By Riya Mehta ’18
This past summer, I was the Stanford in Government Fellow at Landesa, an international nonprofit organization that partners with governments around the world to secure land rights for the rural poor. As a part of Landesa’s China team, I conducted international comparative legal and policy research on rural land laws and corporate acquisitions of farmland to inform the organization’s work with the Chinese government. Specifically, I wrote a detailed memo on rural land transfers in France, along with reports on the land registration systems in Hong Kong and the United Kingdom. Through these projects, I learned that while different countries may operate under entirely different legal systems, comparative research is essential to understanding the policies and reforms that have worked in the past—and those that have not. In addition to my work for the China team, I collaborated with the organization’s Center for Women’s Land Rights to write Landesa’s application to the Women and Gender Constituency of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change so the organization can participate in high-level meetings at the 2017 Conference of the Parties (COP 23) in Bonn, Germany. Finally, I worked with Landesa’s Climate Change team to prepare a research brief on the connections between women’s land rights and climate change for COP 23. It is my hope that this brief will not only elevate the many points of intersection between gender, land rights, and climate change but also engender international action around gender-sensitive climate change mitigation efforts.
It is quite difficult for me to articulate the full value and impact of my summer experience. Landesa has really shaped the ways in which I think about effective nonprofit work. In fact, I see Landesa as a model organization because it partners with governments at every level to effectuate real change. Moreover, my work at Landesa has emphasized to me the importance of land rights in the realm of sustainable development. Going forward, I will work to elevate land rights issues in my specific field of study—food security—because I have become convinced that we cannot end world hunger without addressing the political, social, and economic barriers to secure land rights in the developing world.