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Natural Resource Governance around the World

Land Policies and Agrarian Reform. Proposal Paper.

Folder presentation

Funding organizations: Fondation Charles Léopold Mayer pour le Progrès de l’Homme (FPH)

Folder Contributors: Institut de Recherche et d’Applications des Méthodes de Développement (IRAM), Réseau Agriculture Paysanne et Modernisation (APM), Association pour contribuer à l’Amélioration de la Gouvernance de la Terre, de l’Eau et des Ressources naturelles (AGTER)

Many conflicts occurring today all over the world are still related to land issues. These land tenure related conflicts can be classified in three main categories according to their origin:

  • A very unequal distribution of land. This is a situation that calls for the implementation of agrarian reforms.

  • An insecure access to land or to resources: non-recognition of customary rights, access to land not secured for the farmers renting land or for the sharecroppers, precarious rights for those who exploit natural resources…

  • The claims from social or ethnic groups for recognition of their right to exercise over a territory. The case of indigenous people demanding the recognition of their land tenure rights is a typical situation. But cases also occur of demands bound to historical backgrounds, sometimes including religious or cultural connotations.

These observations call for three major questions related to the governance of land resources :

  • How to secure the users’ rights?

  • How to ensure that access to land complies with the interest of the majority of the population?

  • How to manage territories as well as possible in the general interest?

The Proposal Paper on land policies and agrarian reforms, edited by Michel Merlet, has built stepping stones to encourage the emergence of new forms of governance of land. The paper is based on discussions with researchers, development workers and representatives of farmers’ organisations.

The main questions were grouped together on four occasions: during a workshop at the World Social Forum organised with CONTAG at Porto Alegre (Brazil) in January 2001, in Spain during the meeting of the APM network in May 2001 at Castelfabib, at Havana (Cuba), in September 2001 during the World Forum on Food Sovereignty and during the workshop organised during the World Social Forum of February 2002 by IRAM with the participation of LA VIA CAMPESINA.

A large number of people have contributed toward the preparation of this text. We would like to thank in particular the experts of the steering committee for their work, which included rereading and commenting on the first versions: Jeanot Minla Mfou’ou (Cameroon), Jacques Chonchol (Chile), Fernando Rosero (Ecuador), Piotr Dabrowski (Poland), Adrian Civici (Albania), Dao Thê Tuan (Vietnam). We would also like to thank our key informants, who have participated by preparing experience records and rereading parts of them, and who have all made important contributions in producing this document: André Marty, Bernard Bonnet, Sophie Devienne, Jose Bové, Olivier Delahaye, Christophe Maldidier, Claude Servolin, Andrzej Lipski, Robert Levesque. We are also indebted to the contributions of Denis Pommier (IRAM), Marcel Mazoyer (INAPG), Marc Dufumier, Philippe Lavigne-Delville (GRET), Joseph Comby (ADEF) during the many exchanges we have had with them on the subjects dealt with in the paper. Lastly, we give special thanks to Pierre Vuarin, Françoise Macé and Pierre Calame of the Charles Léopold Mayer Foundation, without whom this work would not have been possible.

The responsibility for the shortcomings and mistakes in this paper is wholly our own and we thank our readers in advance for sending their observations to us, so that we may take them into account for future versions.

The paper is divided into three parts:

  • 1. an analytical part, which considers the main current debates on the issue of land in rural regions, and presents the major proposals stemming from them.

  • 2. support documents: experience records and interviews with resource persons about situations illustrating several key issues.

  • 3. appendices: website references on the issue of land, and several DPH (Dialogues for the Progress of Humankind) records directly related to the subject.

This paper was designed to help small farmers’ organisations and people working on this issue around the world gain an overall view of the problems involved and identify rewarding experiences in contexts that may be very different from their own, and for which information is not readily available. This paper certainly does not provide procedures or ready-made solutions. Rather, its purpose is to contribute to the development of original strategies for managing land resources adapted to each situation.

The complexity of the issue at hand and the diversity of situations worldwide are such that this document can be neither exhaustive nor definitive. Consequently, it has been designed as a working document in several steps. It is to be completed and enhanced by the inclusion of new experience records covering situations and subjects that could not be included in this edition.

Download the Proposal Paper on land policies and agrarian reforms(English version - 2007)

Table of contents

Issues, Debates and Proposals

Discussion Documents. Experience records