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March 2002

Land reform, land settlement and cooperatives bulletin


Issues relating to land and land reform have been moving up the agenda of rural poverty and food security in recent years with the increasing acceptance that the prerequisites for broad-based and equitable development include the essential need for people to have access to land and other natural resources. Access needs to be on an equitable basis allowing the poor and the disadvantaged, including women, to secure the assets needed for them and their families to generate sustainable livelihoods. This is of course a matter of concern in the lead up to the World Food Summit: five years later that will take place in Rome in 2002. The Summit will review and consider ways to accelerate progress towards the goal established by the World Food Congress in 1996 of reducing the number of hungry people by half by 2015. The paper on Fostering the political will to fight hunger presented at the 27th Session on World Food Security, 28 May - 1 June 2001, specifically identified the importance of access to land in looking at the translation of the World Food Summit commitments into action. It pointed out that properly designed and supported redistributive measures for assets including land are a key option for improving access to food.

The articles in this issue of Land reform, land resettlement and cooperatives address areas of key concern in this context. They range across a number of geographical and cultural regions, from Latin America, through Africa, the Near East and Asia, to aboriginal access to land in Canada. They cover a variety of different situations where improvements in the land tenure structure and access to land have improved food security and reduced poverty in rural areas.

Experience in Asia is represented by an article from the Philippines by Menachem Lourie on the comprehensive agrarian reform policy that analyses the positive relationship between systematic participation of stakeholders, and improved productivity and increased incomes for the agrarian reform beneficiary households. In particular it reviews and assesses FAO project experience in applying a large-scale development process that addresses the priority constraints of the agrarian reform communities, thus improving their access to support services and increasing their sustainable levels of productivity and income.

Three articles draw on the experience of Africa. In North Africa, Souad Bendjaballah considers access to land in the context of land and its administration in Algeria, reviewing changes in cadastre and land registration since the 1980s as a result of post-independence agricultural policies, economic crisis and the State's disengagement. Analysis of pastoral land norms and practices, as pointed out by Catherine Goislard in her article on Mali, is an exciting and challenging task, reflecting the need to understand these thoroughly in their customary, social and behavioural contexts. The work described has been used to create a national inventory on norms and practices and is the basis for the design of a Pastoral Charter for the country. In Southern Africa, the situation of the Mozambique sugar sector under the 1997 Land Law is examined by Alessandro Marini in the context of "new" market economy relationships and needs. The prospects for partnerships between communities and large-scale commercial investors are considered as an effective way of reconciling the need to attract investment into the sector with concerns for poverty alleviation and food security.

The article from Latin America, from Chile, by José Osorio and Álvaro Marín, provides an overview of rural family agriculture in Chile in the context of the challenges of rapid globalization. It looks particularly at institutional and practical challenges in developing extension services to support peasants in the need to adopt business management approaches through business management centres.

The experience of the Near East is represented by Laurence Roudart's second and concluding article on land tenure and access to land in Egypt. The first article, published in volume 2000/2, looked at the evolution of land reform in Egypt from the early reforms of Mehemet Ali in the first half of the nineteenth century to Nasser's reforms of the 1950s and 1960s. It concluded with a summary of developments in the 1970s and 1980s. This article presents a microeconomic and social analysis of the liberalization of rental and sharecropping arrangements in Egypt that occurred following the changes in the legal framework in 1992.

The final article by Sue Nichols and Meli Rakai analyses access to land of the indigenous people of Canada in the context of native rights. Poorly understood treaties, the reserve system and archaic legislation largely marginalized the First Nation peoples in Canada. The re-establishment of their land and other natural resource claims provide an interesting and topical reminder that equitable access to rural land for indigenous people and how these claims are established are significant issues on the agenda of both developed and developing countries.

Paul Munro-Faure
Chief, Land Tenure Service
July 2001

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