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Land reform: New seeds on old ground?

Briefing/policy papers

Following initial enthusiasm in the post-war period, land reform fell out of favour with donors from the early 1970s. Nonetheless, sporadic efforts to redistribute land continued: Ethiopia in 1975, Zimbabwe in 1980 and a renewed commitment to land reform in the Philippines in 1988. These reforms stemmed from shifts in the domestic balance of power between landowners and landless workers and peasants, which were quite independent of donor policies. In the 1990s, decollectivisation and privatisation in the former socialist economies have provided a new dimension to land reform; so too has majority rule in South Africa, where the racially-skewed ownership of land is under challenge and where market-based measures to achieve land redistribution in favour of blacks are being tried. In the Philippines non-market policies are being supported by donors, now that the Cold War is over. Whereas the geographical context and individual country strategies may be new, the range of land reform measures being adopted and the implementation problems encountered are not. This paper reviews recent experiences.

Martin Adams