April 11, 2012 — In a major breakthrough, the state government of Odisha has announced a massive extension of its flagship homestead program promising land titles to about 500,000 tribal families in the Indian state.
The announcement made on April 11, 2012, aims to scale a government program based on Community Resource Persons (CRPs) – a model developed by Landesa’s partner in India, Rural Development Institute (RDI). CRPs are previously unemployed youth from villages who have been hired and taught to increase the staff capacity of the state to provide landless and tribal communities with homestead land and titles.
Lack of access to and control over land pushes poor families, especially women, deep into a poverty trap with no way out, since they do not own any assets. Getting one’s own land to live and grow food on is a life-changing experience that every landless family in India dreams about.
The CRP model has been a success because it was designed based on the realities of rural life, which previously blocked access to the homestead program. Since 2011, 540 CRPs – popularly known as Bhoomi Sanjojaks– are being used across 1,042 project villages in seven districts of Odisha.
28,000 landless families have been identified as potential beneficiaries in just over a year by using the Bhoomi Sanjojaks. Identification is the first step towards getting land titles. Since the bottleneck of identifying eligible families has been cleared in these project villages, hundreds of tribal families have started receiving titles.
An openness to admit that the local administration needed more support and better systems to implement the land allocation program marked a major shift in the state government’s approach. This was contributed to by Landesa through a research study in 2009 to identify the gaps in the program for homesteadless families. Trust and in-depth understanding of policy and implementation processes are some of the key reasons for this advocacy win.
Odisha is one of the poorest states in India. According to the Planning Commission, 46.9 percent of its population lives Below Poverty Line. As per the National Family Health Survey in 2005-06, 44 percent of children below three years of age were underweight in the state. Indigenous communities constitute about 22 percent of the state’s population, which is nearly three times the national average. This underlines the importance of secure homestead land for some of the poorest communities in the state.
Following the latest announcement, 18,000 villages would be covered under three simultaneous campaigns (2012-2016) within the next five years to coincide with India’s 12th Five Year Plan.