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Jun 16 2011

Jolyne Sanjak Named New Chief Program Officer

June 16, 2011

Landesa Continues its Growth in Staff and Impact with a Prominent New Hire

Jolyne Sanjak Named New Chief Program Officer

SEATTLE – Landesa, which has doubled its global program staff over the last two years, has announced that Jolyne Sanjak, a managing director at the Millennium Challenge Corporation, will join Landesa as chief program officer on July 20. Landesa works with governments around the world to craft solutions to ensure the rural poor have legal control over their land.

Dr. Sanjak is one of the world’s foremost experts on how broad, secure land rights can spark sustainable economic development for individuals, families and communities. She brings to Landesa more than 20 years of technical and managerial experience.

“I’m delighted that Jolyne, who is recognized as an authority in the field, is joining Landesa at such a critical chapter in our history,” said Tim Hanstad, Landesa president and CEO. “Landesa and the issue of land rights in general are gaining momentum within the global development community as a fundamental building block for alleviating extreme poverty. Jolyne’s expertise and shared passion for addressing the root cause of poverty will be a tremendous asset to us as we continue to scale for impact around the world.”

Prior to joining MCC, Dr. Sanjak worked as specialist on land policy and rural development in USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean. Dr. Sanjak was formerly assistant professor of economics at the State University of New York at Albany. She holds a Ph.D. in agricultural economics with a specialization in development economics from the University of Wisconsin. She also holds a MS in agricultural economics from Penn State University.

She joins an organization that has, despite the poor economy, expanded its staff and impact dramatically over the last few years and has ambitious plans for the future.

“Like many others in the international aid sector, I have long been an admirer of Landesa’s commitment to link the critical components of land ownership and legal rights to land to fostering economic progress,” said Dr. Sanjak. “It’s a personal and professional privilege for me to join an organization that has more than four decades of program experience, while at the same time is charting a course for rapid growth and scaled success.”

Landesa, established in Seattle in 1967 and for years run out of a one bedroom apartment in the University District by a skeleton staff, changed its name from Rural Development Institute earlier this year and moved into expanded office space in downtown Seattle. The organization has helped more than 100 million poor families gain secure land rights and a path out of poverty since its founding. Over the next five years it plans on helping another 20 million poor families in China, India, and Africa gain legal control over their land.

With just over 100 staff world-wide, Landesa accomplishes this huge impact by working in partnership with governments on laws, policies, and programs that have the potential to affect millions at a time. This innovative model allows Landesa to deliver sustainable, durable and transformational change at a low cost.

While many organizations work “around” governments, Landesa considers them part of the solution. Their model is built on collaboration with public and private sector players to create structural change.

Landesa’s work is tailored to each geography and based on extensive research to help find solutions to the obstacles faced by poor landless families. In China, Landesa’s model has been to advise the government in its continued land reform programs to ensure that farm families have the confidence in their land tenure to make long term investments in their land that can boost their income and their family’s nutrition. In India, Landesa and its partners, including RDI-India, work with state governments to help design, implement and monitor pilot programs aimed at giving farming families legal control over micro-plots of land or, in some cases, the plots they currently farm as squatters. In Africa, likewise, Landesa’s programs meet the challenges of local conditions. In Kenya, Landesa is helping the government balance the needs of poor landless families with the conservation efforts. In Liberia, Landesa is advising the government’s land commission to ensure that strong conflict resolution institutions are established to help the country avert another war.

“We know that 75 percent of the world’s poorest subsist in rural settings, and more than a billion of them have little to no legal control over the land they till,” said Hanstad. “We’re happy that Jolyne is joining our team – she understands that gaining rights to your own land is, for millions of poor families, the first step out of extreme poverty.”

Background on Landesa

Grounded in the knowledge that having legal rights to land is a foundation for prosperity and opportunity, Landesa partners with governments and local organizations to ensure that the world’s poorest families have secure rights over the land they till. Founded as the Rural Development Institute in 1967, Landesa has helped more than 100 million poor families gain legal control over their land.  When families have secure rights to land, they can invest in their land to sustainably increase their harvests and reap the benefits-improved nutrition, health, education, and dignity-for generations.

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