Founded in 1967, Landesa, formerly the Rural Development Institute, has promoted land-related reforms, laws, policies, and programs in more than fifty countries, helping to secure land rights for an estimated 115 million rural families. The majority of the 2.5 billion people who live on less than $2 a day are poor rural farmers who have no legal control over the land they depend on for their food and livelihoods. Landesa partners with governments to adapt its portfolio of interventions to the unique cultural practices and policies of each country to create lasting solutions to some of the most pressing problems in the developing world.
"In the world's poorest rural societies, secure rights to land are everything," said Conrad N. Hilton Foundation vice president Judy Miller, who serves as director of the annual prize. "Land serves as a source of food, housing, income, and credit, and it can both empower individuals and provide social status and influence."
Landesa, which will join the Hilton Prize Coalition, has succeeded in raising the international profile of the lands rights issue and putting it on the global development agenda; three of the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals include land-related targets. The organization also promotes opportunity and equal rights for women through the Center for Women's Land Rights, which works to connect policy makers and researchers seeking innovative solutions aimed at protecting women's land rights.
"Secure land rights are transformational for the world's poor," said Landesa president and CEO Chris Jochnick. "Land rights as a foundation for broad-based economic development are too often overlooked. In India, for instance, the greatest predictor of poverty isn't illiteracy or low caste. The greatest predictor of poverty is landlessness....With secure land rights, women and men have the opportunity, incentive, and security to improve their harvest, and thereby their lives. We look forward to leveraging the Hilton Humanitarian Prize to bring more attention to this work, which can bring much-needed economic security for the world's most vulnerable populations."