Land Reform and Rural Development Project

Land Reform and Rural Development Project

South Africa
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

LRC's land reform and rural development project addresses the distortion of priorities in South African society, where interest groups, owners of resources such as farms, mines or development capital or patriarchal male interests at community level, dominate access to resources or control participation in decision-making processes, which determine resource allocation.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

One of the worst enduring legacies of apartheid is the dispossession of land. Under apartheid, “blacks” were not permitted to own land, and despite land reform processes, 30% of South Africans live on 13% of the land without security of tenure. There is an urgent need to focus on integrated development planning involving the input of communities and providing adequate pre- and post-settlement support. Millions of farm workers live on land where many hold jobs as seasonal labourers. Although they may have been on these farms for generations, their security of tenure is often at the whim of the farmer. In addition, the state often awards mining rights without consideration for the communities that may hold the surface rights and that eke out a living dependent on the land. Access to natural resources such as water, grazing land and vegetation are often jeopardised, in many cases rendering the land to waste.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our methodology and approach make our work unique and innovative. LRC’s lawyers work in far-flung rural areas, very closely and in consultation with communities. The LRC has consistently prioritised work in this area and has acquired extensive experience; an acknowledged record of skill and expertise; and widespread trust amidst the poorest communities. Historically, our work draws from resisting forced removals since 1978, and, since 1994 from assisting communities with land claims and securing land-based livelihoods in terms of the post-apartheid Constitution. As one of only a few public interest law firms in South Africa, the LRC supports communities on selected cases that will have a wider societal impact. The matters in which we intervene are intended to create change at a structural level, as well as on an individual level for the particular clients. On behalf of and with our clients, LRC prepares submissions on relevant statutory reform, comments on policy papers and draft legislation, and uses all avenues for participation in the legislative processes of national, provincial and local government. It is of the upmost importance to the LRC that our client’s vulnerability is reduced and their livelihoods are improved therefore we go beyond simply securing land. The general pattern of land reform has been for land to be transferred and for occupation and use to commence without clear procedures for allocation or rights determination. The approach the LRC believes is required is one that ensures that the determination and allocation of rights take place prior to occupation.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

LRC’s land reform and rural development work aims to assist in the realisation of the constitutional rights concerning land reform. These relate to: equitable access to land and its natural resources, the provision of legally secure tenure, and restitution of land or equitable redress to increase the security and livelihoods of poor rural communities across South Africa. Our goal also involves enabling effective and informed community participation and access to information in governmental decision-making processes such as development planning, allocation of resources and environmental impact assessment processes. We strive to achieve greater visibility in the development of policy and legislation of the realities that our clients confront. The impacts of our work include: greater access to land and related rights, environmental viability of land is better maintained for current and future tenants and for a multitude of land uses, land rights and benefits are not unfairly awarded to those who enjoy unequal power and access to resources, land rights and tenure are accessible by all members of communities, particularly formerly marginalised communities, women, and farm workers, communities have a network of legal and technical support before, during and after settlement, and there is increased awareness among affected communities of their Constitutional rights relating to land claims, tenure, usage and ownership. The extent and impact of our land work has been subjected to independent reviews. The results of precedent-setting judgments and law and policy reform interventions have a significantly wider impact that cannot readily be measured by numbers alone.
About You
Legal Resources Centre
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



, GT

Section 2: About Your Organization
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?

Organization Name

Legal Resources Centre

Organization Phone

+27 11 836 9831

Organization Address


Organization Country

, GT

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Your idea
Country your work focuses on

, GT

Do you have a patent for this idea?


Our main actions include:

- Non-litigious advice and support: there are a number of non-litigious aspects in our work that are vital to successful land settlements. These include: negotiations on behalf of communities, drafting community property governance documents, advising clients on government planning processes and supporting their engagement.

- Law reform and policy development: this includes submitting comments to Parliament on behalf of communities, participating in government and client community-organised committees, appearing before Parliament and acting with other NGOs to provide support to communities.

- Networking, training and education: this includes educational and capacity-building activities such as: running workshops on rights, sharing information with communities and other land NGOs, , and advocacy around our client’s concerns.

- Litigation: as and when necessary, the LRC does not shy away from court action, resulting in setting precedents that have wide-reaching impact.


The intended results are that:

- Communities are more secure in land tenure and ownership and in accessing their constitutional rights.

- Pre-and post-settlement support facilitates socio-economic development and better livelihoods for communities on the land that they have acquired.

- Communities are better able to access the natural resources on their land, and protect the sustainability of their way of life and their natural environment.

- Laws and policies are developed that protect and promote the realisation of communities' constitutional rights.

- All community members, particularly women, can effectively participate in decision-making processes at all levels, including input into laws and policies relating to land.

-Information on individual access to land usage and benefit sharing, as well as on safeguarding municipal land and access thereto, is generated for the land NGO sector, government and communities to share.

How many people will your project serve annually?

More than 10,000

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

Less than $50

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy?


If so, how?

The LRC participates in law and policy reform and development processes at the request and on behalf of poor, vulnerable and marginalised individuals or communities who are our clients. We also at times engage with government on draft laws or policies at government’s request. We facilitate our clients’ written submissions into legislative processes and oral representations at Parliament. We also negotiate on their behalf with stakeholders such as governmental departments and industries, and enable their greater participation in decision-making processes relating to industrial activities that impact on the full enjoyment of their land-related rights.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

Does your organization have a board of directors or an advisory board?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with businesses?

Does your organization have any non monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how partnerships could be critical to the success of your innovation.

LRC’s approach is one of collaboration with other rural sector NGOs, such as the: Surplus People’s Project, Border Rural Committee, Trust for Community Outreach and Education, Association for Rural Advancement, Nkuzi, Southern Cape Land Committee, Transkei Land Service Organisation, Women on Farms Project, Law, Race and Gender unit at the University of Cape Town and the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at the University of Western Cape. We also collaborate with the South African Human Rights Commission and engage with government around the land reform policy framework to address current legal weaknesses.
In addition, we place emphasis on working with organisations based in communities and with NGOs whose research can enrich our work. Such alliances enable strategic interventions based on action research conducted within communities and with community members, particularly women.
We also look to share information through the creation of a community legal database, workshops and publications.

We would like to learn more about how your initiative is financially supported. Please explain your business plan/revenue model

The LRC has made significant contributions to democracy and development for 31 years. We are truly grateful for the support from a range of international and local donors who make our work possible. Some of our donors, such as the Ford Foundation and the Atlantic Philanthropies, amongst others, have been our supporters since the LRC opened its doors. Most of our funding comes from foreign institutional donors but the LRC is also implementing plans with the aim of increasing local and individual donations in order to ensure the long term sustainability of our work. The LRC is also able to garner support from its ‘alumni’ and friends in the legal profession (for example, external Counsel services are often provided by Advocates at significantly reduced rates), thereby enabling additional value to be brought to the clients we serve.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

It is difficult to pinpoint a particular defining moment which led to our work in land reform and rural development. Since the first democratic elections in 1994, the objectives of the LRC's land reform work have been set in accordance with the culmination of the ending of apartheid, the writing of the new South African Constitution (the drafting of which LRC lawyers participated in), and the Section 25(5) injunction of the Constitution where it states that the state must take legislative and other measures to foster access to land on an equitable basis and to realise the rights to restitution and legally secure tenure. However, these objectives cannot be achieved unless land reform projects also secure equitable access to resources for poor people. Post-apartheid land reform in South Africa has arrived at a troubled crossroad and we have come to know that land reform cannot be achieved if land rights and opportunities continue to be captured by elites, or farms go to ruin. We are constantly reminded that land lies at the heart of social, political and economic life in South Africa, with 22 million people of the country’s population living in communal rural land. Despite the huge diversity of regions, peoples, and economies across the country, agriculture, natural resource use and other land-based activities remain vital to livelihoods, income, and employment for millions of South Africans. It is this fact that continues to inspire the LRC to strive to ensure that the principles, rights, and responsibilities enshrined in the Constitution regarding land are respected, promoted, protected, and fulfilled. Regarding LRC’s approach of creating sustainable and strategic, wide-ranging impact as a result of our work, this has always been the approach of the organisation since its founding.

Tell us about the social innovator—the person—behind this idea.

Although there is no one person who can be said to be responsible for the methodology and content of our work, the project will be overseen by Janet Love, the National Director of the LRC. Janet has been an anti-apartheid activist since 1974 and was involved in the Trade Union movement and the African National Congress prior to and during the 10 years she spent in exile and, thereafter, in the four years she worked clandestinely inside South Africa as member of the ANC Underground.
From 1991 to 1994, Janet was involved in negotiations for a settlement in South Africa from the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA), through the Multi-Party Process to the establishment of the Transitional Executive Council (TEC). Becoming a Member of Parliament in 1994, she served as Chairperson of the National Assembly Portfolio Committee on Agriculture, Water Affairs and Forestry and of the National Assembly Portfolio Committee on Water Affairs and Forestry, following the 1999 Elections. She was involved in the negotiation and drafting of the final Constitution of South Africa and was a member of the 22-person Constitutional Committee of the Constitutional Assembly, the body responsible for steering of the constitution-making process. She left Parliament to take up the position of Special Advisor to the Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry.
Janet has post-graduate qualifications from universities in Johannesburg and London in public administration, development management and economics. She worked in the South African Reserve Bank for five years as head of strategic analysis and support in the currency department.
She took up her current position as National Director of the LRC in January 2006. In this capacity she is responsible for the overall management of this public interest, human rights legal NGO employing 69 members of staff in four offices (in four regions) plus a satellite office (in Limpopo) around the country. She is actively engaged in networking activities inside South Africa and abroad in the interests of achieving the human rights mission of the LRC.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another source, please provide the information.

The LRC first heard about Changemakers through one of the land NGOs we work very closely with, the Surplus People’s Project

Which (if any) of the following strategies apply to your organization or company (check as many as apply)

Formalizing and documenting property rights (i.e. titling, leasing or certification), Legal education and awareness.

Please explain how your work furthers one or many of the above strategies (if you selected “other”, please explain your strategy)

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