people in acquiring land rights. Hopefully their future will contain similar success stories, as they continue to shift land rights policies from exclusion to inclusion, promoting poverty reduction and global prosperity.
– Emily Jablonski