Rural Development Institute and Omidyar Network Working to bring Land Rights to Millions of Rural Poor in India

May 12, 2008, Seattle – The Rural Development Institute (RDI) today announced it has received one of the largest grants in its history – US$4.3 million from Omidyar Network – to help secure land rights for the rural poor in the India state of Andhra Pradesh.

“Our research shows that a little bit of land goes a long way to alleviating poverty,” said RDI CEO Tim Hanstad. “Our ongoing work in the India states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, West Bengal and Orissa, all confirm that even small plots of land can provide a foundation for extremely poor people, especially women, to build a sustainable livelihood and a better economic future.”

“This grant will allow RDI to expand our collaboration with Andhra Pradesh’s state government and other partners to implement programs that provide land and opportunity for the more than 2 million rural landless families who live there,” Hanstad said.

“Omidyar Network is deeply impressed by the work RDI is doing in India,” said Omidyar Network’s Managing Partner Matt Bannick. Bannick noted that after he and Omidyar Network’s Founding Partner, Pierre Omidyar, observed RDI’s work in India firsthand, Omidyar Network became even more excited about how micro-land ownership can empower women and help them to pull themselves out of poverty. “We’re pleased to support RDI and its innovative work,” Bannick said.

RDI began working in India in 2000. Since 2002, RDI has been working with the local nonprofit Society for Eradication of Rural Poverty in Andhra Pradesh to help rural families – particularly women – gain access to small plots of land as part of the Indira Kranthi Patham (IKP) program.

Through activities that RDI helped design, IKP assists poor families in gaining access to land in two distinct and innovative ways: (1) the negotiated purchase of land, and (2) legal aid to families who have claims to public land formally allocated to the family in the past. RDI also will work with Andhra Pradesh partners on a third option: the negotiated lease of agricultural land by poor women.

Last December, India’s central government endorsed micro-land ownership as a key strategy for poverty alleviation by including it in its 11th Five-Year Plan. Since landlessness is the best predictor of poverty in India, the Five-Year Plan aims to allot micro-plots the size of one-tenth of an acre to landless rural families in India.

“After three years of intensive research and financial assistance to state and national policy-makers, it is exciting to see the national government embrace key RDI-proposed programs for micro-land ownership,” said Hanstad, who currently lives in India to oversee RDI’s program to help secure land rights for India’s poor. RDI, which has field offices in Bangalore, Beijing and Jakarta, is headquartered in Seattle.

The grant by Omidyar Network, a philanthropic investment firm established by Pierre Omidyar, the founder of eBay, and his wife Pam, closely follows the Nike Foundation’s announcement that it will support a fellowship that aids in RDI’s creation of a Global Center for Women and Land.

The Center, the second commitment that RDI presented at the Clinton Global Initiative, will focus on obtaining secure land rights for women, who produce 60-80 percent of the world’s agricultural products, yet own less than 5 percent of the world’s titled land. Specifically, the $50,000 Nike Foundation Fellowship will focus on research and recommendations to address unequal inheritance of land for girls in China, India and Uganda, as part of its mission to get girls on the global development agenda and steer resources to them.

“We are deeply grateful for the generosity of Omidyar Network and the Nike Foundation,” said Hanstad. “With their support, RDI is able to continue to provide governments with the support and tools they need to expand land access for their poorest and most marginalized citizens. These investments will dramatically expand the growth of programs that provide land rights to the poorest in Andhra Pradesh and help us improve women’s access to land and livelihoods.”

About the Rural Development Institute
RDI is an international non-profit working to secure land rights for the world’s poor. Over the past 40 years, RDI has worked in more than 40 countries, helping more than 400 million people attain secure land rights. A global pioneer in using law to create land ownership opportunities, RDI’s collaborations with government partners create leveraged, sustainable and generational poverty alleviation. For every dollar contributed, on average, RDI has helped secure land rights for six families. For more information, visit

About Omidyar Network
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm committed to creating opportunity for people around the world. Established by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pam, Omidyar Network supports nonprofit and for-profit efforts that enable people to improve their lives and make powerful, lasting contributions to their communities. Since 2004, Omidyar Network has funded a number of organizations in areas such as microfinance, participatory media, and transparency in government. To learn more about Omidyar Network, please visit