March 2014 – This paper critically examines how lease farming can be a viable livelihood option for landless rural poor, especially women in India. In the absence of land ownership and education, the majority of landless and semi-landless rural women are engaged as low wage agricultural labourers and remain trapped in poverty and indebtedness. Lease farming by landless women in Kerala and Andhra Pradesh shows a pathway for reducing their poverty and enabling upward social mobility. However, agricultural tenancy laws in most states in India either prohibit or restrict land leasing, making tenancy a concealed and less secure arrangement. Informal tenants are the most insecure, often under short duration oral leases and having to rotate plots every year. Economic forces drive the demand for land to lease, but legal bans or restrictions have reduced the amount of land available in the lease market and have forced tenants into informal arrangements. We argue that there is a need for appropriate legal and policy changes to activate the supply of leasable land and enable landless poor women to improve their livelihoods. This Paper was prepared for presentation at the “2014 World Bank Conference on Land and Poverty” in Washington DC, March 24-27, 2014. By Dr. T. Haque and Jaya Lekshmi Nair.
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Landesa partners with governments and local organizations to ensure that the world’s poorest families have secure rights over the land they till. Founded as the Rural Development Institute, Landesa has helped more than 105 million poor families gain legal control over their land since 1967. When families have secure rights to land, they can invest in their land to sustainably increase their harvests and reap the benefits—improved nutrition, health, and education—for generations.