In West Bengal, India, aspiring women farmers face many barriers to asserting their rights to land. One such barrier: 15 million land records are out-of-date, making it difficult for rural families to obtain credit and access agricultural services. Local middlemen exploit these conditions by charging exorbitant fees to update records.
Fortunately, these women now have a bold new solution to access land records services, in a program provided by women, for women and their families.
Landesa is a global organization founded on the principle that secure land rights are the cornerstone of economic and social empowerment. Drawing from more than two decades of experience in India, Landesa’s team of land and gender experts have partnered with a network of women-led organizations, known as Sanghas, to create Sangha Service Centers.
This innovative model—the first of its kind in India—trains women entrepreneurs to manage business centers that provide land record udpating services for women and their families. The new women-led centers will charge reasonable and affordable fees for the services. Women operating the centers will gain new technology skills, learn business acumen, improve their incomes and livelihoods, and acquire new status within their villages.
Minati Burman and Bharati Burman, two of the women trained to run one of the Sangha Service Centers, explained that “women in this locality fall easy prey to the vicious cycle of middlemen while trying to access land-related services. In addition to spending a good amount, we are harassed in the process. From now onwards, we can easily access these services from our center.”
Updated land records are also a means to strengthen markets and expand economic opportunity by allowing farmers to have access to a range of benefits, including subsidized credit, crop insurance, natural disaster relief, and access to additional supports that increase farm productivity and encourage sustainable land use.
While this project partnership with Sanghas is new—currently, Landesa is working with seven centers around West Bengal—the potential for impact is promising. Each center will serve twelve villages, providing upwards of four thousand households access to these gender-sensitive resources. Even with public health restrictions enacted in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, Sanghas are continuing to reach women in rural areas; between March and July 2021, Landesa-supported Sangha Service Centers received 58 applications to update land records.
You can find more information about Landesa and Rising Tide Foundation grant here