I feel honored to have dedicated my professional life to Landesa and to those whom we serve. I started this work when I was still in law school, donning a bullet-proof vest and following founder Roy Prosterman to the field in El Salvador to further land rights reforms.
I did this because I believe we can defy assumptions about economic and social development. We can defy assumptions about government. We can defy assumptions about poverty. I know that building a better future involves more than sending sacks of food aid to the poor. What is required is a different formula. What is required is to allow poor women and men to pull themselves out of poverty by providing them with a powerful tool – secure, legal rights to the land on which they depend.
Because once they have secure rights to land, they can improve their own lives and build a better future for themselves and their children. They can, quite literally, grow themselves out of extreme poverty, if they have the tenure security they need to invest in better quality seeds, fertilizer, and improvements to the land that increase their harvest and their savings.
This year, I saw this generational change in Rwanda where I met women who are strengthening their rights to land through a Landesa partnership with the government. I saw what research has confirmed around the world: strengthen a woman’s land rights and she will use her newfound economic empowerment to better feed her children, better educate her children, and save money for her family’s future needs.
I saw this generational change in India, where I met some of the tens of thousands of women-headed households who received title to land and are finally being acknowledged and served by government programs – women who use their small plot of land to feed their children and their dreams.
Women who tell me, “This land helps me stand tall,” “This land gave me courage,” “This land is my life.” I saw this generational change in China where we advised government officials who are crafting laws to strengthen poor farmers’ land rights and to better protect millions of acres of forestland from development.
It is a rare non-profit that can claim to be profoundly changing the world. As CEO of Landesa over the last decade, I’ve had the enormous satisfaction of being part of such change. I am delighted to entrust my successor, Chris Jochnick, with this pleasure and responsibility. I look forward to many more years of working with Chris, Landesa founder Roy Prosterman, and the rest of our team to fulfill Landesa’s unique and effective mission.
Thank you for believing in us, walking beside us, and helping us achieve generational change.
and Senior Advisor
It is a great privilege for me to write this letter as Landesa’s new CEO.
As Landesa navigates a generational change in our leadership, our principles and values will remain constant.
At Landesa, we believe we can and must spark profound, systemic change to address the root causes of poverty.
We believe that governments must be powerful, leveraged partners in this endeavor.
We believe just and pro-poor laws must be used as tools to level the playing field so that smallholder farmers and rural communities can prosper. And we believe that women are essential to creating positive change in their homes and communities.
I’m writing to you about genuine progress and development that empowers not just a few, but all; the kind of progress and development that reshapes families, communities, and nations, not temporarily, but for generations.
We know that when a family obtains legal rights to their land it sparks a wave of positive change, and those benefits are passed down, generation after generation. This is what Landesa has done for almost 50 years – with enlightened and motivated government officials around the world – designing and implementing land-related laws, policies, and programs that create opportunity and profoundly change society.
I joined Landesa this year because I recognize the power of this vision and mission. And I am not alone. In fact, never before have we had so many ready and willing partners.
This year we’ve opened offices in two more states in India – Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. And we’ve begun partnerships with the African Union, the UK Department for International Development, and some of the world’s largest companies. From the United Nations to the government of Ghana, influential actors are asking Landesa to help inform their efforts to spark rural development.
Through these partnerships, we’ve had remarkable impact. Over the past decades, we’ve helped strengthen land rights for more than 110 million families. In this fiscal year alone, Landesa has helped governments change 16 laws and policies and provide more than 2.3 million women and men with secure, legal rights to their own plot of land. We also completed our next five-year strategic plan, which lays out a framework for impacting another 50 million women and men by 2020.
This is, no doubt, a rare organization. We now have three generations of CEOs working side by side, each with a distinct role to play in ensuring that Landesa can make change for generations to come. I am thrilled to join Landesa on the next stage of its journey. If you have been walking beside us, I thank you for your support. If you are new to Landesa, thank you for joining our mission.
President and CEO