Land Use Practices and Their Impact on Rural Development
This paper was made for ECOSOC Ministerial Roundtable Discussion Hosted by the International Land Coalition and IFAD. It talks about secure access to land as a key to sustainable rural development. It also talks about revived commitments that emphasizes resource rights and institutions, highlights the need to support governments and the viability of scaling up the experiences of civil society into national initiatives and to build on the strength of earlier agrarian reform programmes.
Key words: acceso a la tierra, desarrollo rural, uso de la tierra, pobreza rural
Issues Paper for ECOSOC Ministerial Roundtable Discussion Hosted by the International Land Coalition and IFAD
1 July 2003
Secure Access to Land: A Key to Sustainable Rural Development
1. The World Food Summit (WFS) in 1996, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) in 2002 each affirmed that improving secure access by the rural poor to land is basic to eradicating poverty and promoting development. Access to land is an essential first step, but not a sufficient condition for sustainable rural development. It must be linked with access to water, financial services, technology, capacity- building and markets. Furthermore, the question of access to land must be addressed within the local territorial realities and relationships where decisions on resources will be made.
2. The already vast numbers of landless or near-landless people are growing as more and more farmers, woman-headed households, pastoralists and indigenous peoples are being deprived of land as a consequence of a multitude of factors, including land degradation; expropriation or privatization; demographic pressures; conflicts over natural resources; natural disasters; expansion of commercial farming with its reduced use of labour; and, actions of extractive industries. Most often, those using a parcel of land today have little, if any, assurance that they will have the right to use that land tomorrow. Understandably, when property rights are lacking or insecure, poor rural people cannot be sure they will receive the benefits if they invest in restoring or preserving the long-term productivity of the land.
3. Studies, most recently reported in the World Bank’s Policy Research Report “Land Policy for Growth and Poverty Reduction” provide compelling evidence of the overall benefits arising from more equitable land distribution. Democracy has usually occurred much later in countries dominated by owners of large parcels of land compared with those that relied on smallholder production. Communities with more egalitarian land access are characterised by higher levels of participation and collective action. High land concentrations also reduce incentives for the provision of public goods and services. Public provision of property rights prevent resource dissipation by providing both security (less resources required to protect rights) and incentives to invest in its productive potential. The total surplus production to be derived from land and associated public goods tends to increase with greater equality in the asset distribution.
Revived Commitments Equal New Opportunities
4. The revival of the rural agenda emphasizes resource rights and institutions. It draws attention to the need to strengthen the capacity of those organizations that mediate the access of the poor to land (i.e. community-based organisations, rural workers, women’s groups, indigenous peoples, fisher folk, producer associations). How can the institutions of the poor be strengthened?
5. The new approach also highlights the need to support governments in providing the legislative, regulatory and judicial structures to provide and moderate the rules (laws, customs and administrative practices) that determine whether the poor benefit from improved access to land and related factors. How can the capacity of governments be built so they may advance those normative reforms?
6. Within civil-society organizations, governments, and intergovernmental institutions there are often people striving to build broad-based political and economic support to improve land access and tenure security. These stakeholders can make important contributions by evaluating classical and emerging land access practices, experiences, concepts and methodologies. There is a need to strengthen the capacity of multi-stakeholder coalitions and systems to collect, analyse and share knowledge on the new and innovative approaches for improving land access in order to overcome the constraints experienced in earlier models. How can we strengthen the capacity of those coalitions and build on their experience?
7. It is also important to test the viability of scaling up the experiences of civil society into national initiatives and to build on the strength of earlier agrarian reform programmes including the lessons for effective redistribution, restitution and resettlement. There is also a need to evaluate the potential of emerging land tenure markets; inter-alia negotiated or market-assisted, sharecropping, leasing, and corporate farming to determine if, and how, they can benefit the rural poor. Can land markets help the rural poor, especially the landless, to gain and maintain access to land and related assets? If so, under what conditions and how?
8. Achieving the MDGs and the goals of the WFS and WSSD requires partnerships at multiple levels and implies a political will and commitment. This is of the utmost importance since the history of land use policies and access programmes has shown that civil society movements without the enabling policy and public support of government, and government-led initiatives undertaken without the support of civil society, rarely succeed. In many cases, civil society, governmental and intergovernmental organizations are pursuing what seem to be parallel paths and objectives, but, due to historical events, there are differences that are difficult to bridge. What are the best ways and means to bridge those differences?