South Africa
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

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

LANDfirst is a pro-poor approach to land access that emphasises incremental development. It is also an emerging network of civil society organisations campaigning for dignity through land. LANDfirst emphasises the provision of planned secure land with basic services as a first step towards a longer-term housing and settlement upgrading process. It focuses on policy advocacy and awareness raising.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Many homeless people will continue to live for many years in unrecognised and unplanned informal settlements without access to adequate basic tenure and services if we exclusively pursue approaches to housing development that emphasise fully packaged houses on serviced plots with individual ownership. There are just not enough (human and financial) resources available in the country to rapidly provide everyone in need with a fully packaged house. The housing backlog has grown from 1.5-million in 1994 to approximately 2.1- million now. This means approximately 12-million South Africans are still in need of better shelter. Government and communities are ‘stuck’ in a handout mentality where communities wait passively for government to give them a house. This discourages communities to take their own initiative to get a piece land and build themselves a house. Very few organizations are advocating for more incremental approaches.

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

LANDfirst is a simple yet revolutionary concept to speed up the process of settlement development, by providing previously disenfranchised South Africans with access to well-located, affordable and secure land for residential and other development. At the core of the LANDfirst concept is the desire to find innovative solutions to the growing discontent expressed by thousands of 'informal' settlement and backyard shack dwellers, and other landless that eke out a living on the periphery of society. LANDfirst provides an additional entry point for the homeless to access land and housing that does not rely on land invasion or waiting for government to provide a fully packaged subsidised RDP house. LANDfirst links ‘basic’ incremental tenure to other basic services and facilities, basic organisation and basic finance. It sees tenure security as a continuum from 'basic' recognition of occupation to 'full' individual title. The LANDfirst network is a lose network of civil society organisations that have pledged support for the LANDfirst charter. The LANDfirst charter (found on the LANDfirst website) outlines a vision and set of principles for a LANDfirst approach. The LANDfirst network aims to find ways that member organizations can share information, raise awareness and knowledge, and campaign for incremental settlement approaches in a coordinated manner without having to establish a complex and expensive bureaucracy. Afesis-corplan acts as the custodian (secretary) to the LANDfirst network. Urban LandMark , supported by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DfID), provides financial and technical support to the LANDfirst network.
Impact: How does it Work

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

Homeless people in South Africa are caught between a ‘shack’ and an ‘RDP’ house. If they take matters into their own hands by invading land illegally, they face the prospect of eviction with nowhere else to stay. If they wait for government to build them an RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) ‘starter’ house, they may have to wait in their present inadequate housing environment until government gets around to building a house for them and providing them with tenure security. If past housing delivery rates are projected into the future, some people will still be waiting for their RDP houses in 2032. There is an urgent need for the South African government to expand the number of alternative ways for the poor to access tenure security and basic services. It is still early to determine the impact of the LANDfirst initiative but initial indications are that government and communities are starting to accept the need for more LANDfirst type approaches advocated by the LANDfirst network. For example, the government no longer exclusively refers to building RDP houses but has set itself targets of upgrading households in informal settlements, increasing access to basic services and acquiring state owned land. The social impact will be felt in future as the more than 2 million households that need land and housing no longer have to live in unhealthy and unsecure informal settlements and overcrowded conditions but live in settlements that are part of an on-going incremental upgrading programme.
About You
LANDfirst network
Visit website
Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



, XX

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

Organization Name

LANDfirst network

Organization Phone


Organization Address

9 Wynne Street, Southernwood, East London

Organization Country

, EC

How long has this organization been operating?

Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Do you have a patent for this idea?


All LANDfirst network members have signed the LANDfirst charter found on the website. They have pledged to: a) promote and advocate for LANDfirst broadly within government and society, b) incorporate, where possible, the LANDfirst approach into their work, c) encourage other civil society organisations to join us in our commitment to LANDfirst, d) deepen our understanding of LANDfirst, e) work together with other members of the LANDfirst network on actions that have been agreed to by the LANDfirst core group, f) work together with other members of the LANDfirst network to improve the LANDfirst charter, and g) abide by the terms and conditions of this pledge statement. The following organisations have signed the LANDfirst charter:
•Urban LandMark
•Project Preparation Trust (PPT)
•Built Environment Support Group (BESG)
The LANDfirst network focuses on advocacy and education and awareness raising of incremental settlement approaches.


Households in need of land for settlement purposes have at least access to basic tenure security and basic services as a first step towards the progressive realization of their right to housing. Communities and government accept and actively support LANDfirst or incremental settlement approaches. LANDfirst members are sharing information and experiences around incremental settlement development.

How many people will your project serve annually?


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

$100 ‐ 1000

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


If so, how?

LANDfirst is advocating for a more incremental approach to settlement development. This includes the implementation of the governments existing Informal Settlements Upgrading Programme and the introduction of a new Managed Land Settlement Programme within government. LANDfirst is also exploring approaches to and advocating for land acquisition strategies that emphasise well located land on which incremental settlement can occur. The network plans to work with other organizations also dealing with similar issues to learn more about how to access well located land for incremental settlement and advocate for these land acquisition strategies to be implemented.

What stage is your project in?

Operating for 1‐5 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.

The challenge of equitably providing everyone with land is far too great for one grouping and sector. It will require the actions of many individuals, organisations and collectives of organisations working in a coordinated manner towards achieving a common vision and goal. The idea of the charter is to get as many organisations and individuals rallying around the vision of LANDfirst, each in their own way, through the work they do individually and collectively with other organisations that have also signed the charter, contributing towards the achievement of the vision.

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

The LANDfirst website is maintained by Afesis-corplan, as the custodian of the LANDfirst charter, using funding secured through fundraising efforts. Fund raising is also conducted to undertake learning and networking events. The DfID of the United Kingdom, through Urban LandMark, presently funds most of these activities. Misereor and German Development Cooperation, both German funders, presently fund much of the Land Access work of Afesis-corplan. LANDfirst member organizations are encouraged to undertake their own activities using their own resources in support of the LANDfirst vision. LANDfirst members also make use of networking opportunities provided by government and others to meet and share information. The network is presently managed by a core group of three organizations (Afesis-corplan, Urban Landmark and Planact) who communicate telephonically and electronically. Network members are kept informed of activities through e-mail correspondence. The network aims to find ways to use information and communication technology (ICT) to expand and improve the LANDfirst website so it can help LANDfirst members to achieve their own objectives in line with the LANDfirst charter. We are currently developing a proposal to look at how we can use ICT technology more effectively and efficiently in support of the LANDfirst approach. If we were to win this prize we would use it to improve our use of ICT.

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

Afesis-corplan, with the support of urban LandMark, held a series of workshops in 4 cities (Pietermaritzburg, Johannesburg, Cape Town and East London) around South Africa in 2008 to hear how government and communities were accessing land, what challenges they were experiencing and what possible solutions they had in mind for improving the process of land access. One of the strategies that was identified and supported by the majority of participants in these workshops was the idea of “land first”, where people are allowed to settle on land with basic services and then incrementally over time these areas are upgraded. It was recognised that this approach was different to the traditional ‘packaged’ or Reconstruction and Development Programme housing development approach where people were allowed to settle on land only after full services and houses were built for them. It was therefore decided to develop a LANDfirst campaign strategy so as to sell/ promote this concept of incremental settlement. The idea of a LANDfirst charter linked to a LANDfirst network emerged from these discussions.

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

The LANDfirst approach emerged out of a Land Access project implemented in partnership between Afesis-corplan (an NGO based in East London, South Africa) and Urban LandMark (and NGO based in Pretoria, South Africa). Ronald Eglin (the senior projects coordinator – settlements) in Afesis-corplan, and Lauren Royston (the Informal Tenure theme coordinator) from Urban LandMark managed the Land Access project. Ronald Eglin is presently administering the LANDfirst network. Ronald has about 20 years experience working in the NGO settlement sector.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another source, please provide the information.


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

Policy advocacy to strengthen property rights or increase security of tenure, 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)

Encourage government to utilize its limited resources to provide as many people as possible with at least some form of ‘basic’ tenure as part of an ongoing upgrading process; and raise awareness of civil society of these alternative options of tenure security.