Dutch start-up Meridia, a graduate of EIT Climate-KIC’s Accelerator programme, has developed a mobile platform that enables farmers in the developing world to map the boundaries of their smallholding and to obtain legal documentation of their land rights.
Deforestation accounts for 15 per cent of global carbon emissions. Tenure security has been shown to reduce deforestation by up to 50 per cent – but only 30 per cent of the world’s land is legally registered.
Many of the world’s 525 million rural smallholders have no provable legal rights to the land they farm, and securing legal documentation can be a prohibitively costly and complex process.
Dutch start-up Meridia – formerly Landmapp – has developed a system based on a mobile app that enables farmers in the developing world to map the boundaries of their smallholding simply by walking them. The data is verified by each farmer’s neighbours before Meridia submits it to the relevant local and government authorities, who then validate and sign the legal documentation of ownership.
Meridia also completes accurate data profiles for each property, which it uses to broker more efficient and better-targeted services – such as solar energy, credit or agricultural products – to farmers.
To-date, Meridia has mapped more than 20,000 hectares of land in Ghana and has issued more than 5,000 legal land documents. Security of tenure does more than curb the destruction of forests; used as collateral, legal proof of ownership enables farmers to access financial and other services in order to increase the productivity of their land. This, in turn, helps alleviate the pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity caused by the growing global demand for food.
EIT Climate-KIC’s role
Meridia joined EIT Climate-KIC’s Accelerator programme in the Netherlands in 2014. As well as seed funding, the Accelerator provided business support and mentoring as well as access to its network of experts and partners.
“[The Accelerator programme] is about structuring and straightening your idea,” says Thomas Vaassen, Meridia’s co-founder and CTO. “To take it from an idea to a business model, you need to speak to a lot of people and experts in the industry, 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.”