Roy L. Prosterman

Organization: 
Landesa
Year founded: 
1967
Country: 
USA
Website: 

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For over 40 years Landesa has partnered with governments around the world on reforms that have helped provide secure land rights to more than 100 million families.

Focus: Land and Property Rights, Poverty Alleviation
Geographic Area of Impact: Global
Model: Hybrid Non-Profit
Number of Direct Beneficiaries: 2.4 million (2010)
Annual Budget: US$ 13.64 million (2011-2012)
Percentage Earned Revenue: 15%
Recognition: Schwab Fellows of the World Economic Forum

Background
Farming is a way of life for nearly half of the world’s people, and in many developing countries rural families comprise a substantial majority of the population. For these families land represents a fundamental asset: it is a primary source of income, security and status. But almost half of these rural families either lack any access to land or secure legal rights to the land they till. As a result, stagnant economic growth, acute poverty and related problems of hunger, social unrest and environmental degradation persist. Secure land rights can help to provide a broad range of benefits for these families, including increased incomes and economic growth, increased agricultural output, improved nutrition and health, a repository of wealth, reduced social conflict and greater political stability.

Innovation and Activities
Landesa (formerly the Rural Development Institute) is an international non-profit organization that partners with governments and NGOs to help the rural poor in developing countries obtain secure land rights. In particular, Landesa uses the rule of law to help developing country governments provide their poorest citizens with secure land rights, the foundation for economic growth, food security and stability. A well-designed and implemented law, backed by local leaders, has the power to affect millions of lives at a time. Landesa enters countries at the invitation of governments or international agencies when opportunities for reform are most possible. It serves as a bridge between policy-makers and poor farm families, consulting with a wide range of stakeholders and then recommending enforceable and politically viable reforms.

Landesa’s work began with a “land to the tiller” programme in South Vietnam in the early 1970s, providing land ownership to one million tenant farm families, that led to a 30% increase in rice production, an 80% decline in indigenous Vietcong recruitment, and laid the groundwork for Hanoi’s “decollectivization” of all agriculture. Since then Landesa has gone on to develop and apply democratic approaches to land rights reform in Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Over the last four decades Landesa has worked in over 45 countries, partnering with governments on reforms that have helped provide secure land rights to more than 100 million families.

The Entrepreneurs
In 1966, led by a passion for fighting the structural causes of global poverty, Roy Prosterman left his Wall Street law career to devote his life to applying the law to build a better world. He took an entrepreneurial and new approach to help poor countries with land rights reform, combining robust research, policy and legislative advice and advocacy. Tim Hanstad joined those efforts in the 1980s, initially as a research assistant and eventually led efforts to expand, institutionalize and attract sustainable funding for the work. Under Hanstad’s leadership the organization has grown 100-fold, opened eight new offices in Asia and Africa, generated tens of millions of dollars of earned income and significantly expanded its reach and effectiveness. Today, Prosterman serves as Chairman Emeritus of Landesa and Hanstad as President and CEO. Together they have authored numerous publications on land policy, hunger and agricultural development. They both teach at the University of Washington School of Law, where they introduced the Law of Sustainable International Development programme.