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Programme of action

National programmes of action in developing countries
International policies for agrarian reform and rural development

National programmes of action in developing countries

I. Objectives and strategies
II. Access to land, water and other natural resources
III. People's participation
IV. Integration of women in rural development
V. Access to inputs, markets and services
VI. Development of non-farm rural activities
VII. Education, training and extension

I. Objectives and strategies

The goal of agrarian reform and rural development is transformation of rural life and activities in all their economic, social, cultural, institutional, environmental and human aspects. National objectives and strategies to achieve this transformation should focus on eradication of poverty, including nutritional improvement, and be governed by policies for attaining growth with equity, redistribution of economic and political power, and people's participation. These strategies should include the imposition of ceilings on the size of private holdings, resource mobilization for increased investment, expansion of production and employment, strengthening of the economic base for small farmers, organization of farmers' associations, cooperatives and other groups of the rural poor as well as state farms, introduction of technical innovations, efficiency in the use of resources through adequate incentives and prices, balanced development of rural and urban areas and equity and justice in the sharing of productive resources and the benefits of progress.

Each government should formulate its rural development strategies in the context of overall economic and social planning on the basis of an analysis of its socio-political goals, capabilities and constraints - human, physical and financial. In such strategies, which must take into account the necessity of integrated application of policies and identified areas of priority, governments should consider action to:


(i) Formulate objectives and goals for economic and social development of rural areas paying due regard to ecological balance and resource conservation and renewal

(ii) Set within the context of these objectives and goals specific targets for agrarian reform and rural development commensurate with national targets for overall growth of income and employment.

(iii) Establish, within the framework of overall national development plans and programmes, targets for achieving increased self-reliance, especially in food production.

(iv) Fix specific targets for the 1980s and 1990s for the reduction of rural poverty as measured by indicators of distribution of land and other assets, levels of income (including rural-urban differentials and distribution of rural income) and extent of absolute poverty in terms of satisfaction of basic requirements, especially in nutrition.

(v) Formulate policies and programmes with quantitative targets to expand employment opportunities at fair wages, especially for the landless, and to increase productivity and income for peasants, fishermen, artisans and other self-employed groups.

(vi) Concentrate on eliminating conditions of severe under-nutrition in the shortest possible time and certainly before the end of the century. Formulate plans, policies and programmes for increasing agricultural and food production with a view to achieving nutritional targets.

(vii) Provide greater food security for the poor by setting targets for supplies of essential food and ensuring fair and expeditious distribution during periods of shortage. For this purpose national food reserves should be built up and institutions for food distribution created appropriate to the circumstances of each country.

(viii) Fix targets of minimum income to be achieved as soon as possible and certainly before the end of the century.

(ix) Fix time-bound targets for the provision in rural areas of minimum levels of public utilities and services, such as safe drinking water, family planning, primary health care, housing, education (including primary and secondary), access to roads, communications and electric power, and formulate targets for increasing the proportion of public expenditure on such utilities and services.


(i) Increase resources for rural development through larger overall development expenditures and allocation of a larger share of public funds, in particular through investments in economic and social infrastructure including health and education.

(ii) Ensure that the share of total resources allocated to the rural sector is commensurate with the requirements of rural growth and poverty alleviation and is appropriate to the size of the rural population.

(iii) Review, adapt as appropriate, and strengthen public expenditure and tax and pricing policies with a view to:

(a) Increasing the rate of mobilization and efficiency of use of both public and private resources for rural development, including discouraging the under-use of land and other productive resources;

(b) Removing disincentives and, where necessary, providing incentives for the improvement of technology consistent with environmental consideration, mobilization of rural savings, reinvestment in land and promotion of investment and entrepreneurship in farm and non-farm rural activities.

(iv) Provide for active encouragement by public institutions in the organization of self-help activities for the mobilization of local human and material resources in rural areas.


(i) Decentralize the decision-making process within the framework of national policy and promote local government institutions.

(ii) Delegate to institutions of local government increasing responsibility for decision-making in rural development activities as well as in their implementation and evaluation.

(iii) Promote people's organizations, including rural workers' associations and cooperatives, to strengthen the participation of the rural poor in decision-making, implementation and evaluation of agrarian reform and rural development programmes.


(i) Undertake to collect on a regular basis quantitative data on: levels and distribution of rural income, consumption and nutrition; availability and accessibility of health care, education and other public services; levels of real wages for agricultural labour; interest rates and rents; distribution of land and other productive assets; and other data pertinent to rural conditions of life, including housing. Establish bench-marks relating to these items for the year 1980 and report changes pertaining to these indicators at every other biennial FAO Conference thereafter.

(ii) Reassess periodically the overall effect of policies and other factors on the flow of resources in or out of the rural economy to determine whether changes are needed to ensure progress toward objectives and targets.

II. Access to land, water and other natural resources

The systems of ownership and use of land and access to water and other natural productive resources are determined by historical, political, social and economic conditions of individual countries. They vary between different countries and constitute the key determinants of rural economic structures, income distribution and general conditions of rural life. Where these systems are judged to be constraints on rural development, achievement of social equity, and wide access to land and other natural resources for the vast majority of rural masses, governments should consider institutional, legal and policy changes within the context of their national and rural development goals, and promote a broad understanding by the people concerned of the need for such measures and of the procedures.


In countries where substantial reorganization of land tenure and land redistribution to landless peasants and smallholders is needed as part of the rural development strategy and as a means to redistribution of power, governments should consider action to:

(i) Impose ceilings on the size of private holdings and acquire land, water, other natural resources and farm assets in accordance with nationally determined policies and the Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States.

(ii) Acquire and reclaim water areas and wastelands suitable for aquaculture and distribute them on favourable terms to farmers and fishermen for development of aquatic farming.

(iii) Give precedence in the distribution of acquired assets to established tenants, smallholders and landless agricultural workers, with particular attention to the most deprived groups, and strengthen such redistribution with programmes for improving productivity, including the formation of cooperatives and other forms of associations of peasants with comprehensive state assistance.

(iv) Implement redistribution with speed and determination backed by preventive legal sanctions to avert disinvestment and evasive transfers.

(v) Create and support post-reform institutions, including farmers' associations, cooperatives, collective and state farms, and development activities with the widest feasible participation of the beneficiaries to prevent the emergence of new patterns of concentration of resources or other forms of exploitation.


Whether or not substantial redistribution of land and other assets is part of a country's strategy, the government should consider action to:

(i) Prepare and maintain records of tenants, including sharecroppers.

(ii) Introduce and effectively enforce legal measures to ensure rent ceilings fair to tenants, including sharecroppers.

(iii) Enforce security of tenure for tenants, including sharecroppers, as a means of social equity, improving access to credit and services and stimulating investment.

(iv) Encourage the formation of tenants' organizations to promote group solidarity, supervise the implementation of regulatory measures and enhance the ability of tenants to seek legal redress.

(v) Enact and enforce rural labour legislation relating to conditions of work, including minimum wage standards, to protect rural workers from exploitation.


Where changes in customary tenure systems are needed as part of a country's development strategy, the government should consider action to:

(i) Arrest trends toward unequal privatization of rights and absentee ownership and protect the rights of small cultivators and nomadic populations.

(ii) Preserve and adapt or create systems of broad-based community control and management of land and water rights in accordance with development needs.

(iii) Design and implement programmes for more efficient utilization of pastoral resources, ensuring that the benefits accrue to pastoral people.


In countries where production efficiency is hindered by severe fragmentation of holdings, governments should consider action to:

(i) Intensify efforts to consolidate fragmented and dispersed holdings to improve productivity and management while ensuring that consolidation does not adversely affect the interests of tenants.

(ii) Combine consolidation measures for fragmented holdings with programmes of community-wide and area-wide development, in particular to ensure employment for labour released by consolidation measures.

(iii) Encourage group farming, state-owned farms, publicly owned farms, cooperatives and other forms of group tenure, organized in ways which assure the participants the benefits of the expansion of infrastructure, research, employment and better utilization of inputs and technical skills.


With regard to forests, range lands and water and other natural resources, governments should consider action to:

(i) Arrange for control and management of such resources in the public interest and consistent with environmental conservation, including prevention of desertification and soil erosion, and with due regard to the needs of local communities.

(ii) Ensure equitable access to natural resources in the public and private domain and promote better use of such resources.

(iii) Disseminate as widely as possible information and knowledge about soil erosion and methods of controlling it.

(iv) Ensure the conservation and management of fishery and forestry resources through arrangements involving local communities.


In countries where a significant land frontier exists, governments should consider action to:

(i) Promote settlements on new land for the largest possible number of landless households consistent with sound environmental considerations and provide the necessary infrastructure and economic and social services to ensure their success.

(ii)-Ensure that such schemes have technical and economic viability and are supplemental to, not substitutes for, agrarian reforms necessary in already settled areas.


In countries with substantial inter-regional and inter-community inequalities, governments should consider action to:

(i) Create regionally and nationally integrated production and distribution systems to ensure an equitable sharing of resources and income among different rural regions and communities.

(ii) Formulate overall investment programmes and implement inter-regional and inter-community allocation policies to compensate for uneven resource endowment and availability of social and economic infrastructure.

(iii) Design and implement development programmes with a view to promoting the integration of rural areas with urban centres.

III. People's participation

Participation by the people in the institutions and systems which govern their lives is a basic human right and also essential for realignment of political power in favour of disadvantaged groups and for social and economic development. Rural development strategies can realize their full potential only through the motivation, active involvement and organization at the grass-roots level of rural people, with special emphasis on the least advantaged, in conceptualizing and designing policies and programmes and in creating administrative, social and economic institutions, including cooperative and other voluntary forms of organization for implementing and evaluating them.

To provide the basis for effective participation by the people, governments should consider action to:


(i) Remove all barriers to the free association of rural people in organizations of their choice and ratify and enforce ILO Convention Nos 87 and 141 and Recommendation No. 149 on the role of rural workers' organizations in economic and social development.

(ii) Encourage the establishment of self-reliant local, regional and national federations of peasant and worker associations and rural cooperatives, with positive government support and due regard to their autonomy.

(iii) Promote the participation of rural people in the activities of rural development agencies and ensure that these agencies work in close cooperation with organizations of the intended beneficiaries of their programmes.

(iv) Encourage people's organizations providing various economic, social and cultural services to develop self-reliance at the community level and assist them in such ways as meeting legal and financial requirements, training of leaders and other initial needs, exercising care that their independence is not compromised.

(v) Provide opportunities for rural people's organizations to participate at the local level in the identification, implementation and evaluation of development projects, including rural works programmes.

(vi) Mobilize the energies of both urban and rural youth for a variety of rural development activities through programmes and mechanisms responding to their needs, abilities and aspirations, including national volunteer services, rural youth associations and work-study programmes.


(i) Decentralize institutions of government decision-making, in particular the planning machinery, within the framework of national policy, to enable people's participation in the planning, formulation and implementation of development programmes relating to their regions or areas. Establish recruitment and staff training policies which ensure support of the interests of the rural poor.

(ii) Reform, or where necessary create, institutions of local government, including local courts, to promote and facilitate democratic and effective participation by the people, including participation by rural workers through organizations of their own, and assist in the management and organization of such institutions through programmes of training and motivation.

(iii) Give special assistance to help local government institutions establish and strengthen educational and training programmes for disadvantaged groups to enhance their capacity to participate in development decisions and to make more effective use of inputs, technology and government services.


(i) Encourage the formation of organizations of the intended beneficiaries of land and tenure reforms and involve them in the redistribution of land and water rights and in the implementation and regulation of tenancy laws.

(ii) Channel publicly supplied credit and material inputs through organizations of smallholders, beneficiaries and land and tenure reforms and other peasant groups.

(iii) Ensure that organizations of beneficiaries or settlers in settlement schemes have the opportunity of mobilizing labour and other resources for investment in infrastructure.

IV. Integration of women in rural development

Recognition of the vital role of women in socio-economic life in both agricultural and non-agricultural activities, in accordance with the goals of the United Nations Decade for Women, is a prerequisite for successful rural development planning and programme implementation. Rural development based on growth with equity will require full integration of women, including equitable access to land, water, other natural resources, inputs and services and equal opportunity to develop and employ their skills. There is also an urgent need to expand knowledge and statistical data on all aspects of women's roles in rural activities and to disseminate this information in order to promote greater awareness of women's role in society.

Governments should consider action to:


(i) Repeal those laws which discriminate against women in respect of rights of inheritance, ownership and control of property, and promote understanding of the need for such measures.

(ii) Promote ownership rights for women, including joint ownership and co-ownership of land in entirety, to give women producers with absentee husbands effective legal rights to take decisions on the land they manage.

(iii) Adopt measures to ensure women equitable access to land, livestock and other productive assets.

(iv) Repeal laws and regulations which inhibit effective participation by women in economic transactions and in the planning, implementation and evaluation of rural development programmes.

(v) Ensure full membership and equal voting rights for women in people's organizations such as tenants' associations, labour unions, cooperatives, credit unions and organizations of the beneficiaries of land reform and other rural development programmes.


(i) Provide agricultural inputs and social and economic services to women through non-discriminatory access to existing delivery systems.

(ii) Establish special recruitment and training schemes to increase the number of women in the training and extension programmes of development agencies at all levels, including professional fields from which women have been traditionally excluded.

(iii) Broaden the range of agricultural training and extension programmes to support women's roles in activities of agricultural production, processing, preservation and marketing.


(i) Promote collective action and organization by rural women to facilitate their participation in the full range of public services and to enhance their opportunities to participate in economic, political and social activities on an equal footing with men.

(ii) Establish systems, with the involvement of women's organizations, to identify and evaluate obstacles to women's participation and to monitor progress and coordinate action, especially with regard to agricultural services, educational services and school enrolment, health and other social services and employment and wages.

(iii) Revise procedures for the collection and presentation of statistical data for the identification, recognition and appreciation of the participation of women in productive activities.

(iv) Promote research and exchange of information and establish and strengthen programmes to facilitate and ease the burden of women's household work, such as day care centres, in order to permit their greater participation in economic, educational and political activities. Also promote understanding of men's responsibilities to share household duties.


(i) Ensure educational opportunities of similar quality and content for both sexes and provide special incentives such as reduced fees for increased enrolment of girls and women in schools and training programmes.

(ii) Promote income-generating opportunities for women and guarantee equal wage rates for men and women for work of equal value.

(iii) Establish and strengthen non-formal educational opportunities for rural women, including leadership training, instruction in agricultural as well as non-farm activities, health care, upbringing of children, family planning and nutrition.

(iv) Evaluate and take steps to minimize the possible negative effects on women's employment and income arising from changes in traditional economic patterns and the introduction of new technology.

V. Access to inputs, markets and services

Use of improved seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and other technological inputs is low in all developing regions and is often confined to a small section. Policies and strategies are needed to develop and promote technologies which enhance the use of more productive inputs and better use of labour, as well as to improve distribution of inputs and services to smallholders and peasant cooperatives and ensure stable markets and fair prices, critical infrastructure, adequate public utilities and improved social and economic services in rural areas.

To achieve these goals of increased productivity and equity, governments should consider action to:


(i) Adopt and adjust pricing policies, interest rates and other related policies to promote increased and more efficient use of purchased agricultural inputs, in particular by small farmers or groups thereof

(ii) Establish and strengthen local and regional institutions for the delivery of inputs and social and economic services, with direct and increasing involvement of organized groups of small farmers and other groups of rural poor, in order to ensure equitable access and fair prices

(iii) Ensure timely provision, in a coordinated manner, of the full range of services, including credit, material inputs, extension, agro-technical training, marketing outlets and the effective integration of the delivery system at the local level

(iv) Experiment with alternative methods of delivery of extension services in order to develop systems best suited to particular countries or regions within countries, reorient extension services generally toward the needs of small farmers and cooperatives and use communication media including audio-visual aids in such programmes.

(v) Design programmes and institutions for an increased flow of inputs to subsistence and other small farmers and cooperatives, at preferential prices, where appropriate, through modified market institutions and through non-market mechanisms.

(vi) Improve the access of rural people to relevant social services, in particular those relating to health and nutrition, and design special programmes for the delivery of such services to vulnerable groups.


(i) Establish and strengthen market towns, common facilities and rural service centres, in order to facilitate wider access to inputs and services, secure economies of scale and minimize the costs of delivery systems.

(ii) Improve marketing, storage and transport of farm products, especially those of small farmers, making use of local informal markets, farmers' cooperatives and semi-autonomous agencies.

(iii) Design institutional credit schemes which increase the volume of credit available to peasant producers through public and private lending institutions and which reorient their practices toward the needs of small farmers for housing, consumption and production credit and for redemption of debts to traditional moneylenders.

(iv) Establish subsidy funds to compensate for higher costs and risks of credit and for the higher costs of supply of inputs and other services to small farmers.

(v) Set up risk funds to compensate credit institutions for costs of defaults on loans to small farmers and low-income producers.

(vi) Adopt measures to ensure fair returns to producers and to reduce seasonal and excessive year-to-year fluctuations in prices of agricultural products and inputs

(vii) Establish, where feasible, schemes to provide insurance, compensatory financing and price support to minimize the risk to small farmers from crop losses and product price fluctuations.

(viii) Expand and improve the rural infrastructure required for delivery of inputs and marketing of outputs (transport and power facilities, markets, rural service centres, etc.) through both increased allocation of public funds and mobilization of local resources.

(ix) Design and adopt pricing policies which, in the context of a country's external trading opportunities, ensure an appropriate allocation of resources between domestic and export crops and permit the satisfaction of national food and nutritional requirements.


(i) Increase the share of funds for research on problems of rural areas to a level consonant with the importance of the rural sector in the national economy, and establish specific targets for the share of rural sector research in total research funds.

(ii) Review existing priorities in research, extension and training in relation to rural development and the alleviation of poverty and reorient them toward the adaptation and improvement of location-specific technology suitable for use by small producers and cooperatives.

(iii) Intensify research on special problems of rainfed subsistence agriculture and shifting cultivation as well as harvest and post-harvest losses and storage.

(iv) Coordinate and integrate economic and technological research with related social science research on an inter-disciplinary basis, particularly on the socio-economic implications of technological change.

(v) Encourage research and technological innovations which minimize ecological hazards and imbalances in the exploitation of natural resources.

(vi) Support research on low-cost construction technology appropriate to the needs of the rural poor for farm buildings, dwellings and other improvements.

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