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Land is a precious commodity, and land ownership holds significant value in all parts of the world. In Ghana, land is not only viewed as a monetary asset. Land holds more personal value and Ghanaians view it as part of their heritage and culture. They feel that their land is a piece of them, something they will pass down from generation to generation. With this strong attachment to land, land rights are a very sensitive and pertinent issue. But in Ghana, owning land and having proof of land ownership do not necessarily go hand in hand. This is where Thomas and his company Landmapp offer a unique service: mapping land and providing official land tenure documentation to smallholder farmers.
The background and launch of Landmapp
Thomas Vaassen has always worked in the startup space. He founded the Amsterdam branch of Impact Hub and served as the chairman of the Global Hub for a few years. In these roles, he had the opportunity to work with numerous entrepreneurs. Through these experiences, and over many years, he developed a strong perspective on the global economy. He came to believe that property rights are one of the most crucial inhibitors to economic growth and improved livelihoods for the poor.
Most of the rural poor are unbanked, meaning that they do not have a bank or savings account. This prevents them from entering the formal economy, and without being able to accumulate wealth or prove what is rightfully theirs, they cannot protect what they own. “When I started thinking about it,” Thomas said, “I thought, if that was the case for me, what would I do? I wouldn’t necessarily develop and build something. I would try to live day by day because I might build a house and then my land might be taken from me. In order for people to start thinking more long term, and make investments, then they need property rights.”