Valuing Rural Lands: A Tool to Strengthen Property Rights?

December 8, 2017

On December 1, Indufor North America presented its newly developed Rural Valuation Tool to specialists spanning the land tenure, natural resource management, and investment fields.

The tool is a free app that enables communities and other rural residents to assess the value of their land by taking into account both natural and social capital. Indufor North America developed and tested the tool in Rajasthan, India in collaboration with the Foundation for Ecological Security and Ulster University, with support from Omidyar Network.

The tool is unique in incorporating non-market values and integrating tenure security assessments, shared by Jeffrey Hatcher, Managing Director at Indufor North America.

Mike Graglia, New America Foundation and Jeffrey Hatcher, Indufor North America discuss the tool

Peter Rabley, Venture Partner at Omidyar Network, invited the audience to take advantage of the release of this tool to discuss and debate how to assess value when traditional methods fall short.

The tool draws inspiration from Namati’s Community Land and Natural Resource Valuation Activity. Rachael Knight, Senior Advisor of Community Land Protection at Namati, shared communities’ experience valuing their land in a workshop setting. She relayed how communities have changed their perspective when they learn how valuable their land is and the additional interest they have in protecting or improving it.

Jagdeesh Rao, CEO of the Foundation for Ecological Security (FES), discussed how the tool could be extended to their work across India as part of a suite of tools that together help communities restore their land through improved natural resource management and advocate for stronger land rights. He mentioned the usability of the tool depends on whether communities are more or less connected to the cash economy, and the appeal of valuation to younger generations.

The panel discussion, moderated by Yuliya Panfil, Investment Associate at Omidyar Network, focused on the opportunities and unintended consequences presented by the tool.

Ole Sand, Managing Partner at Criterion Africa Partners, drew from his experience in forestry investment to state the importance of scaling up use of the tool due to increasing pressure on land and the land conflicts driven by economic development. The tool could be implemented by a local intermediary prior to investors deciding whether to invest in a new project that could impact or involve local communities, added Mark Constantine, Principal Strategist for the Agribusiness & Forestry Department at the International Finance Corporation (IFC).

Daphne Yin, Consultant at Indufor, conveyed the power of the tool to help value land that is used differently than its legal classification. Revenue wastelands in India, a category of land often assumed as worthless and with weak tenure security, can in fact be densely vegetated and productive with a strong history of communal land governance. Conventional valuation approaches do not acknowledge the broad array of benefits derived by communities from such land.

Yuliya Panfil, Omidyar Network moderates the panel

Communities might use valuation to strengthen their rights or negotiate for greater compensation to their land when faced with prospects of sale or expropriation. On the other hand, there could be unintended consequences related to how the valuation is done and who has access to the information. Communities might face a greater tax burden after finding that their land is in fact valued more, or opt to convert their land to uses that enjoy higher commercial value, said Constantine.

All panelists stressed the need for a strong local intermediary to ensure that the valuation tool is not misused, to work with communities to carry out and communicate the valuation in a way that respects and advances their rights while enabling stronger land stewardship.


A newly released report shares the motivations and theory behind the tool, initial case study in Rajasthan, and the role of geographic information systems (GIS), remote sensing, and computer-assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) in a future scale-up scenario.

A field manual is available with guidance on using the tool in the field. Data for the tool can be collected using paper surveys or RVT, a free, Android-based app available for download. An Excel version of the tool is also available.


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