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What Are Land Rights?

Land rights are the legal or customary rights people have to their land, home, and resources they rely on.

People who live in the US, Canada, and Europe often take their land rights for granted.

That’s because, for most of people in these regions, rights to homes and land are legally documented by deeds, titles, or contracts  actively protected by  public institutions, such as courts.

But outside of Europe and North America and parts of Asia, hundreds of millions of people live in fear of eviction from their farmland or home because they have insecure rights to land.


  • 25 percent of families who live in cities have no legal rights to the house they live in.
  • 50 percent of farmers have no legal rights to their land.
  • 65 percent of the world’s land area is managed by indigenous and local communities who usually don’t have formally recognized legal rights to the land they have preserved and managed for generations.
  •  The rights to 70 percent of the land in the developing world is undocumented.

In both cities and rural areas, insecure land and resource rights create dysfunction, conflict, and trap hardworking families in poverty for generations.


Without land rights families don’t have long-term security to their land and property. That means they don’t have the security and incentive to invest in their land or home to improve it and climb out of poverty.

Insecure land rights are a problem in many countries from Afghanistan to Zambia. But it is a particularly common challenge for indigenous people, women, residents of slums, and smallholder farmers in the developing world.

Land rights have never been more important. The world’s growing population and globalization are putting unprecedented pressure on land.  

Research shows that families with more secure rights to land take better care of it.

In emerginig economies, where land and property is often community managed through traditional systems like clans and chiefs,  studies demonstrate that, communities with secure rights to natural resources are more successful conserving those resources.

With secure land rights, people live without the fear of eviction and invest more in their families, their communities, and their futures.

If we want to reduce hunger and conflict, protect the planet, and empower women, we need to act now and strengthen land rights for women, men, and communities around the world.[r1]

Governments are realizing the fundamental importance of land rights and changing laws and policies to strengthen land rights and communities are harnessing cutting edge technology, like the Cadasta platform, to document and strengthen their land rights.

You can use your voice and resources to expedite these efforts and improve access to safe and secure land and housing by supporting Habitat for Humanity’s Solid Ground campaign or  Cadasta Foundation.

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