To Reduce Poverty, Increase Land Rights
Does Land Ownership Hold The Key To Combating Poverty?According to the editors of The Christian Science Monitor, the world’s poorest share a few commonalities. Most live in rural areas and survive off the land on which they live, but most also have no legal claim to that land. According to the UN, most of the 1.4 billion people living in poverty live in rural areas and depend largely on agriculture for their livelihoods, while an estimated 2.5 billion people are involved in full- or part-time smallholder agriculture.
The lack of land rights is not a side issue because it is a significant contributor to their inability to advance economically and escape poverty.
“It means they have no incentive to invest in the land, with inputs like fertilizer, and no opportunity to make big decisions about the land, like digging wells. Therefore, when they are able to make decisions about what to farm, they generally aim to produce a crop that matures quickly and requires little financial investment.
“Obviously, this path that does not lead to sustainable and robust farm output of nutritious food. Conversely, when farmers have secure rights to the land they farm, that means they can make improvements to and choices about the land without fear that it might be taken from them,” argues the Monitor’s editorial.
One study demonstrated that for every ten-per-cent increase in farm yields, there was a seven-per-cent reduction in poverty in Africa, and a reduction of over five-per-cent in Asia.
Small Landowners: The Crucial Component
A recent report by the United Nations Environmental Programme underscored the critical role small landowners play in any effort to lift millions out of poverty.
“Smallholder farmers hold a massive collective store of experience and local knowledge that can provide the practical solutions needed to put agriculture on a more sustainable and equitable footing,” said Elwyn Grainger Jones, Director of International Fund for Agricultural Development’s Environment and Climate Division.
Increased Investment In Farmland Offers Potential and Risks
In remarks delivered before June’s G-8 conference in London, Tim Hanstad, president and CEO of Landesa, says initiatives to invest in farmland holds both potential and risk.
“This rising investment presents both tremendous potential and significant risks. It has the potential to help smallholder farmers grow more food, to boost country’s efforts to feed and benefit their people, and to allow businesses to responsibly benefit from and help drive inclusive growth.
“But the global land rush also carries the enormous risk of displacing poor farmers like Esther and violating legitimate land rights,” he stated.
Landesa is an organization that partners with governments to assist in the development of legal frameworks and programs that provide secure land rights.