• Awarded: 2012
  • Issue Areas: Economic Opportunity · Smallholder Productivity
  • Region: Central America · Eastern and Southern Africa · Middle East and North Africa
  • Web:
  • About the Organization

    Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas where land is a key asset. Of those people, more than a billion lack legal rights over the land they use to survive, causing entrenched poverty cycles to persist over generations.

    Grounded in the knowledge that having legal rights to land is a foundation for prosperity and opportunity, Landesa partners with governments and local organizations to ensure that the world’s poorest families have secure rights over the land they till.

    Founded as the Rural Development Institute in 1967, Landesa has helped more than 109 million poor families in 45 countries gain legal control over their land. When families have secure rights to land, they can invest in their land to sustainably increase their harvests and reap the benefits – improved nutrition, health, education, and opportunity – for generations.

    Landesa’s work includes assessments to identify existing laws, policies, and cultural conditions; collaborating with public officials to adopt pro land policies; assisting in the implementation of new laws to benefit landless families; and monitoring and evaluating impact.

    More than a billion people, women in particular, have little or no legal control over the land on which they depend.

    Landesa works with governments to implement policies to assure land tenure to disadvantaged families.

    Tim Hanstad knows that families can pull themselves out of poverty with the power of land ownership.

    More than 2.2 million men and women gained secure rights to their land in the 2014 fiscal year.

    Ambition for Change

    All who depend on land for their well-being have secure land rights. Farm yields and child welfare improve; there is less domestic violence. Women can inherit land and hold title. Governments enact policies and laws to provide land title to disadvantaged people and communities.

    Path to Scale

    Partnership with Governments

    Landesa works with governments to design and implement laws and policies sufficient to assure access to land tenure to disadvantaged men, women, and families.

    Business Model

    Philanthropic support for core programs; implementation of recommended reforms carried out by the respective governments.

    Inspired by his mentor and professor, Roy Prosterman who founded Landesa to secure long-lasting land rights for rural communities worldwide, Tim Hanstad joined the organization in 1986. He accumulated deep field experience and developed an extensive network of key policymakers, particularly in India, where he lived for many years. He became Landesa’s president and CEO in 2004 and transformed it from a small, university project into the world leader in securing land rights for the rural poor, by applying strategic and legal leverage.Landesa’s work often starts with an invitation from a government struggling to create opportunity for its poorest citizens. This typically leads to a four-step engagement: field research; design and review of proposed changes to laws, programs, and regulations; education of officials and the public about necessary changes; and assistance in the adoption and implementation of these changes, monitoring and evaluating to learn from the process and recommend further changes and improvements where appropriate. Recognizing that women are disproportionately affected, the Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights has become a leading voice in India promoting laws, policies, programs and practices that provide women and girls improved legal rights to land.At the time of the Award, Landesa had helped more than 100 million families all over the world gain title to their land. Tim will continue to work in the field with Landesa even after he steps down as CEO in 2015.

    Impact & Accomplishments

    • More than 2.2 million men and women gained secure rights to their land in the 2014 fiscal year.
    • Nearly 700 million stand to benefit from laws and policies enacted in the 2014 fiscal year.
    • Achieving transformational change through secure land rights: demonstrated advances in girls staying in school, reduced vulnerability to child marriage, family income.


    Hirut GirmaAttorney & Land Tenure/Gender Specialist, Landesa
    Tim HanstadPresident and CEO, Landesa

    See All Awardees →