RDI is working with several Indian state governments, as well as the central national government, to design and implement tailored micro-land ownership programs that will provide real economic and social opportunity for up to two million landless families. Micro-land ownership is the starting point for a growth path that enables poor, rural families to improve their status, nutrition and health, conduct income generating activities, create wealth, protect against economic shocks, and become empowered. RDI will accomplish this objective through continued action research, advocacy and assistance to central and state-level policy makers and NGOs, and broader communication and dissemination of the concept, lessons learned, and best practices.
Metrics for measuring success and progress will include:
· Number of families that receive micro-plots: RDI will help the three state governments extend benefits to as many as 2 million households over a five-year period.
· Number of women who receive legal rights to land: The three existing programs are designed to extend the legal rights over land to women.
· Number of states that adopt micro-land ownership programs: In documenting and disseminating both the concept and its results, we expect that other Indian states will adopt similar programs.
· Program costs per households benefited.
· Amount of income generated on the allocated micro-plots: RDI's activities will include quantitative impact monitoring using a household survey that will collect and analyze this data, as well as the other data, below.
· Amount of incremental food consumption by micro-plot program beneficiaries.
· Amount of 'sweat-equity' invested and wealth impact produced by micro-plot program beneficiaries.
· Anthropometrics for measuring nutritional impact on children such as weight-for-age, height-for-age, and weight-for-height.
· Changes in access to formal credit for micro-plot program beneficiaries.
· Changes in self-reported status indicators of program beneficiaries.
Many of these results will be tabulated through a survey process similar in design and complexity to RDI's 17-Province Survey of land rights in China.
The great majority of India's poorest citizens (approximately 80%) live in rural areas. In India, extreme poverty is rooted in landlessness. In fact, National Sample Survey data shows that landlessness is the best predictor of poverty in India-a much better predictor than either illiteracy or caste.
In rural India, land remains the primary source of nutrition, income, wealth, status, access to credit and upward mobility potential. Even successful efforts to improve agricultural productivity or grow the economy will largely bypass the landless poor unless they first obtain secure land rights. Yet today, India has approximately 17 million landless rural households-approximately 90 million people-who sit at the bottom of India's socio-economic ladder, dependent on seasonal farm labor that typically pays $1 per day or less.
India's central and state governments have recognized the interconnection between poverty and the lack of land assets, but past attempts to implement land reform were largely ineffective and, in some cases, even harmful to the poor. India's land reform efforts of the 1960's and 1970's employed methods such as confiscation of land by the state to be redistributed to poor households, making them unfair, unpopular, and very difficult to implement.
Today, Indian policymakers are showing a strong and clearly focused interest in RDI's demonstrated ability to help secure land rights for the poor without revolution and through fair and democratic means. With over 40 years of experience in more than 40 countries, RDI has applied its action-research to the challenges faced by Indian policymakers. RDI's research identified a market-based approach that has gained broad appeal: purchasing land from willing sellers to obtain micro-plots for the rural poor.
RDI's research in India, which started in 2000, as well as others' research has shown that even a small piece of land-as little as 1/10th of an acre-can provide multiple opportunities for the poor. Ownership of a micro-plot offers the following benefits:
- Improved status: Families experience improved status, pride, hope for the future and a stake in the community and broader society.
- Better nutrition and health: Families can produce most of their fruit, vegetable and dairy needs on a 1/10th-acre plot, greatly improving nutrition and reducing infant mortality.
- Increased income: Families can sell their excess production from gardening and animal husbandry in the market, producing an annual supplemental income of around $200, roughly the equivalent of what an average agricultural worker makes in a year.
- Children as beneficiaries: When parents can provide food for their families and earn extra income it often allows the children the freedom from working in the fields and instead attend school - providing long-term and sustainable poverty alleviation.
- Enhanced wealth: Families can plant timber trees as well as other long-term improvements that build wealth for the next generation.
- Source of shelter: Micro-plots afford a place for a family to build a home, creating physical, economic and psychological shelter.
- Place for home-based enterprise: Families own their own land on which they often start home enterprises.
- Insurance against economic shocks: Families are able to survive economic shocks such as illness, death, and disaster with the emotional security and economic cushion that their land provides for them.
- Increased access to credit through ownership of land, an asset.
- Empowerment of women. Through control of income generated from micro-plot gardens, women are better able to see to it that their children are adequately fed, receive basic education and health care, and become members of a stable community.
The dissemination of these research findings and the related policy implications have prompted three Indian states (Karnataka, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh) to adopt programs that purchase land for distribution of micro-plots to the rural poor. RDI is now working with these states and other Indian partners, providing technical assistance to support program implementation. The three state governments have already allocated more than $13.5 million to implement the programs. Several other states, including Orissa and Bihar, as well as India's central government have also indicated strong interest in this promising approach, as has the government of Pakistan's Punjab province.
The targeted beneficiaries in the three Indian states total roughly two million families (11 million people). The programs differ in design details, but all contain common, unifying elements, that include the following actions:
- Land is purchase through state government funds; good land in multi-acre plots is purchased from willing sellers at market values, then partitioned and allocated to the poor;
- Only landless families are eligible for benefits;
- Families receive micro-plots (up to one acre);
- Women receive formal legal rights to the land, individually or jointly with their husband; and
- Beneficiary families can use the land to build a house and for agricultural production or a home-based enterprise to supplement existing family food intake and income.
The success of these new programs will depend in large part on the level of technical and other assistance available to the state governments to support implementation. The implementing departments of the state governments lack the capacity to conduct the background research for detailed program planning; to monitor program implementation and impacts effectively; to gather and process the information necessary to make mid-course adjustments; to train effectively the local persons charged with implementation; and to provide necessary agricultural and other training to beneficiaries so they can use their micro-plots most productively.
RDI and our Indian partners (agricultural NGO's, agricultural training institutions, state governments and the UNFAO) have developed a set of five implementation support activities. The activities include:
1. Process and impact monitoring;
2. Intensive implementation pilots;
3. Training for local government implementers;
4. Agricultural training for beneficiaries; and
5. A feedback loop to the state government for mid-course corrections.
The timeline for this program can be extended based upon the number of states that agree to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding. RDI currently estimates that with the success that has occurred and the interest from neighboring states in India, the project can potentially expand beyond the scope of the initial funding. The organization anticipates that funding for years beyond the initial 5 years will likely come from other interested partners as micro-land ownership gains momentum.