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Land Reform in Developing Countries

Land reforms are laws that are intended, and likely, to cut poverty by raising the poor's share of land rights. That raises questions about property rights as old as moral philosophy, and issues of efficiency and fairness that dominate policy from Bolivia to Nepal. Classic reforms directly transfer land from rich to poor. However, much else has been marketed as land reform: the restriction of tenancy, but also its de-restriction; collectivisation, but also de-collectivisation; land consolidation, but also land division. In 1955-2000, genuine land reform affected over a billion people, and almost as many hectares. Is land reform still alive, for example in Bolivia, South Africa and Nepal? Or is it dead and, if so, is this because it has succeeded, or because it has failed? There has been massive research on land reform and this book builds on some surprising findings. Small farms' share in land is rising in most of Asia and Africa. This is not driven (as widely claimed) by growth in rural population or farm productivity, but by the relative efficiency of small farms, and in some cases by land reform. Whether land reform helps the poor depends not only on land transfers, but at least as much on its effects through employment, non-farm activity, GDP growth and distribution, as well as the village status and power of the poor. Avoidance, evasion and even distortion of land reform laws sometimes advance their main aims. Liberalisation and its accompaniments (such as supermarkets) can be powerful friends or fatal foes of small farms and land reform. This book will be of great interest to students, researchers and consultants working on agriculture, farm organisation, rural development and poverty reduction, with special emphasis on developing countries.
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Table of Contents

Introducing Land Reform 1. Goals 2. Output, Efficiency and Growth 3. Land Reforms: The Types, and the Classic Paradigm 4. Tenurialism: Tenancy Reform, Titling, Patrialisation 5. The Terrible Detour: Collectivisation and Decollectivisation 6. Alternatives, Complements, Diversions, 'New Wave' Land Reform 7. The Death of Land Reform?

About the Author

Michael Lipton has worked since 1960 as a development economist. He was based for 25 years at the Institute of Development Studies, for three years directed the Sussex University Poverty Research Unit, and remains research professor at Sussex.


'Michael Lipton has produced a unique work drawing upon the author's extraordinary expertise in rural development. Lipton takes on a great, complex, and contentious topic, land reform, and does justice to this huge topic. He delves deeply and widely, producing a text that is remarkable in its scope, insights, and historical knowledge. He never fears to point out the true complexities of topics that are all too often over-simplified. Lipton's work is also extremely timely, as the world turns its attention once again to smallholder agriculture after decades or relative neglect. Scholars, students, and policy makers in all parts of the world will turn to this new study with enormous benefit and with gratitude to Lipton for his remarkable efforts'. - Jeffrey D. Sachs, Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University; Special Advisor to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon on the Millennium Development Goals. 'Land reform can make a huge contribution in removing poverty, but it has not been effectively tried in many areas of the world. The story has to be finished, and in this important book one of the foremost development economists tells us why and how'. - Amartya Sen, Lamont Professor of Economics and Philosophy, Harvard University; Nobel prizewinner in economics 'A compelling case is made about the need to refocus on agricultural growth as the engine to reduce rural poverty. Improving access to land will ensure that the benefits of agricultural technical change reach many millions of rural poor. Professor Michael Lipton is a world renowned authority on these issues. His decades of research experience, distilled in the book, offer compelling, insightful and timely solutions which are critical in addressing the global food crisis'. - Akin Adesina, Vice President, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa 'Michael Lipton (pinching from Mark Twain) convincingly states that 'Reports of land reform's death are greatly exaggerated'. He takes the reader on a developing-world tour and shows tremendous dynamics in land reforms. Land reform is neither dead nor dying. As land (with access to water) becomes more scarce, land values increase as a consequence. Farms in many regions of the developing world actually become smaller -mostly for good economic reasons- and the need for efficient institutional change related to land remains strong. This book gives guidance for sound policy and offers unique opportunities for learning about land reform across time and locations. It is a must for development scholars!' - Joachim von Braun, Director, International Food Policy Research Institute 'Land reform has had a rollercoaster ride in the toolbox of development strategies: from a panacea that would cure all ills and help replicate the successes of Japan and Korea, to venom that destroys property rights and creates unviable production units that lead to agricultural decline and urban migration as it has purportedly done in Latin America. The story is really much more complex and nuanced. Michael Lipton - the doyen of the field - uses his half-century of thinking and experience as a development economist to set the record straight and to clarify the conditions under which land reform does and does not deliver the goods. It is a must read for those who are committed to finding the road to shared prosperity in the developing world'. - Ricardo Hausmann, Director, Center for International Development at Harvard University; Professor of the Practice of Economic Development, Harvard Kennedy School 'This is a passionate book -- it is also brilliantly argued. Michael Lipton accepts that the poor of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa need appropriate and often advanced scientific technologies -- many new green revolutions -- but they also need land reform. Without both of these there is little hope of the rural poor lifting themselves out of chronic poverty'. - Sir Gordon Conway, Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for International Development, UK; Professor of International Development, Imperial College, London 'Comprehensive, careful, thoughtful and surprising: Land reform is alive and well and delivering development around the world. Serious students of development, poverty and inequality will find here the micro theory and the macro picture -- for years to come'. - Nancy Birdsall, President, Center for Global Development 'In the context of poverty, land is the major asset. The rights over land are social constructs and so are an emotive political battleground. But rights affect incentives: land reform needs economic analysis. Michael Lipton provides an accessible and comprehensive guide without which no reformer should go into battle'. Paul Collier, Professor of Economics and Director, Centre for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University 'Land and Land Reform are, in several developing countries including India, live issues - perhaps more critical today than they were decades ago. The unique analytical framework, remarkable empirical evidence and insight, and a modern perspective in this path-breaking new book of Prof. Lipton are invaluable to researchers and policymakers in their endeavour to address problems of poverty, inequality and sustainability'. - Pramod K Mishra, Chairman, Gujarat Electricity Regulatory Commission (India), and former Secretary to Government of India, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture and Cooperation 'Michael Lipton has, for the last few decades, been the world's authority on land reform and economic development. In a world of continuing poverty and inequality, slow agricultural growth, changing economic structures, rapid urbanisation, and facing profound challenges of climate change and deforestation, the institutions, policies and pressures concerning access to and use of land are as important as ever. Michael Lipton's book is a crucial contribution and an analytical landmark'. - Lord Nicholas Stern, I.G. Patel Professor of Economics and Government and Director of Asia Research Centre, London School of Economics; Chief Economist and Senior President of the World Bank 2000-2003; leader of the Africa Commission and the Stern Review on climate change. 'Land reform as a topic in development studies might seem to many to have a distinctly dated air, redolent of the 1960s. Michael Lipton, in this broad, solid, and impressive treatise on the subject, strongly demurs'. - John Bongaarst, Susan Greenhalgh and Geoffrey McNicoll, the Journal of Population and Development 'It is a book of importance not only for those interested in development issues from any perspective, but should be required reading for anyone who works for the World Bank, Food and Agricultural Organisation or any of the regional development banks... The debate about land reform remains alive and well and should you wish to know anything at all about it you need to read this book.' - Herb Thompson, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Vol. 41 No. 1 (2011)

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