land reform

land reform

land reform: see agrarian reform; collective farm; ejido.

Deliberate change in the way agricultural land is held or owned, the methods of its cultivation, or the relation of agriculture to the rest of the economy. The most common political objective of land reform is to abolish feudal or colonial forms of landownership, often by taking land away from large landowners and redistributing it to landless peasants. Other goals include improving the social status of peasants and coordinating agricultural production with industrialization programs. The earliest record of land reform is from 6th-century-BC Athens, where Solon abolished the debt system that forced peasants to mortgage their land and labour. The concentration of land in the hands of large landowners became the rule in the ancient world, however, and remained so through the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. The French Revolution brought land reform to France and established the small family farm as the cornerstone of French democracy. Serfdom was abolished throughout most of Europe in the 19th century. The Russian serfs were emancipated in 1861, and the Russian Revolution of 1917 introduced collectivization of agriculture. Land reform was instituted in a number of other countries where communists came to power, notably China. It remains a potent political issue in many parts of the world. Seealso absentee ownership.

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Land reforms (also agrarian reform, though that can have a broader meaning) is an often-controversial alteration in the societal arrangements whereby government administers possession and use of land. Land reform may consist of a government-initiated or government-backed real estate property redistribution, generally of agricultural land, or be part of an even more revolutionary program that may include forcible removal of an existing government that is seen to oppose such reforms.

Throughout history, popular discontent with land-related institutions has been one of the most common factors in provoking revolutionary movements and other social upheavals. To those who labor upon the land, the landowner's privilege of appropriating a substantial portion —in some cases half or even more— of production without making a commensurate contribution to production may seem a rank injustice. Consequently, land reform most often refers to transfer from ownership by a relatively small number of wealthy (or noble) owners with extensive land holdings (e.g. plantations, large ranches, or agribusiness plots) to individual ownership by those who work the land. Such transfer of ownership may be with or without consent or compensation; compensation may vary from token amounts to the full value of the land. The land value tax advocated by Georgists is a moderate, market-based version of land reform.

This definition is somewhat complicated by the issue of state-owned collective farms. In various times and places, land reform has encompassed the transfer of land from ownership — even peasant ownership in smallholdings — to government-owned collective farms; it has also, in other times and places, referred to the exact opposite: division of government-owned collective farms into smallholdings. The common characteristic of all land reforms is modification or replacement of existing institutional arrangements governing possession and use of land.

Land ownership and tenure

The variety of land reform derives from the variety of land ownership and tenure. Among the possibilities are:

In addition, there is paid agricultural labor — under which someone works the land in exchange for money, payment in kind, or some combination of the two — and various forms of collective ownership. The latter typically takes the form of membership in a cooperative, or shares in a corporation, which owns the land (typically by fee simple or its equivalent, but possibly under other arrangements). There are also various hybrids: in many communist states, government ownership of most agricultural land has combined in various ways with tenure for farming collectives.

Additionally there are, and have been, well-defined systems where neither land nor the houses people live in are their personal property (Statare, as defined in Scandinavia).

The peasants or rural agricultural workers who are usually the intended primary beneficiaries of a land reform may be, prior to the reform, members of failing collectives, owners of inadequate small plots of land, paid laborers, sharecroppers, serfs, even slaves or effectively enslaved by debt bondage.

Arguments for and against land reform

Land reform policies are generally advocated as an effort to eradicate food insecurity and rural poverty, often with Utilitarian (i.e., "the greatest good for the greatest number"), philosophical or religious arguments (see Jubilee), a right to dignity, or a simple belief that justice requires a policy of "land to the tiller". However, many of these arguments conflict with prevailing notions of property rights in most societies and states. Implementations of land reform generally raise questions about how the members of the society view the individual's rights and the role of government.

These questions include:

  • Is private property of any sort legitimate?
  • If so, is land ownership legitimate?
  • If so, are historic property rights in this particular state and society legitimate?
  • Even if property rights are legitimate, do they protect absolutely against expropriation, or do they merely entitle the property owner to partial or complete compensation?
  • How should property rights be weighed against rights to life and liberty?
  • Who should adjudicate land ownership disputes?
  • At what level of government is common land owned?
  • What constitutes fair land reform?
  • What are the internal and external political effects of the land reform?

Concern over the value of land reform is based upon the following:

  • Lack of consistent track record to support land reform outcome; for example, in Zimbabwe, an aggressive land reform plan has led to a collapse of the economy and 45 percent malnutrition, while land reforms in Taiwan after WW II preceded a multi-decade economic boom that turned a poor country into a rich one.
  • Question of experience and competence of those receiving land to use it productively
  • Equity issues of displacing persons who have sometimes worked hard in previous farming of the land
  • Question of competence of governmental entities to make decisions regarding agricultural productivity
  • Question of miring a country in vast legal disputes from arbitrary property distribution
  • Demotivation of any property owners to invest in land that ultimately can be seized

Opposing "royal libertarian" (but not geolibertarian) ethical arguments to government-directed "land reform" maintain it is just a euphemism for theft, and argue that stealing is still stealing regardless of whether property was originally justly obtained, or what any group of non-owners (of the property in question) may succeed in obtaining via government intermediary, and that such policies consequently cannot ever be just. They state that alleged "willing seller, willing buyer" programs also invariably involve governments buying land with tax-money (which may or may not be disproportionately collected from those whose land is the subject of the planned reform), and sometimes laws granting government first right to buy land for sale (diminishing the market value of the land by eliminating competing buyers), and so an element of coercion exists despite the "willing" label.

The opposition for a land reform may also be based on other ideologies than modern-day liberalism. In countries where there has traditionally been no private land ownership (e.g. Russia in 19th century) the opposition for reforms enabling the creation of private farms may use nationalistic arguments, proposing that the private farms are inconsistent with the national culture. In countries where the established church was an important land owner, theological arguments have been used in the debate on privatization or nationalization of that land (e.g. 16th century Sweden). The right to ownership of the land, and sometimes, the persons residing on that land, has also been argued on the theory of right of conquest, implying that the original ownership was transferred to the land-owning class's ancestors in a just war. The ownership can also be argued on the ground of god-given right, implying that a supernatural power has given the land to its owners.

For the proponents of the reform, the rights of the individuals for whose good the reform is supposed to work trump the property rights of the land owners. Usually their philosophical background differs significantly from the viewpoints outlined above, spanning from Marxism to religious ideologies. What is common for them, is that they see the rights or duties advocated as more important than a right to own real estate.

Land reform efforts

Agrarian land reform has been a recurring theme of enormous consequence in world history — see, for example, the history of the Semproninan Law or Lex Sempronia agraria proposed by Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and passed by the Roman Senate (133 BC), which led to the social and political wars that ended the Roman Republic.

A historically important source of pressure for land reform has been the accumulation of significant properties by tax-exempt individuals or entities. In ancient Egypt, the tax exemption for temple lands eventually drove almost all the good land into the hands of the priestly class, making them immensely rich (and leaving the world a stunning legacy of monumental temple architecture that still impresses several millennia later), but starving the government of revenue. In Rome, the land tax exemption for the noble senatorial families had a similar effect, leading to Pliny's famous observation that the latifundia (vast landed estates) had ruined Rome, and would likewise ruin the provinces. In the Christian world, this has frequently been true of churches and monasteries, a major reason that many of the French revolutionaries saw the Catholic church as an accomplice of the landed aristos. In the Moslem world, land reforms such as that organized in Spain by al-Hurr in 718 have transferred property from Muslims to Christians, who were taxable by much higher rates.

In the modern world and in the aftermath of colonialism and the Industrial Revolution, land reform has occurred around the world, from the Mexican Revolution (1917; the revolution began in 1910) to Communist China to Bolivia (1952, 2006) to Zimbabwe and Namibia. Land reform has been especially popular as part of decolonization struggles in Africa and the Arab world, where it was part of the program for African socialism and Arab socialism. Cuba has seen one of the most complete agrarian reforms in Latin America. Land reform was an important step in achieving economic development in many Third World countries since the post-World War II period, especially in the East Asian Tigers and "Tiger Cubs" nations such as Taiwan, South Korea, and Malaysia.

Since mainland China's economic reforms led by Deng Xiaoping land reforms have also played a key role in the development of the People's Republic of China, with the re-emergence of rich property developers in urban areas (though as in Hong Kong, land in China is not privately owned but leased from the state, typically on very long terms that allow substantial opportunity for private speculative gain).

Latin America

  • Brazil: In the 1930s, Getúlio Vargas reneged on a promised land reform. A first attempt to make a national scale reform was set up in the government of José Sarney, as a result of the strong popular movement that had contributed to the fall of the military government. However, the so-called First Land Reform National Plan never was put into force. Strong campaign including direct action by the Landless Workers' Movement throughout the 1990s has managed to get some advances for the past 10 years, during the Fernando Cardoso and Lula da Silva administrations.
  • Bolivia: The revolution of 1952 was followed by a land reform law, but in 1970 only 45% of peasant families had received title to land, although more land reform projects continued in the 1970s and 1980s. Bolivian president Evo Morales restarted land reform when he took office in 2006. On 29 November 2006, the Bolivian Senate passed a bill authorizing the government redistribution of land among the nation's mostly indigenous poor. The bill was signed into law hours later, though significant opposition is expected
  • Chile: Attempts at land reform began under the government of Jorge Alessandri in 1960, were accelerated during the government of Eduardo Frei Montalva (1964-1970), and reached its climax during the 1970-1973 presidency of Salvador Allende. Farms of more than 198 acres (80 hectares) were expropriated. After the 1973 coup the process was halted, and up to a point reversed by the market forces.
  • Colombia: Alfonso López Pumarejo (1934-1938) passed the Law 200 of 1936, which allowed for the expropriation of private properties, in order to promote "social interest". Later attempts declined, until the National Front presidencies of Alberto Lleras Camargo (1958-1962) and Carlos Lleras Restrepo (1966-1970), which respectively created the Colombian Institute for Agrarian Reform (INCORA) and further developed land entitlement. In 1968 and 1969 alone, the INCORA issued more than 60,000 land titles to farmers and workers. Despite this, the process was then halted and the situation began to reverse itself, as the subsequent violent actions of drug lords, paramilitaries, guerrillas and opportunistic large landowners severely contributed to a renewed concentration of land and to the displacement of small landowners. In the early 21st century, tentative government plans to use the land legally expropriated from drug lords and/or the properties given back by demobilized paramilitary groups have not caused much practical improvement yet.
  • Cuba: (See also main article Agrarian Reform Laws of Cuba) Land reform was among the chief planks of the revolutionary platform of 1959. Almost all large holdings were seized by the National Institute for Agrarian Reform (INRA), which dealt with all areas of agricultural policy. A ceiling of 166 acres (67 hectares) was established, and tenants were given ownership rights, though these rights are constrained by government production quotas and a prohibition of real estate transactions.
  • El Salvador: One among several land reform efforts was made during the revolution/civil-war during the 1980s. Salvadoran President Jose Napoleon Duarte promoted land-reform as counter-strategy in the war, while the FMLN carried out their own land-reform in the territory under their control.
  • Guatemala: land reform occurred during the "Ten Years of Spring", 1944–1954 under the governments of Juan José Arévalo and Jacobo Arbenz. It has been remarked that it was one of the most successful land reforms in history, given that it was relatively thorough and had minimal detrimental effects on the economy and on the incomes of wealthy classes (who were mostly spared because only uncultivated land was expropriated). The reforms were reversed entirely after a US-backed coup deposed the Arbenz government.
  • Mexico: The first land reform was driven by Ley Lerdo (the Lerdo Law of 1856), enacted by the liberals during the Reform War of the 1850s. One of the aims of the reform government was to develop the economy by returning to productive cultivation the underutilized lands of the Church and the municipal communities (Indian commons), which required the distribution of these lands to small owners. This was to be accomplished through the provisions of Ley Lerdo that prohibited ownership of land by the Church and the municipalities. The reform government also financed its war effort by seizing and selling church property and other large estates. After the war the principles of the Ley Lerdo were perverted by Pres. Porfirio Diaz, which contributed to causing the Mexican Revolution in 1910. A certain degree of land reform was introduced, albeit unevenly, as part of the Mexican Revolution. Francisco Madero and Emiliano Zapata were strongly identified with land reform, as are the present-day (as of 2006) Zapatista Army of National Liberation. See Mexican Agrarian Land Reform.
  • Nicaragua: Land reform was one of the programs of the Sandinista government. The last months of Sandinista rule were criticized for the Piñata Plan which distributed large tracts of land to prominent Sandinistas.
  • Peru: land reform in the 1950s largely eliminated a centuries-old system of debt peonage. Further land reform occurred after the 1968 coup by left-wing colonel Juan Velasco Alvarado, and again as part of a counterterrorism effort against the Shining Path during the Internal conflict in Peru roughly 1988–1995, led by Hernando de Soto and the Institute for Liberty and Democracy during the early years of the government of Alberto Fujimori, before the latter's auto-coup.
  • Venezuela: Hugo Chávez's government enacted Plan Zamora to redistribute government and unused private land to campesinos in need.

Middle East and North Africa

Land reform is discussed in the article on Arab Socialism

  • Egypt: Initially, Egyptian land reform essentially abolished the political influence of major land owners. However, land reform only resulted in the redistribution of about 15% of Egypt's land under cultivation, and by the early 1980s, the effects of land reform in Egypt drew to a halt as the population of Egypt moved away from agriculture. The Egyptian land reform laws were greatly curtailed under Anwar Sadat and eventually abolished.
  • Syria: Land reforms were first implemented in Syria during 1958. The Agricultural Relations Law laid down a redistribution of rights in landownership, tenancy and management . A culmination of factors led to the halt of the reforms in 1961, these included opposition from large landowners and sever crop failure during a drought between 1958 and 1961, whilst Syria was a member of the doomed United Arab Republic (UAR). After the Ba'th Party gained power in 1963 the reforms were resumed.

The reforms were portrayed by the governing Ba'th Party as politically motivated to benefit the rural property-less communities. According to Arsuzi, a co-founder of the Ba'th Party, the reforms would, "liberate 75 percent of the Syrian population and prepare them to be citizens qualified to participate in the building of the state" . It has been argued that the land reform represented work by the 'socialist government' however, by 1984 the private sector controlled 74 percent of Syria's arable land . This questions both Ba'th claims of commitment to the redistribution of land to the majority of peasants as well as the state government being socialist - if it allowed the majority of land to be owned in the private sector how could it truly be socialist. Hinnebusch argued that the reforms were a way of galvanising support from the large rural population, "they[Ba'th Party members] used the implementation of agrarian reform to win over and organise peasants and curb traditional power in the countryside" . To this extent the reforms succeeded with increase in Ba'th party membership, they also prevented political threat emerging from rural areas by bringing the rural population into the system as supporters.

  • Iran: Significant land reform in Iran took place under the Shah as part of the socio-economic reforms of the White Revolution, begun in 1962, and agreed upon through a public referendum. At this time the Iranian economy was not performing well and there was political unrest. Essentially, the land reforms amounted to a huge redistribution of land to rural peasants who previously had no possibility of owning land as they were poorly paid labourers.

The land reforms continued from 1962 until 1971 with three distinct phases of land distribution: private, government-owned and endowed land. These reforms resulted in the newly-created peasant landowners owning six to seven million hectares, around 52-63% of Iran's agricultural land. According to Country-Data, even though there had been a considerable redistribution of land, the amount received by individual peasants was not enough to meet most families' basic needs, "About 75 percent of the peasant owners [however] had less than 7 hectares, an amount generally insufficient for anything but subsistence agriculture..

By 1979 a quarter of prime land was in disputed ownership and half of the productive land was in the hands of 200,000 absentee landlords The large land owners were able to retain the best land with the best access to fresh water and irrigation facilities. In contrast, not only were the new peasant land holdings too small to produce an income but the peasants also lacked both quality irrigation system and sustained government support to enable them to develop their land to make a reasonable living. Set against the economic boom from oil revenue it became apparent that the Land Reforms did not make life better for the rural population: according to Amid, "..only a small group of rural people experienced increasing improvements in their welfare and poverty remained the lot of the majority" .

Moghadam argues that the structural changes to Iran, including the land reforms, initiated by the White Revolution, contributed to the revolution in 1979 which overthrew the Shah and turned Iran into an Islamic republic.

Europe

  • Albania has gone through three waves of land reform since the end of World War II: in 1946 the land in estates and large farms was expropriated by the communist government and redistributed among small peasants; in the 1950s the land was reorganized into large-scale collective farms; and after 1991 the land was again redistributed among private smallholders. At the end of World War II, the farm structure in Albania was characterized by high concentration of land in large farms. In 1945, farms larger than 10 hectares, representing numerically a mere 3% of all farms in the country, managed 27% of agricultural land and just seven large estates (out of 155,000 farms) controlled 4% of agricultural land, averaging more than 2,000 hectares each (compared to the average farm size of 2.5 hectares at that time). The first post-war constitution of independent Albania (March 1946) declared that land belonged to the tiller and that large estates under no circumstances could be owned by private individuals (article 10). The post-war land reform of 1946 redistributed 155,000 hectares (40% of the land stock) from 19,355 relatively large farms (typically larger than 5 hectares) to 70,211 small farms and landless households. As a result, the share of large farms with more than 10 hectares declined from 27% of agricultural land in 1945 to 3% in 1954. By 1954, more than 90% of land was held in small and mid-sized farms of between 1 hectare and 10 hectares. The distributive effects of the post-war land reform were eliminated by the collectivization drive of the late 1950s-early 1960s, and by 1962 less than 18% of agricultural land had remained in family farms and household plots (the rest had shifted to Soviet-style collective and state farms). By 1971 independent family farms had virtually disappeared and individual farming survived only in household plots cultivated part time by cooperative members (approximately 6% of agricultural land). The post-communist land reform begun in 1991 as part of the transition to the market was in effect a replay of the 1946 land reform, and the arable land held in cooperatives and state farms was equally distributed among all rural households without regard to pre-communist ownership rights. Contrary to other transition countries in Central and Eastern Europe, Albania adopted a distributive land reform (like the CIS) and did not restitute land to former owners. The post-communist land reform of the 1990s was accompanied by special land privatization legislation, as Albania was the only country outside the former Soviet Union that had nationalized all agricultural land (in stages between 1946 and 1976).
  • Bulgaria: Upon independence in 1878 the overwhelmingly Turkish nobles estates were redistributed among peasant smallholdings. Additional reforms were implemented in 1920-23 and a maximum ownership 30 hectares was fixed.
  • Czechoslovakia: Major land reform was passed in 1919 redistributing mainly German noble's estates to peasant smallholdings. By 1937 60% of noble land was expropriated with remaining land mainly in unarable arias or German and Hungarian lands. Almost all remaining lands were redistributed in reforms of 1945 and 1948.
  • Finland: In the general reparcelling out of land, begun in 1757, the medieval model of all fields consisting of numerous strips, each belonging to a farm, was replaced by a model of fields and forest areas each belonging to a single farm. In the further reparcellings which started to took place in 1848, the idea of concentrating all the land in a farm to a single piece of real estate was reinforced. In these reparcelling processes, the land is redistributed in direct proportion to earlier prescription. Both the general reparcelling and the further reparcelling processes are still active in some parts of the country. In 1918, Finland fought a civil war resulting in a series of land reforms. These included the compensated transfer of lease-holdings (torppa) to the leasers and prohibition of forestry companies to acquire land. After the Second World War, Karelians evacuated from areas ceded to Russia were given land in remaining Finnish areas, taken from public and private holdings. Also the veterans of war benefited from these allotments.
  • France: a major and lasting land reform took place under the Directory during the latter phases of the French Revolution.
  • Greece: At independence in 1835 the predominately Turkish nobles estates were redistributed as peasant smallholdings.
  • Estonia and Latvia: at their founding as states in 1918–1919, they expropriate the large estates of Baltic German landowners, most of which was distributed among the peasants and became smallholdings.
  • Hungary: In 1945 every estate bigger than 142 acres was expropriated without compensation and distributed among the peasants. In the 1950s collective ownership was introduced according to the Soviet model, but after 1990 co-ops were dissolved and the land was redistributed among private smallholders.
  • Ireland: after the Irish Famine, land reform became the dominant issue in Ireland, where almost all of the land was owned by the Protestant Ascendancy. The Irish Parliamentary Party pressed for reform in a largely indifferent British House of Commons. Reform began tentatively in 1870 and continued for fifty years during which a number of Irish Land Acts were passed (see also Land War).
  • Lithuania: the major land reform was initiated since the 1919 and was fully launched in 1922. The excess land was taken from the major landowners, mostly aristocracy, and redistributed among new landowners, primarily soldiers, or small landowners, 65,000 in total.
  • Montenegro and Serbia: At independence in 1830 the predominately Turkish nobles estates were divided up among peasant smallholdings.
  • Poland: there have been several land reforms in Poland. The most important include land reforms in the Second Polish Republic (1919, 1921, 1923, 1925 and 1928) and land reforms (1944) in the People's Republic of Poland.
  • Romania: After failed attempts at land reform by Mihail Kogălniceanu in the years immediately after Romanian unification in 1863, a major land reform finally occurred in 1921, with a few additional reforms carried out in 1945.
  • Slovenia and Croatia: With absorption into the kingdom of Yugoslavia land reform was passed in 1919 with subsidiary laws thereafter redistributing nobles estates among peasant smallholders. Additional reform was implemented in 1945 under the communist.
  • Soviet Union
  • Scotland the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 ends the historic legacy of feudal law and creates a framework for rural or croft communities right to buy land in their area.
  • Sweden: In 1757, the general reparcelling out of land, began. In this process, the medieval principle of dividing all the fields in a village into strips, each belonging to a farm, was changed into a principle of each farm consisting of a few relatively large areas of land. The land was redistributed in proportion to earlier possession of land, while uninhabited forests far from villages were socialized. In the 20th century, Sweden, almost non-violently, arrived at regulating the length minimum of tenant farming contracts at 25 years.

Africa

  • Ethiopia: The Derg carried out one of the most extensive land reforms in Africa in 1975.
  • Kenya: Kenyatta launched a "willing buyer-willing seller" based land reform program in the 1960s, funded by Britain, the former colonial power. In 2006 president Mwai Kibaki said it will repossess all land owned by "absentee landlords" in the coastal strip and redistribute it to squatters.
  • Namibia: A limited land reform has been a hallmark of the regime of Sam Nujoma; legislation passed in September 1994, with a compulsory, compensated approach.
  • South Africa: "Land restitution" was one of the promises made by the African National Congress when it came to power in South Africa in 1994. Initially, land was bought from its owners (willing seller) by the government (willing buyer) and redistributed. However, as of early 2006, the ANC government announced that it will start expropriating the land, although according to the country's chief land-claims commissioner, Tozi Gwanya, unlike Zimbabwe there will be compensation to those whose land is expropriated, "but it must be a just amount, not inflated sums.
  • Zimbabwe: Efforts at land reform in Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe moved, after 15 years, in the 1990s, from a "willing seller, willing buyer" approach to the "fast track" land reform program. This was accelerated by "popular seizure" led by machete gangs of "war veterans" associated with the ruling party. Many parcels of land came under the control of people close to the government, as is the case throughout Africa. The several forms of forcible change in management caused a severe drop in production and other economic disruptions. In addition, the human rights violations and bad press led Britain, the European Union, the United States, and other Western allies to impose sanctions on the Zimbabwean government. All this has caused the collapse of the economy. The results have been disastrous and have resulted in widespread food shortages and large scale refugee flight.

North America

Asia

  • China has been through a series of land reforms:
    • In the 1940s, the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction, funded with American money, with the support of the national government, carried out land reform and community action programs in several provinces.
    • The thorough land reform launched by the Communist Party of China in 1946, three years before the foundation of the People's Republic of China (PRC), won the party millions of supporters among the poor and middle peasantry. The land and other property of landlords were expropriated and redistributed so that each household in a rural village would have a comparable holding. This agrarian revolution was made famous in the West by William Hinton's book Fanshen.
    • In the mid-1950s, a second land reform during the Great Leap Forward compelled individual farmers to join collectives, which, in turn, were grouped into People's Communes with centrally controlled property rights and an egalitarian principle of distribution. This policy was generally a failure in terms of production. The PRC reversed this policy in 1962 through the proclamation of the Sixty Articles. As a result, the ownership of the basic means of production was divided over three levels with collective land ownership vested in the production team (see also Ho [2001]).
    • A third land reform beginning in the late 1970s re-introduced family-based contract system called the Household Responsibility System, which had enormous initial success, followed by a period of relative stagnation. Chen, Wang, and Davis [1998] suggest that the later stagnation was due, in part, to a system of periodic redistribution that encouraged over-exploitation rather than capital investment in future productivity. However, although land use rights were returned to individual farmers, collective land ownership was left undefined after the disbandment of the People's Communes.
    • Since 1998 China is in the midst of drafting the new Property Law which is the first piece of national legislation that will define the land ownership structure in China for years to come. The Property Law forms the basis for China's future land policy of establishing a system of freehold, rather than of private ownership (see also Ho, [2005]).
  • India: Due the taxation and regulation under the British Raj, at the time of independence, India inherited a semi-feudal agrarian system, with ownership of land concentrated with a few individual landlords (Zamindars, Zamindari System). Since independence, there has been voluntary and state initiated/mediated land reforms in several states. The most notable and successful example of land reforms are in the states of West Bengal and Kerala. After promising land reforms and elected to power in West Bengal, the Communist Party of India (Marxist, CPI-M) kept their word and initiated gradual land reforms. The result was a more equitable distribution of land among the landless farmers. This has ensured an almost life long loyalty from the farmers and the communists have been in power ever since. In Kerala, the only other large state where the CPI(M) came to power, state administrations have actually carried out the most extensive land, tenancy and agrarian labor wage reforms in the non-socialist late-industrializing world. Another successful land reform program was launched in Jammu and Kashmir after 1947. However, this success was not replicated in other areas like the states of Andhra and Madhya Pradesh, where the more radical Communist Party of India (Maoist) or Naxalites resorted to violence as it failed to secure power. Even in West Bengal, the economy suffered for a long time as a result of the communist economic policies that did little to encourage heavy industries. In the state of Bihar, tensions between land owners militia, villagers and Maoists have resulted in numerous massacres. All in all, land reforms have been successful only in pockets of the country, as people have often found loopholes in the laws setting limits on the maximum area of land held by any one person.
  • Japan: The first land reform, called the Land Tax Reform or was passed in 1873 as a part of the Meiji Restoration. Another land reform of Japan was carried out in 1947 (at the occupied era after World War II) by the instructions of GHQ by the proposal from the Japanese government. It was prepared before the defeat of the Greater Japanese Empire. It is also called Nōchi-kaihō (農地解放,emancipation of farming land ).
  • Taiwan: In the 1950s, after the Nationalist government came to Taiwan, land reform and community development was carried out by the Sino-American Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction. This course of action was made attractive, in part, by the fact that many of the large landowners were Japanese who had fled, and the other large landowners were compensated with Japanese commercial and industrial properties seized after Taiwan reverted from Japanese rule in 1945. The land program succeeded also because the Kuomintang were mostly from the mainland and had few ties to the remaining indigenous landowners.
  • Vietnam: In the years after World War II, even before the formal division of Vietnam, land reform was initiated in North Vietnam. This land reform (1953-1956) redistributed land to more than 2 million poor peasants, but at a cost of from tens to hundreds of thousands of lives and was one of the main reason for the mass exodus of 1 million people from the North to the South in 1954. The probable democide for this four year period then totals 283,000 North Vietnamese. South Vietnam made several further attempts in the post-Diem years, the most ambitious being the Land to the Tiller program instituted in 1970 by President Nguyen Van Thieu. This limited individuals to 15 hectares, compensated the owners of expropriated tracts, and extended legal title to peasants who in areas under control of the South Vietnamese government to whom had land had previously been distributed by the Viet Cong. Mark Moyar [1996] asserts that while it was effectively implemented only in some parts of the country, "In the Mekong Delta and the provinces around Saigon, the program worked extremely well... It reduced the percentage of total cropland cultivated by tenants from sixty percent to ten percent in three years."
  • South Korea: In 1945–1950, United States and South Korean authorities carried out a land reform that retained the institution of private property. They confiscated and redistributed all land held by the Japanese colonial government, Japanese companies, and individual Japanese colonists. The Korean government carried out a reform whereby Koreans with large landholdings were obliged to divest most of their land. A new class of independent, family proprietors was created.

Oceania

  • Fiji: In a reverse that proves the rule of land reform to benefit the native and indigenous people, the land in Fiji has always been owned by native Fijians, but much of it has been leased long-term to immigrant Indians. As these leases have reached their end-of-term native Fijians increasingly have refused to renew leases and have expelled the Indians.

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