Global Farms Race: Opportunity to Improve Land Governance

On July 30, I had the pleasure of joining Landesa President Tim Hanstad at Global Washington in Seattle for a rich discussion of the Global Farms Race: Implications of Food Security, Poverty, and Foreign Investment.

At the heart of this conversation are the rights of communities and individuals to decide for themselves how to use and profit from land. Do they possess clear and documented land and resource rights? Who has the power to make decisions? According to a recent World Bank report, up to 90% of the land in Sub-Saharan Africa is undocumented, which makes it extremely difficult to determine who has a right to what land and resources. Consequently, decisions are being made for individuals and communities, rather than by them. This is unsustainable and will undermine the objectives we seek to achieve, particularly improved food security and nutrition.

Two of the biggest policy challenges are the lack of good data and out-of-date laws. In many countries in which USAID works, decades of civil war, fairly recent independence, and repeated changes in government have resulted in land records that are non-existent, incomplete, or overlapping – making it very difficult to figure out who owns what and how much land has been sold or leased to whom. Combine this with laws and policies that do not recognize the property rights of many citizens, and it spells potential disaster for smallholders around the world. (more…)

Construction for Change: Marines to Engineer Hope in the Solomon Islands

How do you build in a place where termites are eating away existing public infrastructure?  This is the challenge for James Lloyd, a carpenter from the UK, who was sent to the Solomon Islands in February to build a two-story school building for the children of Tulagi Island.  James is a volunteer project manager for Construction for Change (CfC), a Seattle-based non-profit organization that provides professional construction services to organizations working to end poverty worldwide.  He will stay in the Solomon Islands as long as it takes to complete the project.

Tulagi residents and the U.S. Marine Raiders Foundation (USMRF) spearheaded the construction of the school.  The USFRF is an organization dedicated to sharing the legacy of the Marine Raiders, the first special operations unit in the U.S. Military.  The new school is a way for the USMRF to honor the citizens of Tulagi, who fought bravely alongside the Marines Raiders in WWII and ultimately helped to defeat the Japanese in the Pacific Islands.  The USMRF is fully funding the project, but has contracted out all construction management services to Construction for Change and its fearless project manager, James Lloyd.

James arrived to the islands about a month ago and it quickly became clear that the wood and concrete structure that USMRF and CfC were planning to build would not last more than 15 years due to termite damage.  As evidence, James relayed the story of the Tulagi hospital that was built by AusAID, the Australian government’s overseas aid program.  While it is beautiful and functional facility, the hospital has been so ravaged by termites that AusAID now has to rehabilitate it, just over a decade after its construction.

As a way to get around the termite problem, James started exploring advanced building technologies and other materials available on the island.  He soon learned about the Tongs Corporation located in Honiara, the capital city. About a two-hour boat ride from Tulagi, Tongs is a Chinese-owned building supply store that started manufacturing pre-fabricated steel structures a few years ago. Tongs’ innovative structures are ideal in places with chronic termite problems and are slowly gaining popularity in the capital city.  There is nothing like it on Tulagi island however…until now at least.

Pre-fabricated steel means that the new school building will now be substantially stronger and last three times longer than any existing structure on the island.  It is also much more eco-friendly than the original wood and cement design and will therefore generate less waste.  Moreover, steel is easier to keep level and plumb relative to bowed timbers; and it is much faster to build with less need for power tools, which are not readily available on Tulagi.

Back in Seattle, James has a team of engineering and construction experts who are guiding him through the process.  Among them is Dan Wachtler and Andy Marshall, former CfC Project Managers who together founded Wachtler Marshall Inc., a custom-home construction company.

For more information on Construction for Change’s work:

Seattle’s Landesa aims to help rural girls in India

Three-quarters of the world’s poorest people live in rural areas where land is a key asset. Of those people, more than a billion lack legal rights over the land they use to survive, causing entrenched poverty cycles to persist over generations.

Efforts to help one landless family at a time are important. But Landesa works to advance durable land rights to bring transformational changes on a large scale. Secure land rights help create stable foundation for other important development work – like literacy, clean water, and nutrition – to take hold for generations.

In December, Seattle Times reporter Melissa Allison and Erika Schultz traveled to the Indian state of West Bengal to learn about Landesa’s “Security for Girls Through Land” project, which focuses on the advancement of the girls living in the lowest depths of poverty.

Landesa’s work was recently featured in the Seattle Times. We highly recommend that you check out this article which features stunning photos from the field! 


Senator Richard Lugar Wins 2012 Commitment to Development Award

Senator Richard Lugar, long-time champion of US engagement with global development issues, is the 2012 winner of the Commitment to Development “Ideas in Action” Award, sponsored by the Center for Global Development and The FP Group, the publishers of Foreign Policy. The Commitment to Development “Ideas in Action” Award honors an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to changing the attitudes, policies, and/or practices of the rich world toward the developing world. Members of the selection committee will present this year’s award to Senator Lugar during a public event January 29th, 2013.

“For four decades Senator Lugar has deployed his remarkable statesmanship to overcome partisan divides and enact smart US policies that support widely shared global prosperity,” said CGD president Nancy Birdsall.

Most recently, through his work on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Lugar helped create the foundation for a strong US development strategy, introducing legislation that promotes accountability and transparency in US foreign assistance programs.

Senator Lugar championed US efforts against global hunger, sponsoring legislation that would re-orient US foreign assistance programs to focus on promoting food security and rural development in countries with large, chronically hungry populations.  He has also dedicated his time and energy to understanding how the international financial institutions could reform to better meet the needs and evolving standards of the post-financial crisis world.

Senator Lugar is the senior senator from Indiana and currently the most senior Republican in the Senate, having served for six terms. Prior to serving in the senate, Senator Lugar served in the US Navy, on the Indianapolis Board of School Commissioners, and as mayor of Indianapolis. He was defeated in the GOP primary this year and will step down from the US Senate in January 2013.

Previous winners of the Commitment to Development Award include: the European ministers of international development who constitute the Utstein Group (2003); Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair Campaign (2004); then-Chancellor of the Exchequer Gordon Brown (2005), then-U.S. Congressman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) (2006), Global Witness (2007), the ONE Campaign (2008), Diego Hidalgo Schnur (2009), Publish What You Pay (2010), and former president of the International Center for Research on Women Geeta Rao Gupta (2011).

“GiveBIG” Brings in $7.4 million, Doubling 2011’s Results

The Seattle Foundation’s “GiveBIG” campaign generated $7.43 million in online contributions for nonprofits attracting more than 37,800 individual donations! This year’s astounding results more than double last year’s donations totaling $3.6 million. Thank you to all of those in King County and across the globe who gave generously to Global Washington and our 160+ member organizations! The “GiveBIG” 2012 results are a remarkable testament to the strong community spirit and philanthropic drive that defines King County and Washington State.

For more information on The Seattle Foundation’s “GiveBIG” campaign, check out their website:

Global Workers Series #1: ‘Get your boots wet’ on the Path to Global Development

With unemployment hovering around 8.5% in Washington State, it may be surprising to hear the global development sector is expanding daily. This means more opportunities for those interested in a career in poverty alleviation, global health and global engagement!

Global Washington’s first Global Workers Series event on Friday brought together over 40 eager job seekers of all ages and career levels who came to learn, network and connect with like minded individuals. Andy Dwonch, Senior Director of Social Innovations at Mercy Corps, and Bookda Gheisar, Executive Director at Global Washington, shared their stories, wealth of expertise in the field, and offered precious advice for those interested in international development.

Dwonch started off the night by talking about his upbringing in Walla Walla and his aspirations of becoming a farmer. The idea of working in the global development sector never crossed his mind as a child. “Walla Walla, where the international section of the newspaper was only a ¼ of a page?” Dwonch expressed, “International development was such a detour from the picket fence life!” It was only after spending time abroad in college that he discovered his passion for implementing humanitarian relief and development programs in the Middle East. Farm boy to social innovator, who would’ve thought?

Dwonch credits much of his success in the field to luck, simply being in the right place at the right time. In Global Washington’s eyes, that’s networking a critical component in the international development job search. He noted that his extensive time abroad, being able to work and adapt in foreign countries made him a prime candidate for his current position at Mercy Corps. International experience was highlighted throughout the night as a skill that significantly increases ones chances of finding a career in the sector. “Traveling allowed an understanding of poverty and real life that is unknown to all other things in a very mature way,” Dwonch reiterated.

Gheisar briefly discussed her past as Executive Director at the Social Justice Fund and at the Cross Cultural Health Care Program in Washington State. With over 22 years of experience in the global development field, she talked about the importance of bringing people together to find commonalities. In this field, Gheisar stated, “all voices together are much stronger than alone”. There is a great need for people who are willing to take on the task of bridging gaps between development organizations to coordinate strategies that are sustainable Gheisar said. She concluded by mentioning that it is the sum of all of your experiences that make you a valuable candidate in this field.

Both Dwonch and Gheisar brought up valuable points and sparked much discussion from the crowd. Attendees were able to mingle with one another and discuss the main points of the evening. All in all, it was an eye opening experience! Best piece of advice of the night: “Go out and get your boots wet!”


Below are the major tips from the night:

Tip #1: CLEARING THE INTERNATIONAL EXPERIENCE TEST. First thing we look for once we pick up a resume, Dwonch said, is relevant international experience. It is not necessarily about the technical skills but it’s about the set number of years in the field doing developmental work.

Tip #2: LANGUAGE OPENS DOORS. Be open to learning a new language at any age, it will open up opportunities within the global development sector.  It is vital to be proficient in speaking and writing.

Tip #3: CROSS FERTILIZATION OF SKILLS. It is essential that an individual can work in a corporate setting, a non-profit setting, a social entrepreneur setting. Being able to adapt is key! Don’t limit yourself to one skill and one career avenue. The more you have to offer, the more attractive you’ll be.

Tip #4: COMMUNITY ORGANIZING SKILLS. This is deeply needed in the ever changing global development sector. Being able to find commonalities and bringing people from all walks of life together helps build stronger communities and sustainable projects.

Tip #5: THE HIDDEN TIP OF NETWORKING. Though not explicitly stated by our two speakers, networking was the underlying theme of the night. Put yourself out there!


Global Washington’s 2nd Global Workers Series is happening April 13th, 2012! This event will focus on ‘What Employers Really Want: How to Get a Job in Global Development’ featuring Andrea Ballard (HR Consultant & Career Coach with Expecting Change) & Kate Cochran (COO at Vittana). Registration is required!


Friday, April 13th, 2012 5:00-7:30pm

4649 Sunnyside Ave N. Suite #400

Seattle, WA 98103

Price: $7

RSVP Today!