In the mid-1960s, 2006 Kravis Prize winner Roy Prosterman founded Landesa, using his knowledge and expertise to fight global poverty. Armed with his background as an attorney, he set out to tackle one of the root causes of poverty – rural landlessness. The organization’s work spans across the globe, including India. In fact, Landesa has partnered with India’s Andhra Pradesh government for a legal aid program. Through the program, young people can be trained as paralegals and spread their knowledge to help others understand their rights and secure title, or “patta,” to their land. Reuters shared one individual’s story:
“My father-in-law pawned the land for food,” said Kowasalya Thati. “When he returned the grain later, the land owners refused to give it back. They claimed it and we had no document to prove otherwise. For 28 years, we had to work on the land we once owned. Without land, we had nothing … not even enough food. It’s a miracle we got it back.”
Landesa says there are plans to bring these barefoot lawyers to other states in the country, further expanding the organization’s impact and reach. Landesa’s India country director Gregory Rake says, “The community-based paralegal model has emerged globally as a cost-effective solution to the problem of access to justice for rural communities.” In fact, a similar scheme is already running in India’s impoverished state of Orissa and will aim to provide half a million poor families with security over their land.
“FEATURE-Barefoot lawyers bring food security to India’s tribes” [Reuters, May 2, 2012]