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To Advance Food Security, Farmers Need Strong Property Rights

“Under U.S. President Barack Obama’s Feed the Future initiative, we have made incredible strides in increasing crop yields, agricultural surpluses and farmers’ incomes,” Eric Postel, assistant administrator of USAID, and Tjada McKenna, Feed the Future’s deputy coordinator for development, write in a Devex opinion piece. “We have supported training, the implementation of new technologies and climate-smart management techniques to facilitate economic growth, increase security for the world’s most vulnerable populations, and improve child nutrition and life expectancy,” they note, adding, “We have targeted assistance to women smallholder farmers, who contribute the great majority of smallholder agricultural labor, resulting in greater investments in children’s health and education.”

But “[i]n order to continue this momentum and make hunger, undernutrition and extreme poverty permanently a thing of our past, we must do more,” Postel and McKenna continue, writing, “This includes working with governments around the world to help them develop secure property rights for farmers — both large and small-scale.” They state, “When property rights are clear and secure, all farmers are empowered to make better economic decisions, including whether to sell or lease their land, expand their production, recruit non-family labor, and plant long-term crops for local consumption and for the market.” They continue, “The global community has recognized the critical role that property rights play in achieving food security for all and has recently increased its support for strengthening property rights,” and they highlight three ways to address property rights issues within the context of development work. The authors conclude, “The impact of our food security strategy and efforts to reduce extreme poverty can only be fully realized once we secure land rights across the developing world” (9/4).