July 15, 2010, REDWOOD CITY, Calif. and MUMBAI — Omidyar Network announced today a grant of $2.1 million over two years to the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES) to extend property rights to common land to India’s poorest communities. FES will use the funding to advance policy advocacy, grow operations, and offer new programs that will enable 1.5 million people to obtain property rights to community land while also restoring natural resources in these areas.
FES is the largest organization focused on giving India’s rural poor rights to common land (“the commons”). While up to 30 percent of India’s population depends on the commons for their livelihood, very few have formal rights to this land. FES addresses this issue by representing landless communities and organizing long-term leasing arrangements and secure tenure with state governments. FES uses a holistic approach to resource management that includes securing legal rights and financial resources for individuals, strengthening village institutions, and improving the productivity and long-term sustainability of natural resources.
“For more than 300 million of India’s rural poor, the commons act as a critical safety net—contributing income, water, and everyday nutrition when they are needed most,” said Dr. Amrita Patel, Chair of FES’s Board of Governors. “With Omidyar Network’s funding, FES will reach thousands of additional rural communities with programs that enable them to access, share and conserve their common lands.”
Omidyar Network works to bring greater awareness to the fundamental role of property rights in poverty alleviation globally. In India, where Omidyar Network has opened an office and invested more than $50 million to date, the organization works to increase economic opportunity through a range of tools, including access to land rights. Helping FES scale its operations will enable it to expand critical programs, as well as advocate for policies that encourage equal rights for poor communities.
“Property rights are fundamental to bringing greater economic opportunity, long-term financial security, and personal dignity to the poor,” said Jayant Sinha, Managing Director, Omidyar Network India Advisors. “We are proud to support FES’s goal to materially improve the lives of millions and believe their work demonstrates the potential of property rights to unleash economic growth for lasting impact.”
“Omidyar Network’s support marks a major milestone in FES’s history,” said Jagdeesh Rao Puppala, Executive Director of FES. “Omidyar Network brings a complementary set of values and commitment to property rights, while the funding is timely in helping us reach India’s growing population and addressing the degradation and depletion of natural resources, especially in rural areas.”
About Omidyar Network
Omidyar Network is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives. Established in 2004 by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife Pam, the organization invests in and helps scale innovative organizations to catalyze economic and social change. To date, Omidyar Network has committed more than $350 million to for-profit companies and nonprofit organizations that foster economic advancement and encourage individual participation across multiple investment areas, including microfinance, property rights, government transparency, and social media. To learn more about Omidyar Network, please visit www.omidyar.com.
Registered under the Societies Registration Act XXI 1860, the Foundation for Ecological Security was set up in 2001 to improve the governance of natural resources in India. FES works with 1,526 village institutions in 27 districts across six states, assisting village communities in protecting 107,094 hectares of revenue wastelands, degraded forest lands and Panchayat grazing lands. FES support Panchayats and their subcommittees, Village Forest Committees, Gramya Jungle Committees, Water Users Associations and Watershed Committees. Regardless of the form of the institution, FES strives for a future where local communities determine and move towards desirable land-use that is based on principles of conservation and social justice. For more information, visit http://fes.org.in.