Letter from CEO

When I started working with Landesa founder Roy Prosterman 25 years ago, the issue of land rights was an outlier and was so highly charged in some settings that Roy and I wore bullet proof vests in the field.

Support for our work was mixed, largely because of fear from both the right and left and an under appreciation by development experts for how governments in developing countries around the world could institute market-based and democratic land rights programs that would help their poor. And so, while the impact of our work during this time was profound, it was constrained by a lack of political will as well as financial and human resources.

“At that time, it was just Roy and me with a budget of about $50,000.”

Twenty-five Years Later...

Twenty-five years later, land rights are not viewed in the highly politicized Cold War context. Rather, land rights are increasingly viewed not only as an acceptable tool in the fight against global poverty, but also a necessary and foundational element for advancing sustainable development. As appreciation for land rights has grown and invitations from governments have multiplied, so too have our resources and our impact.

2010 was a transformative year for the organization thanks in large part to generous funding.

  • We increased our programs, impact and staff,
  • adopted a new name, and
  • set our sights even higher.
  • While we are still a small organization, our impact is now on par with some of the world’s largest and most respected non-profits.

Consider what
we’ve accomplished

in 2010:

In China

2.3 Million


our work with the Chinese government has helped bring secure, legal land rights to 2.3 million families.

In India

In India our partnerships with governments helped 124,000 poor families become land owners, and the potential for further scaling increased.


Poor Families

In Africa

We launched programs in four African countries (Liberia, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Kenya) where we have the potential to impact more families, communities, and countries. In each geography, as always, our approach is tailored to the local situation.

Liberia, Ethiopia, Uganda,
and Kenya

Women's Land Rights

Our new Landesa Center for Women’s Land Rights initiated cutting edge projects on girls’ land rights in India and Uganda, as well as a fellowship program to build capacity for this crucial work to empower women and girls.

By 2015

we aim to help an additional

20 million

families have legal control over

the land they till

In the Next

10 Years

We Can Help Millions

Given the growing appreciation for the importance of land property rights and recognition from governments that they cannot sustainably develop without providing secure land rights to a broad section of their society, the next ten years offer a historical opportunity to maximize our impact.

It is indeed a privilege to be leading Landesa at such a critical time. I am increasingly confident that together with our partners – and using the leveraged tools of legal and policy change – we can help provide transformative opportunity to millions more poor families around the globe.



transforms societies.

More importantly, it transforms the lives of the poor. I wish you all could have the honor of witnessing this directly in the lives of beneficiaries. I am reminded of the families I visited recently in Kharibanda village in Odisha, India. One year ago, families in this village were poor, malnourished, and without any land they could legally call their own. Each received a micro-plot in 2010, and that tiny piece of land was a game changer. It unleashed the potential of these impoverished families. The families now grow most of the food they need and sell the excess at market. With a land title, they can send their children to government residential schools and apply for government work permits. They’ve started a self-help group to save money for the future and are building a road to connect their village to the outside world.

More Than

1 Billion

Poor Rural People

Still Lack Land Rights

Helping families in one Indian village to gain land is noble and important work. But the most innovative and exciting aspect of Landesa’s work is that this change was made possible through legal and policy changes that are now being scaled across the state. At Landesa, we recognize that accelerating legal rights to land is transformative and can break entrenched poverty cycles. We also realize that reaching the billion or so poor rural families on the planet who lack such rights is only possible through structural change – structural change that we facilitate with your support.

We are grateful for your partnership as we work with governments to help unlock the untapped potential of the rural poor to create opportunity and prosperity for millions of families around the world.

Sincerely yours,

Tim Hanstad

Our Heritage

The Rural Development Institute has been around for over 40 years and has helped more than 400 million people.

Roy Prosterman, law professor at University of Washington Law School, reads a law review article that promotes land confiscation as an acceptable tool for land reform in Latin America. He responds with his own law review article, Land Reform in Latin America: How to Have a Revolution without a Revolution, in which he urges democratic and market-friendly land reform, which includes full compensation for land acquisitions. He's called to testify before Congress and asked to promote the concept in Vietnam.

Roy Prosterman travels to South Vietnam in the middle of the Vietnam War and works with the government to design and launch a “land to the tiller program.” The program pays large land owners in the Mekong Delta and redistributes the land to one million tenant farmers. Although implemented too late to halt the war (the program runs from the late 60s to early 70s), the program boosts rice production by 30 percent and cuts indigenous Vietcong recruitment within the South by 80 percent.

1,000,000 Vietnamese

families benefit from the Vietnam pilot program.

Prosterman travels to Japan and Taiwan researching successful land reform programs and conducts field studies in South and Central America, South Asia, and the Middle East.

Prosterman works with the Marcos
government in the Philippines to help

161,000 families

obtain land rights

Prosterman attracts funding through the law school for the work, including a full-time research associate.

The Rural Development Institute, housed in a one-bedroom apartment in Seattle’s University District, focuses on conflicts in central America and the Philippines where land distribution was highly inequitable and was at the root of many conflicts. In El Salvador, Roy Prosterman and Tim Hanstad–donning bullet proof vests—provide legal and policy help to democratic campesino organizations on land reform and titling issues.

RDI’s work in El Salvador helps bring land rights to

49,000 families.

RDI conducts first field research in China in 1987 and begins advising the government on far-reaching policy and legal changes.

Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto publishes his seminal book, The Other Path: The Invisible Revolution in the Third World. The book, along with de Soto’s other writings, help raise awareness about the importance of securing land property rights for the poor.

The fall of the Soviet Union creates an entirely new group of countries ripe for land rights reform. Soviet-bloc countries ask for assistance with state farm reorganization, land privatization, and establishing land registration and land markets. RDI is invited to work in: Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyz Republic, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Poland, Romania, Russia, Tajikistan, and Ukraine. RDI opens offices in Eastern Europe and Russia. The organization’s work in China gains momentum. The organization also begins to focus on how land rights reforms impact women differently.

17.8 million Russian families

gain secure, legal rights to land.

522,000 families

in Moldova gain secure, legal rights to land.



in Kyrgyzstan gain secure, legal rights to land.

American political scientist, Elinor Ostrom, publishes her seminal work, Governing the Commons, further elevating the issue of land rights and its critical role in development. She later wins a Nobel Prize for her work.

3.45 million

farm families in the Ukraine gain land rights.

RDI partners with four states in India (Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha, and West Bengal) to bring land ownership to

313,000 Families.

Founder Roy Prosterman hands executive leadership to his former law student and long-time associate Tim Hanstad who becomes CEO.

86 million

Chinese farm families gain land rights in this decade.

RDI begins working in India, a few post-conflict African countries, and expands its focus on women's land rights. The organization, newly expanded and now headquartered in downtown Seattle, continues its work in the former Soviet bloc, but gradually shifts focus on four areas of emphasis: China, India, Africa, and Women's land rights.

Five offices established in India.

RDI continues its focus on India, China, Africa, and Women. The world-wide land rush as well as climate change mitigation provide new challenges to secure land rights around the world.

124,000 Indian families become land owners.

2.3 million Chinese

farm families obtain secure legal land rights.

RDI launches the Global Center for Women’s Land Rights to unite the global community in support of women’s land rights and maximize the impact of land to the tiller programs around the world.

RDI launches programs in Liberia,
Uganda, Rwanda, and Kenya.

RDI opens offices in the Indian states of Odisha and West Bengal and a national office in Delhi

RDI’s Global Center for Women’s Land Rights launches its fellowship program. Three fellows join the organization for training.

Kamala's Story

Hand a hammer, nails and some wood to Uttam Mondal and the experienced carpenter can build almost anything.

Still, Uttam couldn’t build the thing his family needed most of all – a home.

His meager salary of just 1,000 Rupees a month (US$22) would never stretch far enough to allow him to buy a plot of land on which to build a home.

And so, he and his wife and their three young girls (ages 9, 7, and 4) lived with Uttam’s parents, and his three brothers and one sister in a home better suited to fit half as many people.

But a program designed by the government of West Bengal in partnership with Landesa and RDI India, gave the Mondal family a micro-plot. On this tiny plot, Uttam built a home and Kamala planted a garden—and suddenly a bright future for the girls is taking root.

“It was very difficult to stay there,” said Kamala Mondal (Uttam’s wife).  “The girls had no room to play.” They felt trapped and couldn’t find a way to earn more and provide better for their daughters.
“I could not provide nutritious food to my daughters. Eggs and milk were distant dreams for me,” said Kamala Mondal (Uttam’s wife).

Kamala’s garden provides the family with the precious vegetables they often went without. The excess produce Kamala sells at market boosts her family’s income by 500 rupees a month ($11). Combined with Uttam’s wages as a carpenter, the family can now afford to eat three meals a day and luxuries like milk or fish a few times a week.

The Mondals are one of the first families to participate in a program that prioritizes families who have only daughters in the state’s micro-plot scheme.  Girls in India are particularly vulnerable because by tradition, their families must provide a cash dowry for them to marry. Poor families like the Mondals who have no savings and no land, are often forced to arrange early marriages for their daughters (dowries are reduced or eliminated for very young girls) or send their daughters into the city to earn their dowry. Both practices put girls at risk for trafficking and cut short girls’ education, continuing a cycle of poverty.

“The most important change for me is the feeling of security for my daughters,” said Kamala.
“Now, I can plan for their education and assure myself that I would be able to support their education till the level they want.”

This new program aims to start a cycle of prosperity.

Landesa is working to help many more families with daughters like the Mondals, thanks in part to generous support by the Nike Foundation. In addition to providing secure rights to land, families like the Mondals will participate in community meetings, alongside girls’ and boys’ discussion groups, where topics around dowry and marriage practices concerning inheritance traditions affect girls and women. The community can then prepare action plans to address the problem.

Kamala has already begun to dream bigger dreams for her own daughters. “I wish they’ll get more education than me,” said Kamala. “I’ll think about their marriage only after they get a proper education. This land helped me a lot in fulfilling my dreams.”

Landesa Financials

For the Year Ended June 30, 2010

Sources of Operating Funds

Total Operating Funds:


Functional Allocation of Expenses

Total Expenses:


>> Download 990 Form 2009

Allocation of Resources by Program Area