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land ownership changes lives,
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42 Teak Trees on 1/10th of an Acre

Plus 12 mango, 8 neem, 4 bamboo, 1 sandalwood, 2 jambu, pomegranate, gooseberry, custard apple, guava, papaya, date palm, lime, almond, areca, field beans, bitter gourds, onions, curry leaf, ginger, greens, sweet potatoes, eggplant, passion fruit, roses, jasmine, and chrysanthemums are the trees, fruits, nuts, vegetables, herbs and medicinals grown by Jiyappa and his family on a 5,400 square foot house-and-garden plot they have owned since 1993 in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Jiyappa is a former “bonded laborer”—an indentured servant who lived and worked in his master’s house and farm fields in exchange for basic food, a primitive shelter, and 700 Rupees (US $16) per year. That was before he was hired by the Deccan Development Society (DDS), a local NGO working to economically empower the poorest of the rural poor. In 1993, the DDS employee’s association helped Jiyappa and fellow DDS workers purchase small house-and-garden plots of about 1/10th of an acre.


Today, Jiyappa, his wife Sukkammaa, and three of their six children live in a small house they have constructed on the plot. The plot is producing 90% of the family’s annual vegetable and fruit needs, plus 6,000 Rupees (US$133) a year from the sale of what they can’t eat themselves. The 20 chickens they keep on the plot are used for family consumption, plus provide 3,000 Rupees (US $67) a year from the sale of poultry and eggs. And ten years from now, when the teak trees begin to reach maturity, the wood from each tree will fetch at least 25,000 Rupees (US $556), giving the 42 trees a total value of roughly 1,050,000 Rupees (US $23,333) in today’s rupees/dollars—an enormous sum for a poor rural family in India.

Research by RDI in India has shown that house-and-garden plots as small as 1/10th of an acre can produce substantial benefits for formerly landless families, including improved nutrition and health, increased income, access to credit, and community status. Download a working paper on some of RDI’s findings. In India, RDI has recommended that Indian states sponsor programs to distribute house-and-garden plots to the rural landless. Read more about RDI’s work in India and how you can support our work.

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