SUCCESS STORIES

Landmapp

Netherlands-based start-up Landmapp has developed a mobile platform that enables farmers in the develpoping world to map the boundaries of their smallholding and to obtain legal documentation of their land rights.

Landmapp also builds data profiles of each farm, which it can then use to broker targeted services for those smallholders.

Key points

  • Around 70 percent of the world’s land is not legally registered
  • Secure land tenure mitigates against deforestation, which is a major contributor to greenhouse gas emis-sions after burning fossil fuels and can help reduce pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity
  • Many of the world’s 525 million rural smallholders hold no legal rights to the land they farm
  • This can leave them unable to access finance with which to improve their productivity
  • Landmapp is a Dutch start-up that has developed a mobile app with which rural farmers can map the boundaries of their land and secure legal documentation of their land rights
  • The company was part of the 2015 intake into Climate-KIC’s Dutch Accelerator programme
  • Landmapp is now operational in Ghana, where it has already provided legal land tenure documentation to more than 1,500 farmers

Project Background and Drivers

Deforestation is responsible for 15 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions – the second-largest contrib-utor after burning fossil fuels, according to the World Wildlife Fund. The CGIAR Research Programme on Climate Change, Food and Security has suggested that this issue can be tackled quite literally from the ground up: that providing security of tenure to rural smallholders helps prevent deforestation.

Only around 30 percent of the world’s land is legally registered, however, and many of the world’s 525 mil-lion rural smallholders have no provable legal rights to the land they farm. Security of tenure does more than curb the destruction of forests. A legal document proving land tenure can help protect a smallholder’s livelihood. It can also be used as collateral, enabling famers to access financial and other services and so increasing the productivity of their land. This, in turn, helps alleviate the pressure on ecosystems and biodi-versity caused by the growing global demand for food.

Project Detail

Securing that legal documentation, however, can be a costly and complex process. Landmapp, a start-up based in the Netherlands, has developed a platform that both simplifies the process and vastly reduces the cost to smallholders.

The system is based on a mobile app that enables users to map the boundaries of their farm simply by walking them. This data is then verified by the farmer’s neighbours, before Landmapp submits it to the rel-evant local and government authorities – in Ghana this includes the Ghana Land Commission as well as local chiefs – who then validate and sign the documentation, which Landmapp delivers into the farmers’ hands.

“These people have more assets than most of us in the Netherlands – a big piece of land – but because it’s not documented it is not possible to collateralise or protect it,” says Thomas Vaassen, Landmapp’s co-founder and chief technical officer. “It’s a big obstacle for them to access services to grow and improve their farms. And it’s proven that you can quite easily double or triple yields with quite simple inputs such as fertilisers, improved practices and training. Land tenure plays a big role in unlocking that. Through those improvements, the land area needed for food production would be much less, which means the pressure on ecosystems and deforestation rates would be mitigated.”

Earlier this year, Vaassen moved to Ghana to launch the firm’s operation there. Already Landmapp’s 11-strong team based in the country’s capital, Accra, has delivered land rights documentation to 1,500 small-holders in the country’s Western, Eastern and Ashanti regions. And, with Ghana’s harvest season about to start, the firm hopes to sell its services to thousands more farmers in the coming months.

“The first year has been about proving that these people can pay up to €100 for these documents,” Vaas-sen says. That’s a lot of money to the average Ghanaian smallholder – one or two months’ income, in many cases – but it’s a worthwhile price for what the documents represent. “At least in Ghana, people are really hungry [for this service],” says Vaassen. “It makes a lot of sense to these people; it is an actual risk, so they are willing to pay.”

As well as mapping farm boundaries, Landmapp also gathers geographical and agricultural information on each smallholding, creating a complete and accurate data profile of each property. The company plans to use these profiles to broker more efficient, better targeted solar energy, credit or agricultural services to farmers.

“We can work with rural banks in the area, or we can work with agricultural input providers to get them the right amount of fertiliser at the right point in time at the right price,” explains Vaassen. “And we could work with solar companies to identify which houses would benefit from a solar panel and what is the repayment the based on data we collect, for example.”

Climate-KIC’s Involvement

Landmapp was part of the Climate-KIC Accelerator programme’s December 2014 intake in the Netherlands. As well as seed funding, the Accelerator provides start-ups with business support, mentoring and master-classes, as well as access to its network of experts and partners.

Vaassen describes the experience of being part of the Accelerator programme positively – as akin to having Landmapp’s ideas put through a meat grinder. “It’s about structuring and straightening your idea,” he says. “To take it from an idea to a business model, you need to speak to a lot of people and experts in the indus-try, and you need to test and experiment to find out whether your assumptions hold up.

“In that process, we were really pushed to speak to hundreds of people, to get out there and do a proper pilot with our customers, and to present it well and pitch it every two weeks. In the beginning, maybe you shoot ten holes in your idea; at the end you might shoot two or three holes. You have some answers.”

Since completing the Accelerator programme, Vaassen says his mentors have kept in touch, especially to update Landmapp’s team on any opportunities that have come up. “Just this week we had the chance to meet with [ex-US vice president] Al Gore in the Netherlands, and that was arranged through Climate-KIC,” he says.

For more information visit landmapp.net

 
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