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Fridays Academy: Land, Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction (II)

Ignacio Hernandez's picture

Like every Friday, from Raj Nallari and Breda Griffith's lecture notes.


Unequal Distribution of Land in Poor Countries: Background and Impact


The history of land tenure in many developing countries prevented the evolution of secure tenure for much of the population and especially the rural poor.  Property rights were oftentimes imposed by outside forces or local overlords. The objective was to seek surpluses from local smallholder populations and/or force local smallholders into wage labor without promoting opportunities for land ownership.  The result was the development of production systems and informal tenure arrangements that generated an unequal distribution of land as well as a large landless population.  For example, the production systems in Latin America and Asia resulted in unequal access to land in these regions. Similarly the collective production structures in Eastern Europe stymied rural growth.  More than 50 percent of the peri-urban population in Africa and more than 40 percent in Asia live under informal tenure and therefore have highly insecure land rights (WB).


Furthering the exclusion of the poor from land access and ownership has been the failure to establish legitimate institutions dealing with land. Parallel and overlapping institutions have evolved over long periods, often with a poor clarity on how land rights are defined, how ownership and possession are determined and how conflicts pertaining to land are resolved.  The absence or low level of standards is particularly apparent when distortions in land ownership overlap with race and ethnicity issues, leading in some extreme cases to the collapse of the state.  In many African countries, legal recognition has recently been given to customary tenure although implementation of the laws remains a challenge (WB, 2003).


In many countries, the failure to establish legitimate institutions is due to the fact that the state continues to own a large proportion of usable land.  In some cases, the appropriation of rents from land appreciation and controls by government bureaucracies represents a major source of corruption and constrains the development of legitimate business.


Land represents the main physical asset for poor households—in Uganda land constitutes between 50 and 60 percent of the asset endowment of poor households. Securing title to that land is critical for improving welfare, and for facilitating investment and wealth accumulation for current and future generations.  As noted by the World Bank (2003), securing title to land is important for a number of reasons:

  • households’ ability to produce for their subsistence and to generate a marketable surplus;
  • their social and economic status and often their collective identity;
  • their incentive to invest and to use land in a sustainable manner; and
  • their ability to self-insure and/or to access financial markets.      

Failure to generate and promote secure land tenure arrangements has made it difficult to establish inclusive patterns of economic growth and actually retards sustainable long-run economic growth.  Securing land title or enforcing property rights affects growth in a number of ways, chiefly by:

  • increasing the incentives for investment by households and individuals;
  • increasing the productivity of land used in un-mechanized agriculture; and
  • opening up opportunities for financial market development and nonagricultural employment.

Failure to enforce property rights or poorly defined property rights waste time and resources for individuals.  When property rights are insecure, defending one’s land becomes a costly endeavor that diverts efforts from other more productive pursuits such as investment. Furthermore, poorly functioning or highly regulated and often corrupt institutions that deal with land policies hinder the development of small enterprise startups and non-farm economic development, by essentially making it more difficult to enter and exit the agricultural sector.  Also, in such an environment, access to land is limited and landlords are discouraged from renting out their land for more productive opportunities.  


Initial Land Distribution and Economic Growth; Selected Countries


Source: World Bank (2003) Land Policies for Growth and Poverty Reduction



Whilst the economic opportunities emanating from a secure title to land are clear, social advantages arise also. Ensuring an egalitarian ownership of land empowers poor households granting them a greater voice and creating an environment for ‘more participatory local development’ (WB 2003) and democracy.  Greater participation at the local level can ensure a more equitable balance of public good provision.



Next Friday: Land Policies and Women


Submitted by guest Rehan Khan on
Unequal Distribution of Land in Poor Countries: Background and Impact: Mainly it must not be our prior concerned to resolve the issue of land distribution but also it is the issue of resource, as universe is full of Natural resources and are in the possesion of fewers, it should be divided, and further More the followers of cuosism theory claimed the universe as a joint property of human beings, and much more, they claim to end poverty in 24 hours only, presently the are organizing in shape of a new global movement , Namely "The Movement for Humanism" i am not cuting the joks even one can visit there site [email protected]

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