BlogField Focus Blog

Sep 26 2012

Micro-plots: A Foundation for Development

By Sanjoy Patnaik

Most of the world’s poor share two traits: they rely on agriculture to survive, but they don’t own or have legal control over the land they till.

Across India, there are tens of millions of families who share these traits. They are farmers with no legal claim to the land they have occupied for many years, or they are tenant farmers, or day laborers.

They have been trapped in poverty for generations.

And they had no reason to believe that their children or grandchildren could know a different – more stable or prosperous– life.

Until, Landesa, a global nonprofit working in partnership with a variety of state governments and the Indian national government, designed and implemented new programs that provide secure land ownership opportunities for the poor.

How much land does it take to provide the poor with the incentive and opportunity to climb out of poverty? Less than you would think.

Landesa’s research and fieldwork is proving that a plot of land as small as a tennis court can be an important first step to lifting a family out of extreme poverty.

We call them micro-plots. And their small size belies their large impact.

We’ve found that on these one-tenth of an acre plots, families can produce most of the vegetables and fruits they need and sell excess produce to supplement the family’s other earnings.

Families report that the food they grow on their new micro-plots boost family nutrition, the excess sold at market helps provide added income, and having their own home gives farm hands, who would otherwise live on their employer’s property, bargaining leverage to negotiate a fair wage.

And the benefits touch the next generation as well. Families report that secure title to a small plot of land is often the missing ticket families need to send their children to school, for a variety of reasons that may not be obvious. Sometimes land allows families to stop or reduce migrating and grow roots in a community. Other times a land title provides families with the proof of residency they need to enroll their child in school or obtain the tuition subsidy that makes school affordable. And often legal control over land is what allows families to start investing in their land to improve their income and their harvests and that is what pays school fees and buys school uniforms.

And families tell us that being a landowner is what finally allows them to speak at community meetings and participate in other community decisions and activities.

Watch this one-minute-long video to see images of these proud new landowners working their land.

And because the plots are small, our government partners say they can finally afford to address the needs of their poorest citizens. Many of our government partners are using vacant land that the government already owns or buying privately-held parcels at the market rate and dividing them up into micro-plots to help dozens or sometimes hundreds of families at a time.

Here’s what the partnership between dedicated government officials across India and Landesa, has already yielded:

  • 11 states across India have allocated 210,613 micro-plots to families through land purchase programs and other micro-plot programs.
  • The central government included a provision for micro-plots in the country’s 11th Five Year Plan and has allocated the equivalent of $250 million toward micro-plot programs.
  • This national support has spurred additional micro-plot strategies in the states of Sikkim, Bihar, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, and Karnataka.

These programs deserved to be celebrated, supported, expanded and replicated both within and out of India’s borders.

Sanjoy Patnaik is Odisha State Director for Landesa, in India

Comments 4

  1. Good Work! Keep it up. How about supplementing a micro plot with a small manufactured home consisting of a kitchen, toilet and living spaces and coupled to solar panels on the roof and electric stoves. Such a comprehensive solution would be a game changer!

  2. Excellent concept for Indian context.

    I think agriculture practices of subsistence living should be re-orientated towards agro-enterprises mode (AEM) along with community organisation working as Hub to steer AEM for making it sustainable livelihood. To pursue this

    Firstly Since most of the entrepreneurial activities in rural areas are based on agricultural and natural resource products, inculcating AED (AGRO-ENTERPRISE DEVELOPMENT) among farmer families can broaden their income opportunities by diversifying into higher value on-farm and off-farm enterprises. Establishment of the agribusiness enterprises across the value chain will not only create an additional employment opportunities for the youths (as agri-entrepreneurs or aggregators) but will enhance the linkage of farmers from farm to food table; diminish layers of intermediary leading to increased price realization both among the farmers and entrepreneurs. Thus fostering AED mode emerges as a way forward for farming community to improve their lives, strengthen the local economic in sustainable manner as well as revitalizing rural area for poverty reduction.

    Secondly Small & Marginal farmer community rarely treat farming as their family business nor develop vibrant network to advocate their interest, which make them more vulnerable. Whereas agriculture based business people i.e. secondary market is very intimately related with their community. They have good network with power centre and advocate their interest with vigour and enthusiasm. Vibrant S&M farmer organisation would be the way forward.

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