Land reform (also agrarian reform, though that can have a broader meaning) involves the changing of laws, regulations or customs regarding land ownership. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed property redistribution, generally of agricultural land. Land reform can, therefore, refer to transfer of ownership from the more powerful to the less powerful, such as from a relatively small number of wealthy (or noble) owners with extensive land holdings (e.g., plantations, large ranches, or agribusiness plots) to individual ownership by those who work the land. Such transfers of ownership may be with or without compensation; compensation may vary from token amounts to the full value of the land.
Land reform may also entail the transfer of land from individual ownership—even peasant ownership in smallholdings—to government-owned collective farms; it has also, in other times and places, referred to the exact opposite: division of government-owned collective farms into smallholdings. The common characteristic of all land reforms, however, is modification or replacement of existing institutional arrangements governing possession and use of land. Thus, while land reform may be radical in nature, such as through large-scale transfers of land from one group to another, it can also be less dramatic, such as regulatory reforms aimed at improving land administration.
Nonetheless, any revision or reform of a country's land laws can still be an intensely political process, as reforming land policies serves to change relationships within and between communities, as well as between communities and the state. Thus even small-scale land reforms and legal modifications may be subject to intense debate or conflict.
Land ownership and tenure can be perceived as controversial in part because ideas defining what it means to access or control land, such as through "land ownership" or "land tenure", can vary considerably across regions and even within countries. Land reforms, which change what it means to control land, therefore create tensions and conflicts between those who lose and those who gain from these redefinitions (see next section).
Western conceptions of land have evolved over the past several centuries to place greater emphasis on individual land ownership, formalized through documents such as land titles. Control over land, however, may also be perceived less in terms of individual ownership and more in terms land use, or through what is known as land tenure. Historically, in many parts of Africa for example, land was not owned by an individual, but rather used by an extended family or a village community. Different people in a family or community had different rights to access this land for different purposes and at different times. Such rights were often conveyed through oral history and not formally documented.
These different ideas of land ownership and tenure are sometimes referred to using different terminology. For example, "formal" or "statutory" land systems refer to ideas of land control more closely affiliated with individual land ownership. "Informal" or "customary" land systems refer to ideas of land control more closely affiliated with land tenure.
Terms dictating control over and use of land can therefore take many forms. Some specific examples of present-day or historic forms of formal and informal land ownership include:
Land reform is a deeply political process and therefore many arguments for and against it have emerged. These arguments vary tremendously over time and place. For example, in the twentieth century, many land reforms emerged from a particular political ideology, such as communism or socialism. Or, as can be seen in the 19th century in colonized states, a colonial government may have changed the laws dictating land ownership to better consolidate political power or to support its colonial economy. In more recent times, electoral mobilization and the use of land as a patronage resource have been proposed as possible motivations for land reform efforts, such as the extensive redistributive land reforms of Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe.
Land reforms need not be as dramatic in scale as Zimbabwe. Today many arguments in support of land reform focus on its potential social and economic benefits, particularly in developing countries, that may emerge from reforms focused on greater land formalization. Such benefits may include eradicating food insecurity and alleviating rural poverty.
Arguments in support of such reforms gained particular momentum after the publication of "The Mystery of Capital" by Peruvian economist Hernando de Soto in 2000. The poor, he argues, are often unable to secure formal property rights, such as land titles, to the land on which they live or farm because of poor governance, corruption and/or overly complex bureaucracies. Without land titles or other formal documentation of their land assets, they are less able to access formal credit. Political and legal reforms within countries, according to de Soto, will help to include the poor in formal legal and economic systems, increase the poor's ability to access credit and contribute to economic growth and poverty reduction.
Many international development organizations and bilateral and multilateral donors, such as the World Bank, have embraced de Soto's ideas, or similar ideas, about the benefits of greater formalized land rights. This has translated into a number of development programs that work with governments and civil society organizations to initiate and implement land reforms. Evidence to support the economic and pro-poor benefits of increased formalized land rights are, however, still inconclusive according to some critics (see "Arguments against land reform" below).
Other arguments in support of land reform point to the need to alleviate conflicting land laws, particularly in former colonies, where formal and informal land systems may exist in tension with each other. Such conflicts can make marginalized groups vulnerable to further exploitation. For example, in many countries in Africa with conflicting land laws, AIDS stigmatization has led to an increasing number of AIDS widows being kicked off marital land by in-laws. While the woman may have both customary and statutory rights to the land, confusion over which set of laws has primacy, or even a lack of knowledge of relevant laws, leave many AIDS widows at a significant disadvantage. Also, conflicting formal and informal land laws can also clog a country's legal system, making it prone to corruption.
Additional arguments for land reform focus on the potential environmental benefits of reform. For example, if reform leads to greater security of land ownership, through either formal or informal means, then those that use the land will be better stewards of it.
Many of the arguments in support of land reform speak to its potentially positive social and economic outcomes. Yet, as mentioned previously, land reform is an intensely political process. Thus, many of those opposed to land reform are nervous as to the underlying motivations of those initiating the reform. For example, some may fear that they will be disadvantaged or victimized as a result of the reforms. Others may fear that they will lose out in the economic and political power struggles that underlie many land reforms.
Other groups and individuals express concerns about land reforms focused on formalization of property rights. While the economic and social benefits of formalized land rights are often touted, some research suggests that such reforms are either ineffective or may cause further hardship or conflict.
Additional arguments against land reform focus on concerns over equity issues and potential elite capture of land, particularly in regards to reforms focused on greater land formalization. If improperly or inadequately implemented, critics worry that such reforms may further disadvantage marginalization groups such as indigenous communities or women. These concerns also lead to questions about the institutional capacity of governments to implement land reforms as they are designed. Even if a country does have this capacity, critics worry that corruption and patrimonalism will lead to further elite capture.
In looking at more radical reforms, such as large-scale land redistribution, arguments against reform include concerns that redistributed land will not be used productively and that owners of expropriated land will not be compensated adequately or compensated at all. Zimbabwe, again, is a commonly cited example of the perils of such large-scale reforms, whereby land redistribution contributed to economic decline and increased food insecurity in the country. In cases where land reform has been enacted as part of socialist collectivization, many of the arguments against collectivization more generally apply.
Nearly all newly independent countries of Eastern and Central Europe implemented land reforms in the aftermath of World War I. In most countries the land in excess of certain limit (ranging from 20 to 500 ha depending on the region and type of land) was expropriated, in Finland it was redeemed and placed into special fund.
One of the central events of the French Revolution was to abolish feudalism, and the old rules, taxes and privileges left over from the age of feudalism. The National Constituent Assembly, acting on the night of 4 August 1789, announced, "The National Assembly abolishes the feudal system entirely." It abolished both the seigneurial rights of the Second Estate (the nobility) and the tithes gathered by the First Estate (the Catholic clergy). The old judicial system, founded on the 13 regional parlements, was suspended in November 1789, and finally abolished in 1790.Agrarian reform
Agrarian reform can refer either, narrowly, to government-initiated or government-backed redistribution of agricultural land (see land reform) or, broadly, to an overall redirection of the agrarian system of the country, which often includes land reform measures. Agrarian reform can include credit measures, training, extension, land consolidations, etc. The World Bank evaluates agrarian reform using five dimensions: (1) stocks and market liberalization, (2) land reform (including the development of land markets), (3) agro-processing and input supply channels, (4) urban finance, (5) market institutions.Ben Cousins defines the difference between agrarian reform and land reform as follows:
Land reform… is concerned with rights in land, and their character, strength and distribution, while… [agrarian reform] focuses not only on these but also a broader set of issues: the class character of the relations of production and distribution in farming and related enterprises, and how these connect to the wider class structure. It is thus concerned economic and political power and the relations between them…
Along similar lines, a 2003 World Bank report states,
…A key precondition for land reform to be feasible and effective in improving beneficiaries' livelihoods is that such programs fit into a broader policy aimed at reducing poverty and establishing a favourable environment for the development of productive smallholder agriculture by beneficiaries.
Examples of other issues include "tenure security" for "farm workers, labour tenants, … farm dwellers… [and] tenant peasants", which makes these workers and tenants better prospects for receiving private-sector loans;
"infrastructure and support services";
government support of "forms of rural enterprise" that are "complementary" to agriculture;
and increased community participation of government decisions in rural areas.Agriculture in Pakistan
Pakistan's principal natural resources are arable land and water. About 25% of Pakistan's agriculture accounts for about 21% of GDP and employs about 43% of the labour force. In Pakistan, the most agricultural province is Punjab where wheat and cotton are the most grown. Mango orchards are mostly found in Sindh and Punjab provinces that make Pakistan the world's 4th largest producer of mangoes.Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
The Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform is a cabinet post in the Scottish Government. The Cabinet Secretary is responsible for:
policy on climate change, environmental protection and biodiversity;
environmental and climate justice;
flood prevention & coastal erosion;
land use and land reform;
water quality and Scottish Water; and
Crown Estate Scotland.The Cabinet Secretary is supported by the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, who also reports to the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy.Department of Rural Development and Land Reform
The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is one of the departments of the South African government. It is responsible for topographic mapping, cadastral surveying, deeds registration, and land reform. The department falls under the responsibility of the Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform, currently Gugile Nkwinti.
Significant components of the department include the Deeds Registries, the office of the Chief Surveyor-General, the Chief Directorate: National Geo-spatial Information (South Africa's national mapping agency), and the Land Claims Commission.Development Trusts Association Scotland
Development Trusts Association Scotland often referred to as DTAS is a scottish charitable incorporated organisation that represents the interests of development trusts. Founded in 2003 and based in Edinburgh, membership of DTAS currently sits at over 250.Gugile Nkwinti
Gugile Ernest Nkwinti (born 18 December 1946) is a South African politician, currently serving in the Cabinet of South Africa as the Minister of Water and Sanitation and is the former Minister of Rural Development and Land Reform.Land allocation decision support system
LADSS, or land allocation decision support system, is an agricultural land-use planning tool developed at The Macaulay Institute. More recently the term LADSS is used to refer to the research of the team behind the original planning tool.Land reform in Cuba
The agrarian reform laws of Cuba sought to break up large landholdings and redistribute land to those peasants who worked it, to cooperatives, and the state. Laws relating to land reform were implemented in a series of laws passed between 1959 and 1963 after the Cuban Revolution. Che Guevara was named head of the INRA as minister of industries and oversaw the land reform policies.Land reform in Egypt
The post-revolution Egyptian Land Reform was an effort to change land ownership practices in Egypt following the 1952 Revolution launched by Gamal Abdel Nasser and the Free Officers Movement.Land reform in Ethiopia
The problem of land reform in Ethiopia has hampered that country's economic development throughout the late 19th and 20th centuries. Attempts to modernize land ownership by giving title either to the peasants who till the soil, or to large-scale farming programs, have been tried under imperial rulers like Emperor Haile Selassie, and under Marxist regimes like the Derg, with mixed results. The present Constitution of Ethiopia, which was put into force January 1995, vests land ownership exclusively "in the State and in the
peoples of Ethiopia." The relevant section continues, "Land is a common property of the Nations, Nationalities and Peoples of Ethiopia and shall not be subject to sale or to other means of exchange." Despite these different approaches to land reform, Ethiopia still faces issues of sustainable food self-sufficiency.Land reform in India
Land Reform refers to efforts to reform the ownership and regulation of land in India.Land reform in Mexico
Before the 1910 Mexican Revolution that overthrew Porfirio Díaz, most of the land was owned by a single elite ruling class. Legally there was no slavery or serfdom; however, those with heavy debts, native wage workers, or peasants, were essentially debt-slaves to the landowners. A small percentage of rich landowners owned most of the country's farm land. With so many people brutally suppressed, revolts and revolution were common in Mexico. To relieve the Mexican peasant's plight and stabilize the country, various leaders tried different types of agrarian land reform.
During the first five years of agrarian reform, very few hectares were evenly distributed. Land reform attempts by past leaders and governments proved futile, as the revolution from 1910-1920 had been a battle of dependent labor, capitalism, and industrial ownership. Fixing the agrarian problem was a question of education, methods, and creating new social relationships through co-operative effort and government assistance. Initially the agrarian reform led to the development of many Ejidos for communal land use, while parceled ejidos emerged in the later years.Land reform in Romania
Four major land reforms have taken place in Romania: in 1864, 1921, 1945 and 1991. The first sought to undo the feudal structure that had persisted after the unification of the Danubian Principalities in 1859; the second, more drastic reform, tried to resolve lingering peasant discontent and create social harmony after the upheaval of World War I and extensive territorial expansion; the third, imposed by a mainly Communist government, did away with the remaining influence of the landed aristocracy but was itself soon undone by collectivisation (considered by some as yet another land reform), which the fourth then unravelled, leading to almost universal private ownership of land today.Land reform in Zimbabwe
Land reform in Zimbabwe officially began in 1980 with the signing of the Lancaster House Agreement, as an effort to more equitably distribute land between black subsistence farmers and white Zimbabweans of European ancestry, who had traditionally enjoyed superior political and economic status. The programme's targets were intended to alter the ethnic balance of land ownership. Inequalities in land ownership were inflated by a growing overpopulation problem, depletion of over-utilised tracts, and escalating poverty in subsistence areas parallel with the under-utilisation of land on commercial farms. However, the predominantly white commercial sector also provided a livelihood for over 30% of the paid workforce and accounted for some 40% of exports. Its principal crops included sugarcane, coffee, cotton, tobacco and several varieties of high-yield hybrid maize. Both the commercial farms and the subsistence sector maintained large cattle herds, but over 60% of domestic beef was furnished by the former. In sharp contrast, the life of typical subsistence farmers was difficult, and their labour poorly rewarded. As erosion increased, the ability of the subsistence sector to feed its adherents diminished to an alarming degree.Land hunger was at the centre of the Rhodesian Bush War, and was addressed at Lancaster House, which sought to concede equitable redistribution to the landless without damaging the white farmers' vital contribution to Zimbabwe's economy. At independence from the United Kingdom in 1980, the Zimbabwean authorities were empowered to initiate the necessary reforms; as long as land was bought and sold on a willing basis, the British government would finance half the cost. In the late 1990s, Prime Minister Tony Blair terminated this arrangement when funds available from Margaret Thatcher's administration were exhausted, repudiating all commitments to land reform. Zimbabwe responded by embarking on a "fast track" redistribution campaign, forcibly confiscating white farms without compensation.The government's land distribution is perhaps the most crucial and most bitterly contested political issue surrounding Zimbabwe. It has been criticised for the violence and intimidation which marred several expropriations, as well as the parallel collapse of domestic banks which held billions of dollars' worth of bonds on liquidated properties. The United Nations has identified several key shortcomings with the contemporary programme, namely failure to compensate ousted landowners as called for by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the poor handling of boundary disputes, and chronic shortages of material and personnel needed to carry out resettlement in an orderly manner.As of 2011, 237,858 Zimbabwean households had been provided with access to land under the programme. A total of 10,816,886 hectares had been acquired since 2000, compared to the 3,498,444 purchased from voluntary sellers between 1980 and 1998. By 2013, every white-owned farm in Zimbabwe had been either expropriated or confirmed for future redistribution. The compulsory acquisition of farmland without compensation was discontinued in early 2018.Land reforms by country
Agrarian reform and land reform have been a recurring theme of enormous consequence in world history. They are often highly political and have been achieved (or attempted) in many countries.Landless Workers' Movement
Landless Workers' Movement (Portuguese: Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra, MST) is a social movement in Brazil, inspired by Marxism, generally regarded as one of the largest in Latin America with an estimated informal membership of 1.5 million across 23 of Brazil's 26 states. MST defines its goals as access to the land for poor workers through land reform in Brazil and activism around social issues that make land ownership more difficult to achieve, such as unequal income distribution, racism, sexism, and media monopolies. MST strives to achieve a self-sustainable way of life for the rural poor.The MST differs from previous land reform movements in its single-issue focus; land reform for them is a self-justifying cause. The organization maintains that it is legally justified in occupying unproductive land, pointing to the most recent Constitution of Brazil (1988), which contains a passage saying that land should fulfill a social function (Article 5, XXIII). The MST also notes, based on 1996 census statistics, that 3% of the population owns two-thirds of all arable land in Brazil.North Vietnam
North Vietnam, officially the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (DRV) (Vietnamese: Việt Nam Dân Chủ Cộng Hòa), was a country in Southeast Asia from 1954 to 1975.
Vietnamese revolutionary leader Hồ Chí Minh declared independence from French Indochina on 2 September 1945 and announced the creation of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. France reasserted its colonial dominance and a war ensued between France and the Viet Minh, led by President Ho Chi Minh. The Viet Minh ("League for the Independence of Vietnam") was a coalition of nationalist groups, mostly led by communists. In February 1951, the communists announced the creation of the Lao Động Party (Labor Party), gradually marginalizing non-communists in the Việt Minh.Between 1946 and 1954, the Việt Minh captured and controlled most of the rural areas of Vietnam. In 1954, after the French were defeated, the negotiation of the Geneva Accords ended the war between France and the Việt Minh and granted Vietnam independence. The Geneva Accords divided the country provisionally into northern and southern zones, and stipulated general elections in July 1956 to "bring about the unification of Viet-Nam". The northern zone was commonly called North Vietnam, and the southern zone was commonly called South Vietnam.
Supervision of the implementation of the Geneva Accords was the responsibility of an international commission consisting of India, Canada, and Poland. The United States did not sign the Geneva Accords, which stated that the United States "shall continue to seek to achieve unity through free elections supervised by the United Nations to insure that they are conducted fairly". In July 1955, the prime minister of the Republic of Vietnam, Ngô Đình Diệm, announced that South Vietnam would not participate in elections to unify the country. He said that South Vietnam had not signed the Geneva Accords and was not bound by it.After the failure to reunify Vietnam by elections, the Democratic Republic of Vietnam attempted to unify the country by force in the Vietnam War (1955–75). North Vietnam and the Việt Cộng insurgents supported by their communist allies, including the Soviet Union and China, fought against the military of South Vietnam, the United States and other anti-communist military forces, including South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and smaller players. North Vietnam also supported indigenous communist rebels in Cambodia and Laos against their respective U.S.-backed governments. The war ended when North Vietnamese forces and the Việt Cộng defeated South Vietnam and in 1976 united the two parts of the country into the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. The expanded Democratic Republic retained North Vietnam's political culture under Soviet influence and continued its existing memberships in international organisations such as Comecon.White Revolution
The White Revolution (Persian: انقلاب سفید Enqelāb-e Sefid) or the Shah and People Revolution (Persian: انقلاب شاه و مردم Enqelāb-e Shāh o Mardom) was a far-reaching series of reforms in Iran launched in 1963 by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and lasted until 1979. Mohammad Reza Shah’s reform program was built especially to weaken those classes that supported the traditional system. It consisted of several elements, including land reform, sale of some state-owned factories to finance this land reform, construction of an expanded road, rail, and air network, a number of dam and irrigation projects, the eradication of diseases such as malaria, the encouragement and support of industrial growth, enfranchisement of women, nationalization of forests and pastures, formation of literacy and health corps for rural isolated areas, and institution of profit sharing schemes for workers in industry. In the 1960s and 1970s the shah sought to develop a more independent foreign policy and established working relationships with the Soviet Union and eastern European nations. In subsequent decades, per capita income for Iranians skyrocketed, and oil revenue fueled an enormous increase in state funding for industrial development projects.The Shah advertised the White Revolution as a step towards modernization, but there is little doubt that he also had political motives; the White Revolution (a name attributed to the fact it was bloodless) was a way for him to legitimize the Pahlavi dynasty. Part of the reason for launching the White Revolution was that the Shah hoped to get rid of the landlords' influence and create a new base of support among the peasants and working class. The bulk of the program was aimed at Iran’s peasantry, a class the Shah hoped to gain as an ally to thwart the threat of the increasingly hostile middle class. Thus the White Revolution in Iran represented a new attempt to introduce reform from above and preserve traditional power patterns. Through land reform, the essence of the White Revolution, the Shah hoped to ally himself with the peasantry in the countryside, and hoped to sever their ties with the aristocracy in the city.In order to legitimize the White Revolution, the Shah called for a national referendum in early 1963 in which 5,598,711 people voted for the reforms, and 4,115 voted against the reforms. What the Shah did not expect was that the White Revolution lead to new social tensions that helped create many of the problems the Shah had been trying to avoid. Land reform, instead of allying the peasants with the government, produced large numbers of independent farmers and landless laborers who became loose political cannons, with no feeling of loyalty to the Shah. As Ervand Abrahamian pointed out, "The White Revolution had been designed to preempt a Red Revolution. Instead, it paved the way for an Islamic Revolution." Though the White Revolution contributed towards the economic and technological advancement of Iran, the failures of some of the land reform programs and the partial lack of democratic reforms, as well as severe antagonism towards the White Revolution from the clergy and landed elites, would ultimately contribute to the Shah's downfall and the Iranian Revolution in 1979.