The Issue of Agrarian Reform at the Current Stage of Turkey's Socio-Economic Development

Dr. Frithjof Kuhnen
Institute of Rural Development, Göttingen University, Germany

Agrarian reforms - measures to overcome obstacles hindering economic and social development that are the result of shortcomings in the agrarian structure - have been occurring for more than a thousand years. They concern changes in land tenure (ownership, tenancy and labour organization) and, in modern times especially, changes in land use (management, supporting institutions).

While the goals of these reforms were mostly a mix of political, social and economic objectives, the emphasis changed with the phases of development:

  • In early times, ownership reform was used to change the power structure, reduce exploitation and dependence, and create greater equality.
  • Later on, early industrialization, urbanization and population increase made it necessary to tie more people to the land and put an end to agricultural stagnation by offering the incentive of becoming an owner-cultivator.
  • Progressive industrialization requires the release of manpower out of agriculture. Increasing capital intensity as well as the use of more purchased inputs caused an increasing interweaving of agriculture with other sectors and thus a greater risk which had to be compensated by more sophisticated supporting institutions.
  • Mature economies have a small agricultural sector. Small farms become less attractive because an income comparable to that earned in the other sectors is the goal, and not any more mere access to land. Agriculture becomes dependent on the other sectors of the society and accepts new roles. Agrarian reforms have to further the adjustment of agriculture to changing circumstances. The overall goal should be a land tenure system which makes it feasible for all types of land cultivators to develop the productive capacity of their resources to secure food production and income, and, at the same time, preserve the natural fertility potential for future generations.

If these changing agrarian reform objectives are applied to Turkey of today, the great variation between regions in the country and between the strata of the rural society cause the agrarian reform requirements of all the development phases listed above to exist side by side. The regional differences are old and have been much discussed. East Anatolia, West Anatolia and Marmara/Aegean are far apart in their socio-economic development, and the differences are ever increasing.