On April 19, USAID released its first-ever Water and Development Strategy: 2013-2018, which emphasizes how sustainable use of water is critical to save lives, promote sustainable development, and achieve humanitarian goals. USAID’s development of this water strategy highlights the importance of sustainable resource governance across a wide range of strategic development objectives. According to USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, “The impact of water on all aspects of development is undeniable: a safe drinking water supply, sanitation for health, management of water resources, and improvement of water productivity can help change the lives of millions.”
One of the water strategy’s main objectives is to “manage water for agriculture sustainably and more productively to enhance food security.” Sustainable management of natural resources cannot be achieved without clear rights to those resources. To that end, USAID works to clarify and strengthen rights to land and other natural resources, which in turn creates incentives for more efficient use of land and water, and eventually results in higher agricultural outputs and better conservation of valuable resources. Dr. Gregory Myers, USAID Division Chief, Land Tenure and Property Rights says, “When local communities feel secure in their rights to land, they invest more in agricultural inputs, work harder to increase their crop yields, and act as better stewards of the environment – all of which can lead to improved livelihood security.” Without secure rights or access to natural resources, there are fewer incentives to use water sustainably, which can threaten food security, lead to conflict, and on a much larger scale, contribute to global climate change.