The Issue of Agrarian Reform at the Current
Stage of Turkey's Socio-Economic Development
Dr. Frithjof Kuhnen
Institute of Rural Development, Göttingen University,
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
- 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.