Implications for Development Policies

The socio-economic differentiation that was described above shows that agriculture today is not the same as it was 50 years ago. The cultivation of land cannot be regarded as being primarily cultivation carried out by small farms employing all of the labour available in the cultivating family and providing subsistence for these people.

Perhaps it would be necessary to explain the different types of land cultivating households by using a different paradigm. Instead of farms, it might be better to speak of households that utilize all of the resources they have available to them (land, labour and – perhaps – some capital) to secure their survival and raise their standard of living.

Depending on the specific resource endowment, this can take place in various ways. If sufficient land is available, the household might concentrate on farming, and agriculture is their sole activity. But if there is a shortage of land, people have to make other arrangements in order to earn their living. They either try to find additional non-agricultural employment and, thus, increase their total income, or they engage in household production and avoid expenses. Another possibility would be that only an older couple lies off the land instead of a family.

Naturally the functions of land cultivation vary between these different socio-economic types of households. For household which have adequate land, the key function is to create a reasonable means of existence for the members and to produce food and raw materials in order to achieve self-sufficiency as well as to sell on the market.

For household which do not have enough land, some of these functions play a minor role only, while others become more important. Partial self-sufficiency is still a goal, but old-age security, financing the costs of training and migration and security in case of unemployment become more important.

With changing functions of land, the goals which people have regarding their cultivation will change. Households which have sufficient land will increase their production and productivity as a means of increasing their income. Thus, they take advantage of the possibilities offered by modern technology and the market. Side-goals they have are to facilitate the work and provide security for their old age. Households which do not have sufficient land are much less interested in increasing their yields. Their experience has been that if they have only a small amount of acreage at their disposal, an increase in yields will not make much of a difference in the end. Instead of producing the highest possible yield, they are more interested in the investing the least possible labour input and the smallest possible investment in agricultural production. This makes it possible to engage the existing labour force outside agriculture. If one is successful in securing a permanent non-agricultural job, the financial outcome is much better than all efforts invested in agriculture. Traditional agriculture provides them with self-sufficiency and keeps the land in the hands of the family. This is an important form of security for the household. One has a rural home and a place to live in one’s old age in familiar surroundings. In some cases, the land functions as the family’s savings bank.

The changing functions of land and land-cultivating families’ goals have consequences for suitable measures for development policies. In view of the large differences in agriculture, it is impossible to develop a uniform policy for all household types.

For households which have sufficient land – i.e., large landowners, progressive farmers and economic holdings – agricultural policies are a suitable policy instrument. Price policies, structure policies and innovation policies are a help to such farms and their cultivators. They would probably profit the most from a liberalization of the produce and factor markets and ‘globalization’ as they are already market integrated and, in some cases, export-oriented and experienced in reacting to changing policies.

Especially in the case of the smaller farms among this category, the supporting institutions (cooperatives, extension services and credit facilities) are of great importance and have significant effects and, at the same time, generate increases in the food production and food security. Whatever changes in the agrarian structure have still not taken place in the case of the landlords must be provided by agrarian reform measures.

But only about one-quarter of all of the land cultivating households belong to this group, while three-quarters of the households do not have enough land and have to rely on multiple employment and/or household production for their existence, or belong to an older couple, or are marginal. To them, agricultural policy measures are of lesser interest. Structural policy measures or agrarian reform can, indeed, provide a possibility for increasing the size of the farm and, thus, cause an ‘upward’ development on the farm. Most of the agricultural policy instruments, however, have little impact for these households and, therefore, hardly represent their interests. This includes supporting institutions for agriculture. A marginal farmer has nothing to sell through the cooperative because he needs all of his produce for his own home consumption. Multiple employment households are not those which regularly consult extension services, and no bank of cooperative will grant a lone or give credit to the holdings of older people. One cannot help these people by means of agricultural policy measures with perhaps the exception of some cases at the margin between both types.

Any promotion of the households which do not have sufficient land has to take into consideration the fact that the long-term focus of these people’s interest is usually outside agriculture and that the small size of their farms necessarily limits the quantitative effects of all agricultural measures. The regional development policy measures (which to some extent include agricultural policy measures) provide better prospect for these groups. The promotion of employment, diversification of the economy in rural areas and smoothening the transition from farming to non-agricultural jobs by means of appropriate professional training help these people. In certain areas in which the relation between the population and resources has become too narrow, a certain degree of outmigration is necessary in order to preserve the ecosystem from damage due to overuse.

The discussion showed that the socio-economic differentiation among land-cultivating households has had a strong impact on man – land relations. Today, instead of households that employ their labour on land of varying size and live off the yields of the land, we have a broad differentiation in the kind of relation of people to the land. Whereas in former times the focus of all of the household members was on the land and differences in access to land resulted in differences in income, today these differences concern not only the control of land, but the source of livelihood and the interest in agriculture as well. Not every young man hopes that he can continue to cultivate his father’s land. He may want to if the land is adequate in size and of good quality and has access to irrigation. But if the size is small, the soil poor and irrigation possibilities limited or non-existent, then he may only feel forced to continue farming in the absence of alternatives. However, many of these young men will continue to look for alternatives, or at least a mix of income sources, and hundreds of thousands of them will be successful sooner or later.

Under such conditions of differentiation in man – land relations and in the cultivators’ interest, a transition from sectoral to a more regional approach in development efforts would seem to be indicated. Moreover, a careful analysis of the target groups regarding their conditions, interests and requirements would be a precondition if the policies are to be successful.

There is an urgent need to integrate this differentiation in man – land relations in our development policies. Applying it would provide the opportunity to concentrate resources and agricultural policy instruments where they are needed, wanted and affective for increasing the income of cultivators and the production of food. With respect to the other households in which agricultural policy measures cannot be effective due to different circumstances and requirements and interests of the people, let us not waste the scarce resources of agricultural policy, but rather employ other policies for the people whose main focus is outside agriculture.


next: 7. Changing Functions of Land for the Society