SOURCE: Landesa

by Anisa Draboo

This article originally appeared in Scroll.in.

India’s economy has already crossed $2 trillion and is growing annually at around 6%. But these figures cannot hide the fact that 69% of the population is rural, and 70% of this, or nearly half of all Indians, still depend on land and land-based activities for their livelihoods, according to figures in the India Rural Development Report 2012-2013, released by Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation.

Landlessness is the best predictor of rural poverty in India, more than caste or illiteracy, a fact that has emerged clearly in the socio-economic and caste survey 2011 that the government released on July 3. The government has considered landlessness as a major indicator of rural poverty perhaps for the first time. The figures indicate that almost 54% of the rural population lives without any ownership of land.

Without making meaningful progress towards alleviating rural poverty, we cannot make India an economically strong nation. Land reform to address rural poverty and fuel agricultural growth was on the national agenda in the 1950s and 1960s but large-scale failure of policies in most states relegated it to the backburner. Thereafter, a few low-key efforts by some states have kept the possibility alive, but large-scale land-reform never regained importance nationally.

This is in stark contrast with a number of other countries in the region, such as China, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam, which boosted their national economies through successful land reform.

The government must commit to rural development by addressing landlessness with the same vigour that it has shown towards urban development, for instance by coming up with a smart cities plan. If the government put the same effort in finalising pending policies and laws on land reform and land rights that it has put into pushing the land acquisition bill, the issue of rural landlessness could be eliminated to a large extent within the next 10 to 15 years.

Land rights key

Land is a key source of income, status, wealth, and security for most rural families in India. Land rights do not just allow families to own a permanent asset, but incentivises them to make better investments in their land, gives them to access to credit, housing and other social welfare schemes. When women in particular own land, they feel empowered, are able to better invest in their children’s future, have increased decision-making power, and can improve their food security and nutrition intake.

Land rights therefore help rural families achieve independence and break out of the cycle of poverty. They also eventually enhance agricultural production. Conversely, the lack of land ownership can limit livelihood options and push the rural poor deeper into poverty.

Many state governments have introduced land-allocation programmes for the poor and some have successfully implemented them as well but the latest data indicate that there is a huge need to address rural landlessness in a vigorous and holistic way, nationwide.

Some policies, for instance, have not been implemented at a scale needed to create a larger impact. All Indian states have adopted legislation that places ceilings on the amount of agricultural land a person or family can own, with the objective of redistributing land in excess of the upper limit to poor, landless or marginal farmers. The ceiling laws were enacted and enforced in two phases: the period from 1960 to 1972, when no specific policy guidelines were present, and the period since 1972, after the adoption of national policy guidelines. While millions of acres of land have been redistributed to millions of rural beneficiary households, a large portion of the land still remains undistributed to the poor.

Bhoodan, or the land gift movement started by Vinoba Bhave in 1951 in Telangana, asked landowners to donate a portion of their land to the landless. Bhave received about 40 million acres, but only 22 million acres has been distributed to the poor and the rest remains undistributed. Government wasteland has been distributed to the landless in some states, but a more structured effort to distribute land would help in resolving the problem.

Unfortunately, a large portion of all this land is under litigation and there is a great need to address this through land tribunals at the local level. Moreover, several laws and policies on land reform remain to be fully implemented. For instance, the Hindu Succession Amendment Act 2005, aimed at providing land and property ownership right to women, faces challenges in implementation due to a lack of awareness and prevalent patriarchal and social norms.

Why focus only on land acquisition?

The central government has been concerned about land issues, but its current discussions are more or less limited to land acquisition, which focuses on industrial- and infrastructure-based economic development. But the interests of the rural landless have to become a part of the conversation, given that nearly half of the rural population is landless.

In 2013, a national land-reform policy was drafted to revive the debate on the continued importance of land reforms in India and to address the issue of landlessness, but it remains in limbo. Also waiting for further action is the national homestead bill, drafted in 2013, to ensure that every entitled rural landless person gets homestead land with an area of one-tenth an acre, roughly the size of a tennis court.

There are already ground examples of land distribution to learn from, such as the homestead plot distribution to the landless by many state governments, such as West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka. Detailed recommendations are available within the country to draw from, and to finalise and adopt, such as the draft land reform policy, the homestead bill and the women farmers’ bill.

The government needs to start national-level consultations on the issue and chart a clear path to provide a key resource to the rural poor. Currently, it has put most of its efforts into finalising and passing the land acquisition bill that was drafted in 2013. The law will replace British-era land acquisition policies dating back to 1894.

In December 2014, the new government made significant changes to the bill through an ordinance. The bill has not yet been passed and is likely to be discussed in parliament in the session beginning on July 21. It will be interesting to see how the bill will reflect the reality of India’s large landless population and take measures to address it.


Realizing full potential of Forest Rights Act will transform land ownership, forest governance, and rural livelihoods for tens of millions of forest-dwellers on at least 40 million hectares of land


Fun & FlowersNEW DELHI, INDIA (22 July 2015)—A new study has revealed that India’s 2006 Forest Rights Act (FRA) has the potential to recognize the rights of approximately 150 million forest dwellers on at least 40 million hectares of forested land.

Conducted by Vasundhara, NRMC India, and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI), the study finds that if the FRA is properly implemented, it would initiate the largest ever land reform in India, shifting forest governance from an undemocratic, colonial system to a decentralized, democratic one where Gram Sabhas are decision-makers. Such a process would also conform to the Indian State’s constitutional obligations towards its tribal citizens.

Utilizing government data, the study followed a two-step process to assess forest areas that under the FRA are vested with forest-dwelling communities.  The study examined the Forest Survey of India and census data to assess forests that are already listed as a land-use category within revenue village boundaries. The second step added customary forest areas of the North Eastern states which were not covered by FSI. The study then suggested additional work to assess forest area customarily used by forest-dwellers outside of revenue village boundaries and thus eligible under the FRA.

Through this process the study found that at least 170,000 villages – one fourth of the villages in the country – have vested CFR rights based on forest land within their revenue village boundaries. Due to a lack of data, the estimate does not include forest area customarily used by forest-dwellers outside of revenue village boundaries.

Other findings from the report indicate:

  • The districts with the largest potential for CFR recognition overlap with the country’s tribal population and poorest areas. These are also the districts with the maximum number of land-based conflicts.
  • The total forest area over which CFR rights have been recognized so far is less than 500,000 hectares, implying that barely 1.2 percent of the CFR rights potential in the country has been recognized.
  • CFR rights recognition is already leading to dramatic examples of major livelihood improvements in certain regions where FRA implementation is underway.

The study comes shortly after Prime Minister Modi’s directive to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) to implement the FRA within two months. But while the Prime Minister’s directive is a welcome move, it does not fully take into account ground realities inhibiting the FRA’s implementation.

“Claim making and recognition of CFR rights under the FRA is a time-consuming process,” said Tushar Dash, a researcher at Vasundhara and one of the study’s authors. “It involves a democratic process of determination, delineation, and mapping of these rights, and preparation of claims by Gram Sabhas and Forest Rights Committees. Given the intensive and participatory nature of the process, the given timeline is unrealistic.”

The FRA implementation process has been slow with state governments largely emphasizing individual claims while ignoring collective rights, including CFR rights. No concurrent campaign to spread awareness about this historic law has been undertaken by any States.   To date, most of the 3.13 million hectares of land where rights have been recognized under the FRA is held individually. Furthermore, the study highlights that a lingering impediment to effective implementation has been the reluctance of the existing forestry bureaucracy to relinquish control.

“For land rights to be granted to India’s tribal citizens, the government first needs to deal with the forest bureaucracy’s stronghold on power,” said Arvind Khare, Executive Director at RRI. “This historical transformation can’t be achieved if there is still little understanding of the Act’s potential and implications in government agencies.”

In light of these findings, the study puts forth the following recommendations:

  • The Government of India, specifically MoTA, needs to take immediate and definitive action to ensure the full, proper, and effective implementation of the FRA, including CFR rights recognition.
  • The initial list and data of the 170,000 villages with forest lands within their village boundaries cited in this study should be made available to state and district administrations to facilitate effective FRA implementation and CFR rights recognition.
  • A massive awareness campaign should be initiated to ensure that identified Gram Sabhas are aware of the FRA, specially its CFR provisions; and to create capacities at the district level to undertake CFR rights recognition.
  • The Prime Minister’s Office and Chief Ministers should ensure that all current state orders and procedures which violate FRA provisions are withdrawn immediately.
  • Civil society organizations that have mapped customary forest areas outside of revenue village boundaries are a significant source which can be used to train district functionaries in mapping in districts and identifying customary forests eligible for CFR claims.


The second draft of SDG Compass is released for public consultation, and we very much welcome your feedback. The consultation will run until 31 July 2015.

We are seeking feedback on the following documents:

  • The SDG Compass Guide. Please note that the guide’s Annex includes two examples of 2-page SDG references (SDG 4 and SDG 13). We aim to develop such 2-pagers for each SDG towards the final publication of the guide.
  • An inventory of existing business indicators mapped against the SDGs
  • An inventory of existing impact assessment tools mapped against the SDGs

We encourage you to provide feedback on these documents using this link: www.collaborase.com/sdgcompass
This platform allows reviewers to provide comments on the draft, as well as view and react to other reviewers’ comments. It can also be accessed using a mobile device.

Alternatively, the documents can be downloaded below and feedback may be provided at one or more of the below email addresses.

For more information about the SDG Compass project, please contact us:

Pietro Bertazzi
Senior Manager, Public Policy and International Affairs


Ole Lund Hansen
Head, Global Compact LEAD


Mark Didden
Manager, Redefining Value


The independent, sustainable lives in the mountains of Thailand’s indigenous peoples’ way of life is now under threat. Commercial farming, national boundaries and ‘modern life’ is compromising and taking away their last remaining link to the earth—the very source of their distinct indigenous identities, culture and dignity. Food security is becoming a serious problem as indigenous peoples are coerced into becoming employees of the international food industry in addition to their other policies related to land use and management, as well as social and political pressure to leave their homelands in search of a ‘better’ life.

This video is a record of two hill tribe communities and how they are being affected alongside commentary from experts in related areas

SOURCE: India Today

by Darshan Desai

They have 1 to 1.5 bighas of land and so have been categorised as marginal land holders. It was a huge fight for them to earn even this land – they fought right from the level of the sarpanch to the government to get themselves registered.

The women who create the vermicompost also use the organic manure in their own fields.

Savita Naik, Navliben, Chandaben and Kamtiben eke out a meagre living in Panchiyasaal village, just about 30 km from the block headquarters of Devgadh Baria in Gujarat’s tribal-dominated Dahod district.

They have 1 to 1.5 bighas of land and so have been categorised as marginal land holders. It was a huge fight for them to earn even this land – they fought right from the level of the sarpanch to the government to get themselves registered.

They were not allowed to step out of home and do anything outside. Economics was a strict no-no. But they fought the feudal rural system to make social and economic space for themselves.

Not just these four women, nearly 400 women fought the system to get into vermicompost farming and each one of them is on an average making `25,000 a year through this. Like the Amul model of milk distribution, they have created a procurement centre at the Ratanmahal district headquarters, which takes up all the organic manure produced by these women and sells them.

Before 2007, they were able to cultivate only the kharif crop that was completely dependent on the rains and the yield could feed their families for barely four to five months. They had to migrate to the sparse Saurashtra region looking for work.

“All of us, me, my son, daughter-in-law and their five young children had to take turns to migrate to take up share cropping throughout the year and came together as a family for only two days during Holi in March. We could only get one crop a year with minimum investments,” Kamtiben said.

Worse, Navliben had to take loans from a moneylender at a monthly interest of 1.5 per cent to buy fertilisers.

Chandaben’s case was no different except that she was an active member of the women’s organisation initiated by Area Networking and Development Initiatives (ANANDI). Under the organisation’s Sarvangi Vikas Karyakram (holistic development programme), Chandaben fought the social scenario around her to train in vermicompost production. She got Navliben, Kamtiben and three other women to set up a vermicompost production unit.

Within just about 18 months, they were able to complete as many as seven cycles of vermicompost production, churning out as much as 56,950 kg of compost and made around `80,000 between the six of them. “From the total earning of `30,310 between me and my daughterin-law Manju, we bought a buffalo and were able to reclaim our silver necklace mortgaged to the moneylender,” Chandaben said.

The story of these 400 women is unique in that over 80 per cent of them are widows, divorced and deserted, Seema Shah, a project coordinator with ANANDI organisation based in Godhra, said.

“It is not just about the vermicompost programme, it is more about pulling out these women from their socioeconomic conditions,” Kashiben, a single woman based in Dahod district’s Damavav village and programme coordinator, said.

According to Jahnvi Andharia, Executive Director of ANANDI, “besides the money that these women earned as producers of vermicompost, they also got to use the organic fertiliser in their own fields.”


The spread and deepening of economic globalisation has highlighted the ever closer connections between the international legal arrangements for the governance of the global economy on the one hand, and claims to land and natural resources on the other. In a globalised world, land governance is shaped by international as well as national regulation. As pressures on valuable lands intensify and land relations become more transnationalised, increasing recourse to international investment treaties is redesigning spaces for land claims at local and national levels.

This report sheds light on how investment treaties can affect land rights. It finds that investment treaties can have far-reaching implications for land reform, for public action to address “land grabbing” and more generally for land governance frameworks. The report also charts directions for socio-legal research to explore how investment treaties are affecting land rights on the ground.

This paper has been produced under IIED’s Legal tools for citizen empowerment project.

Download here


The Sustainable Development Goals’ (SDGs) aspirational, wide-reaching agenda for change is brought to life in a new animation, commissioned by IIED.

“Bringing the ‪SDGs‬ to life: real change for real people” seeks to capture the universal ambition set out in the 17 draft SDGs by focusing on the lives and dreams of five characters around the world.

Rani, a child in India, wants to be able to get clean water from a new well for her village – and she needs to be able to get to school, even when flooding means the roads are impassable.

Tina, a supermarket buyer in the UK, wants the farmers she works with to get a fair price for their produce – and she is horrified that so much food goes to waste.

Eugenie, an American grandmother, wants to be able to afford the medicine she needs – and she wants to be treated fairly.

The three-minute film celebrates the level of ambition put forward in the SDGs and urges world leaders not only to sign up to this transformational development agenda – but also to make these aspirations a reality.

And it calls on citizens around the world to speak out and hold global leaders to account: to recognise our responsibilities and demand a future we want.

A shared ambition

Liz Carlile, IIED’s director of communications, said the animation was a response to the challenge of communicating the scale and reach of the Sustainable Development Goals.

“We wanted to show that although the SDGs are complex and relate to many different areas of policy, they also speak to people’s dreams of a better future. We all want a more sustainable world and we want share that ambition as widely as we can.”

The animation, produced by Hands Up, was launched at the 20th Poverty Environment Partnership meeting last week. It will be used in the run up to the UN General Assembly in September when leaders will agree on the final text for the new SDGs.

Dr A.K. Abdul Momen, Bangladesh Ambassador to the United Nations, added: “We need this sort of animation a lot, to enlighten the global community. We want to create a campaign throughout the world for a win-win situation.

“Until today it’s all compartmentalisation. It’s all ‘developed’, ‘developing’, ‘MICs’, ‘LDCs’, ‘SIDS’ – that’s the way we look. We have to look beyond that. We have to look that we all live on the same planet and face the same challenges. The only way to achieve a better future for all of us is to work together, in collaboration and partnership. These animations make you realise – ‘what are the issues?'”

An animated appeal

The SDGs are a global concern, and we are keen for our animation to be shared as widely as possible.

To share the animation, click on the social media icons at the top of this page, or visit IIED’s YouTube site and click on the ‘share’ option.

We also encourage you to use the animation for your own purposes: the video can be embedded in other websites by using the following code: http://ahref=


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