“Tenure and its governance are crucial factors in the fight against inequality and discrimination, for sustainable use of the environment, social stability and resilience toward the overall achievement of the SDGs.” FAO, Why Land Rights Matter, 2020
“If people lose their land, they have nothing. You lose your land--you lose your culture, you lose self.” --Richard Gere
What could happen if we could document, register, and secure the rights of 1 billion tenure-insecure people around the world? That is the question that Cadasta Foundation sought to answer at its founding in 2015 as a global land rights platform harnessing technology and services to advance and resource rights for the most vulnerable. Equipped with powerful technology and a team of experts, our mission is to build a world where even the most marginalized individuals and communities can benefit from the opportunities afforded by secure land and resource rights.
Since our founding in 2015, Cadasta has become the leading provider of technical tools and services to support the documentation of land and resource rights to build stronger, more sustainable communities. We have continued to adapt and improve our tools and strategy to make it easier than ever to collect, store, and analyze land and resource rights data around the world. Backed by Esri’s ArcGIS, Cadasta has been able to deliver efficient and affordable enterprise-level technology and global land expertise to partners who map people, land, and resource data in order to strengthen tenure and realize rights for a more sustainable and equitable planet.
Now five years later, we have worked with more than 70 partners in 33 countries to advance the land and resource rights of over 5 million people across 11.8 million hectares in 1,580 communities. Over 100,000 land documents covering over 600,000 people have been issued by governments, and this number continues to grow. These efforts have been accomplished due to the collaboration and work of talented and resourceful partners on the ground. And we are starting to see the broader positive impacts on communities of strengthened rights and better data for local decision-making.
Projects like the Odisha Liveable Habitat Mission in India leveraged Cadasta’s platform to improve the living conditions of informal settlements in Odisha state. Through the use of Cadasta’s fit-for-purpose technology and services, more than 700 community data collectors were trained, and with the use of Cadasta’s Esri-powered technology and services, were able to quickly document and map 1,725 slum communities and over 176,000 households and 1 million people to create an official data set of slum dwellings in Odisha. Once documented, the state government issued nearly 62,500 Land Rights Certificates and 99,311 Land Entitlement Certificates, benefiting an estimated one million people.
Waatavaran in India are leveraging Cadasta’s tools to efficiently map and collect community spatial and household data for Scheduled Caste and Tribal Communities living in forest areas. Currently, these communities lack any form of formal records or proof of their communal and individual forest rights. Once documented, the community and individual claims are submitted to local village councils for the first step of approval of their formal individual and community forest right titles under the Indian Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006.
In Kenya, our partnership with Pamoja Trust helped map and halt the eviction of 71,000 people from informal settlements in Nairobi in the spring of 2020, at the peak of the COVID-19 lockdown. Had the evictions not been halted, these already vulnerable communities would have been left homeless and put at an even greater risk of contracting and spreading COVID-19.
In Brazil, Cadasta partnered with Earthworm on a program that works with small-holder agro-forestry producers in the palm oil sector. Using Cadasta’s tools, Earthworm documented over 650 landholders to ensure they benefit from REDD+ funding and benefits.
And we know that this work is having real impact for poor landholders on the ground. An independent evaluation conducted in 2020 by 60decibels on a Cadasta project in India led by Pradan found that before mapping, 75 percent of beneficiaries were ‘very worried’ and ‘slightly worried’ about losing their property. However, after documentation, 74 percent reported this worry decreased. 83 percent of beneficiaries reported an improved quality of life because of Cadasta, with 26 percent saying their quality of life had “very much improved.” Beneficiaries also reported that they feel safer and that they are looking forward to accessing more services as well as making investments in farming and education.
As a part of the evaluation, Cadasta received a Net Promoter Score—a common private sector measure of customer satisfaction—of 69, which is classified as excellent and significantly higher than the global average of 41. Furthermore, among the evaluator’s dataset, Cadasta is the highest rated land organization in the property rights sector to date.
It is estimated that 70 percent of land in the developing world is undocumented, leaving more than a fourth of the world’s population vulnerable to conflict, evictions, and encroachment. Land rights are at the heart of sustainable development. Without them, countries, communities, and individual households struggle to develop and thrive.
The documented rights of 5 million people on the Cadasta Platform does not just represent a number. Through these efforts, our partners are empowered by understanding and using their own data for their own needs. Technology, data, and land rights are all tools that support local efforts to address climate, conservation, sustainable land use, women’s equality, and access to broader benefits and services.
Cadasta’s dashboards, webmaps, and data analysis tools help put information and decisions in the hands of those who need it the most—families and communities left out of formal land systems who rely on their land for their livelihoods, their lives, and their futures.