The Seattle-based Rural Development Institute has announced a $6.7 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to expand its micro-land ownership program in India and increase agricultural productivity for female laborers there.
The program is designed to help landless women and their families achieve food security and escape poverty through access to agricultural services on plots as small as a tenth of an acre. The grant will enable RDI to focus specifically on helping women in the states of Orissa and West Bengal obtain ownership of plots and maximize the nutritional and income-producing potential of their land.
In India, poverty and hunger are primarily concentrated in rural areas, where families rely on agriculture not only for nutrition but for income and status. There are at least 15 million landless rural Indian households, the majority of which include agricultural laborers earning less than $1 a day.
"Women comprise a significant majority of India's agricultural labor force, yet they rarely have rights to land and are often among the most vulnerable groups in India," said RDI president and CEO Tim Hanstad. "Our work has demonstrated that you don't need large family farms to provide meaningful access to land for the poorest. Even small plots of land provide enormous benefits to India's poorest citizens, particularly women and girls as millions of female workers make their living as agricultural laborers."