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Putting Land Rights on the Map

Cadasta Foundation develops and promotes the use of simple digital tools and technology to help partners efficiently document, analyze, store, and share critical land and resource rights information. By creating an accessible digital record of land, housing and resource rights, we help empower individuals, organizations, communities, and governments with the information they need to make data-driven decisions and put vulnerable communities and their needs on the map. Residents of the Global North typically take for granted that our rights to our home and land are documented and protected by a range of public institutions. But this is not the case for the majority of people in the world. In fact, the World Bank estimates that the ownership rights of 70 percent of the land in the developing world is undocumented.

In both urban and rural settings, this lack of documentation of land and resource rights creates dysfunction, conflict, and poverty.

Consider the estimated 25 percent of the world’s urban population who live in homes to which they have no legal rights — often in slums that appear in no government records and receive minimal if any government services.

Consider the majority of farmers around the world who farm without the protection of having legal rights to their land documented by government records and without basic knowledge such as how much land they actually farm.

Consider the government concessions granted to extractive industries in emerging economies, 93 percent of  which are already occupied, often by people whose rights to the land are undocumented and unrecognized.

The unrecognized rights to land in each of these settings deny opportunity to hundreds of millions of people and are a significant barrier to development. They undermine confidence in government institutions and seed conflict and insecurity across a wide swath of the globe.

Cadasta was founded on the premise that documenting land rights in these varied settings and opening land records up to the public makes them more secure. Even in countries or communities where there is little transparency, accountability, and documentation of land rights, there are steps organizations, individuals, and communities can take to strengthen their rights to land and resources.

Cadasta is dedicated to working in such settings to help partners use simple, low-cost, high-tech tools to efficiently and effectively document their land and resource rights — incrementally strengthening their rights to land.

This documentation creates an evidence base and advocacy case for vulnerable communities’ claims to the land. Such documentation can make it less likely that communities will be displaced and can serve to support demands for compensation should communities be displaced.

We use and create versatile digital tools for a myriad of purposes from certifying sustainable agricultural production to creating a digital land registry that secures land rights for millions of people.

Our platform is easy to use, flexible, and can connect with other programs seamlessly. We use and develop “open source” programs and platforms which can easily be modified as the project changes or partners’ needs change.

Recent advances in drone, GPS, and other technology provides us with unprecedented opportunities to document land rights quickly and efficiently. Cadasta was launched in 2014 thanks to funding from Omidyar Network and UK aid.

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