Agrarian Reforms

The time following W.W.II was a major period of land reforms. In East Asia, strong pressure from occupying armies or severe emergencies led to successful improvements in the economic, social and political situation. This was due in part to the inclusion of land management reforms and the organization of services for the beneficiaries of these 'agrarian reforms', as this new approach was called. These early reforms were quite successful in providing incentives for increasing productivity, promoting equality - even at a low level - and in reducing dependency and power based on the control of land. On the basis of a different ideology, similar effects arose from the people's communes in China during the early stages.

Later attempts at land reforms were not able to bring about the same results. Weak governments were not able to enforce the laws against the resistance of powerful landlords, and whatever results could be achieved were weakened by the too limited inclusion or non-inclusion of services for the new cultivators. This applies to Asia as well as Latin American and North African cases.

In spite of the still existing negative effects of maladjusted land tenure systems, the high political and financial costs ensuing from attempts at reform led to discussions as to whether it makes sense at all to increase the already very large number of tiny holdings by giving small plots of land to landless people. This discussion gained momentum from four developments: the increasing shortages in food production, the impact of the so-called 'green revolution', the increase in urbanization and non-agricultural development and the continuing reduction in farm sizes due to partitioning in the inheritance process. Already during this period, governments preferred to give land to smallholders and tenants with experience and equipment instead of to the landless who had to be supplied with such requirements. A more recent attempt has been the 'market-led land reform'. It may reduce large property in land, but will hardly result in much land for the poor.