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December 2006

Announcement of a publication

Land Reform, land settlements and cooperatives

2005/2

Twenty-seven years after the World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD) held in Rome in 1979, the key question of land is once again an essential item on the international development agenda.

This issue of Land Reform, Land Settlement and Cooperatives offers the reader a series of articles and information related to the discussions that will take place in March 2006 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, at the International Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (7–10 March).

Needs have changed and there are new dimensions to previous concerns. Gender issues have been integrated into FAO activities, and Land Reform, Land Settlement and Cooperatives has published articles on how the rights of rural women have or have not been taken into account in agrarian reform programmes. Likewise, there is now an ecological dimension to concerns about socio-economic viability, and the results of experiments carried out in many parts of the world have been widely published. It is therefore necessary to seek out new, more open and flexible ways to tackle the problem of equitable access to natural resources and, in particular, to land. The latter remains a priority issue today mainly because of the persistence of poverty in rural areas, where 75 percent of the world’s poor live.

In spite of considerable improvements in agricultural production over the past 50 years, food security is still an issue in many regions of the globe. Food insecurity and agrarian reform are closely linked, and, until adequate access to land and water is ensured for the majority of people, the reduction of poverty, the elimination of hunger and rural development in the world will not be achievable.

The discussions in Porto Alegre will focus on the new challenges facing those who wish to revitalize land and rural communities through various types of partnership, taking into account not only the sociocultural values of the rural communities but also the agroeconomic riches of their land’s natural resources.

The WCARRD Action Plan, adopted in July 1979, emphasized the need for participation on the part of local people, as well as for equity and social justice, in order to achieve the redistribution of political and economic power and fuller integration of rural areas in order to improve the employment prospects and incomes of rural populations.

FAO will call upon the Porto Alegre conference to inject new life into the WCARRD Action Plan and to take forward its programme, thereby fulfilling the undertakings made at the World Food Summit in 1996 and at the World Food Summit: five years later in 2001, as well as the commitments to which the international community subscribed by adopting the Millennium Development Declaration.

Land Reform, Land Settlement and Cooperatives wishes to continue to promote the sharing of experience, offering an open forum where individuals working in the field of agrarian reform can find useful direction. Far from providing solutions, each day brings ever more daunting problems – which is all the more reason to maintain and strengthen this type of dialogue among civil society, non-governmental organizations and colleagues from universities or working in the field.

Parviz Koohafkan
Director, FAO Rural Development Division

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