Omidyar Network announced last week a grant of $2.1 million over two years to the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) to extend property rights to common land to India’s poorest communities. FES will use the funding to advance policy advocacy, grow operations, and offer new programs that will enable 1.5 million people to obtain property rights to community land while also restoring natural resources in these areas.
FES is the largest organization focused on giving India’s rural poor rights to common land (“the commons”). While up to 30 percent of India’s population depends on the commons for their livelihood, very few have formal rights to this land. FES addresses this issue by representing landless communities and organizing long-term leasing arrangements and secure tenure with state governments. FES uses a holistic approach to resource management that includes securing legal rights and financial resources for individuals, strengthening village institutions, and improving the productivity and long-term sustainability of natural resources. “For more than 300 million of India’s rural poor, the commons act as a critical safety net — contributing income, water, and everyday nutrition when they are needed most,” said Dr. Amrita Patel, Chair of FES’s Board of Governors. “With Omidyar Network’s funding, FES will reach thousands of additional rural communities with programs that enable them to access, share and conserve their common lands.”
Omidyar Network works to bring greater awareness to the fundamental role of property rights in poverty alleviation globally. In India, where Omidyar Network has opened an office and invested more than $50 million to date, the organization works to increase economic opportunity through a range of tools, including access to land rights. Helping FES scale its operations will enable it to expand critical programs, as well as advocate for policies that encourage equal rights for poor communities.
“Property rights are fundamental to bringing greater economic opportunity, long-term financial security, and personal dignity to the poor,” said Jayant Sinha, Managing Director, Omidyar Network India Advisors. “We are proud to support FES’s goal to materially improve the lives of millions and believe their work demonstrates the potential of property rights to unleash economic growth for lasting impact.”