Further agricultural growth is needed if the decades-long positive trends in human development are to continue. It is possible to achieve such growth without depleting water reserves and soil – two key resources on which rural economies are based. The privatisation or nationalisation of such common resources does not usually conserve them and often harms the communities that depend on them. Instead, conserving commons requires community engagement. Such engagement is key in two types of management systems for common resources. Effective common resource management systems follow the ‘design principles’ the late Elinor Ostrom first presented in 1990. These principles are about the active participation of a wide range of stakeholders and the perceived legitimacy of the commons’ management system. Paradoxically, better livelihoods will increase, not reduce, rural outward migration. This is because migration requires a level of aspiration and understanding of the possibilities, and it requires money.