Our Heritage

Founded as the Rural Development Institute, Landesa has partnered with governments to help provide secure land rights to more than 100 million families since 1967.

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, in which he urges democratic and market-friendly land reform, which includes full compensation for land acquisitions. He's invited before Congress and asked to promote the concept in Vietnam.

1,000,000 Vietnamese families

benefit from the Vietnam pilot program.

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 to redistribute land to one million tenant farmers. The program boosts rice production by 30 percent and cuts indigenous Vietcong recruitment within the South by 80 percent.

Prosterman works with the Marcos
government in the Philippines to help

161,000 families

obtain land rights

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.

The Rural Development Institute 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 then associate Tim Hanstad–donning bullet proof vests after Roy’s colleague and former student, along with two others, were killed as they met to discuss land reform–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.

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.

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

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.

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.

522,000 families

in Moldova gain secure, legal rights to land.

17.8 million

Russian families

gain secure, legal rights to land.

232,000 families

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.

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.

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.

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

313,000 Families.

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.

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 Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Odisha and West Bengal and a national office in Delhi.

RDI’s Global Center for Women’s Land Rights launches its fellowship program.

RDI changes its name to Landesa.

Landesa’s partnerships help more than
900,000 Indian families become land owners

4.9 million Chinese

farm families obtain documented legal rights to land.

Landesa continues to help more than three million rural families each
year to receive secure rights to their land.