This originally appeared on Devex Impact

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.

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. 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.

A woman on a cassava farm at Cauca, Colombia. Clear and defined property rights empower farmers to make better economic decisions with their land, avoid land conflicts or illegal land grabs, and enable them to look into long-term resource management and sustainability practices. Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT/CC BY-SA

A woman on a cassava farm at Cauca, Colombia. Clear and defined property rights empower farmers to make better economic decisions with their land, avoid land conflicts or illegal land grabs, and enable them to look into long-term resource management and sustainability practices. Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT/CC BY-SA

In order to continue this momentum and make hunger, undernutrition and extreme poverty permanently a thing of our past, we must do more. This includes working with governments around the world to help them develop secure property rights for farmers — both large and small-scale.

We hear from smallholder farmers around the world that they want to increase their productivity and earn greater income to feed their families, send their children to school, and pay for medicine and other life necessities — in short, they want a better life. But in many parts of the world, farmers lack the tools, technology and rights to achieve these aspirations.

To take advantage of new tools and technologies, farmers in all countries need strong property rights to be certain that they will have their land long enough to realize the benefits of their investments. They need to have confidence that their land and crops will not be seized by more powerful interests — particularly if they make productivity-enhancing investments, for example in soil and water conservation — without due process and compensation. Strengthening property rights is even more important for women, who often have fewer and weaker property rights than men, yet play a larger role in agriculture in many countries where we work.

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. With clear rights to land, farmers are more likely to make investments that increase crop yields, practice sustainable farming methods that improve soil quality, and better manage their resources. At the same time, transparent land rights provide those interested with the option to move out of agriculture — and encourage responsible investment for those who choose to stay…

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Learn more about USAID’s work in securing land tenure and resource rights