Agrarian Reform - New Tasks for the 90s
Agrarian Reforms are measures designed to overcome obstacles
that are the result of shortcomings in the agrarian structure
and which are hindering economic and social development. Changes
in land tenure (ownership, tenancy and labour organization)
as well as changes in land use (reform of land management)
belong to these measures. Agrarian reforms usually have a
package of goals, comprising political, social as well as
economic components. Changes of power structure, the abolishment
of feudalism, an increase in equality of income and chances
of life and an increase of production and productivity play
an important role.
In recent years, the call for agrarian reform as well as
the execution of the actual measures have decreased considerably
because of several reasons:
- In a number of countries, reform laws led to an abolishment
of intermediaries and of large landlords, which decreased
the pressure for land reform. This is not to say that no
more measures are necessary. Especially in Latin America,
agrarian reform is still in its infant stage.
- While thirty years ago the peasantry demanded access
to land ("land to the tiller"), with an increasing
differentiation of the economy, nowadays the goal of the
rural youth is not so much access to a piece of land, but
access to income. Whatever the source: agriculture, industrial
work, trade or even work abroad. For many, agriculture is
only one among several options.
- In the eyes of many people, the "Green Revolution"
proved that agricultural develop ment is possible without
basic institutional changes like an agrarian reform. This,
however, is a short-sighted viewpoint. Growth without structural
changes leads to a situation, where the rich become richer,
and the poor become poorer. Only in case of
egalitarian agrarian structure do new technologies not lead
to social polarization, but rather to a healthy stratification
of the society.
- In some countries development has reached a stage at
which agriculture has become the activity of a minority,
and at which only enlargement of small farms makes an in
come possible which is comparable to that of industrial
All these are no arguments against the need for changes in
land tenure, but only for a different type of land reform.
Land reform is an "unfinished business". Any agrarian
structure permanently has to adjust to changing circumstances,
and therefore this process will never end. As institutional
framework within which agricultural production occurs and
which is characterized by a specific way of life of the rural
population, the land tenure system is interrelated with the
natural, economic, social and political conditions. As these
conditions change, the land tenure system continually has
to be adapted to these changing situations.
Changing situations, however, influence goals of agrarian
reform and those of target groups. Currently the writer sees
two new spheres of ill-adapted relation of man and land, which
urgently require redress.