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Natural Resource Governance around the World

Agrarian Reforms in the World

Folder presentation

Folder Contributors: Association pour contribuer à l’Amélioration de la Gouvernance de la Terre, de l’Eau et des Ressources naturelles (AGTER), Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme (FPH)

In cases of extreme land tenure polarisation, agrarian reform is a necessary priority and should be addressed before any other measures are taken. The partial failure of many agrarian reforms has meant that many have forgotten this basic fact.

Therefore, it is necessary to analyse, in detail, the successes and failures of past reforms in order to develop the capacity to improve models that facilitate indispensable interventions. The methods used for the implementation and application of reforms, and the respective roles of state and small farmer organisations are essential factors that contribute to the success and sustainability of achievements, just as is the coordination of the process with suitable agricultural public policies. By examining the later changes and evolution of the “reformed sector”, and the tendencies and the risks of “counter reforms”, it is possible to come to a better understanding of agrarian reform. It can thus be seen as a process that affects power relationships and dynamics, and that therefore should be capable of anticipating future changes in a context where the state will not have the capacity to intervene. In many cases, the effects of redistribution, which constitute the foundation of a true agrarian reform, are seldom fully considered, or are even disregarded in favour of collectivization policies or the colonisation of virgin lands–neither of which have anything to do with land reform. If, as in many cases, land reforms are obligatory, they cannot constitute a permanent means of intervention.

This leads us to the fundamental relationship between agrarian reforms and other land policies, especially permanent regulatory policies for land markets. They all aim for, or towards, the optimum distribution of land over a given time, and where possible, to avoid having to carry out further agrarian reform in the future, which is costly in terms of both human resources and materials. The papers presented here illustrate some cases of agrarian reform policies throughout the world. They have been prepared by people long experienced with the subject, country and region concerned (or as in certain cases, the documents are based on their work), and express different, sometimes conflicting, opinions.

This is not a collection of only best practices or success stories. Indeed, one may learn as much from analysing failures as successes, thus there is no one solution that fits all. Nor does this selection pretend to be exhaustive. It attempts to deal with very different types of situations, chosen from across four continents, which are not typically subject to transversal analyses or comparisons. The collection is also obviously still incomplete, as it is a collection undergoing constant evolution. Nevertheless, the following records are sufficiently detailed for a reader with no prior knowledge of a particular region or country to enhance their own thinking on land policies, their potentials and limits.

Table of contents

Key papers