Modern European reforms
The French Revolution brought
a new era in the history of land reform.Reform meant dealing with survivals of the
medieval tenures that had left a common heritage in most European countries and, through
them, in the colonies. The measures and approaches varied from place to place and period
On the eve of the Revolution,
French society was polarized, with the nobility and clergy on one side and the rising
business class on the other. The middle class was relatively small, especially in the
rural areas. The majority of the peasants were hereditary tenants, either censiers,
who paid a fixed money rent, or mainmortables, or serfs, who paid rent in the form
of labour services, corvée, of about three days a week. The peasants paid various
other feudal dues and taxes, from which the nobility and clergy were exempted. The
Revolution overthrew the ancien régime and the feudal order and introduced land reform.
The reform repealed feudal
tenures, freed all persons from serfdom, abolished feudal courts, and cancelled all
payments not based on real property, including tithes. Rents based on real property were
redeemable. Once the law had been passed, however, the peasants seized the land and
refused to pay any rents or redemption fees; in 1792 all payments were finally cancelled.
Land of the clergy and political emigrants was confiscated and sold at auction, together
with common land. The terms of sale, however, often favoured the wealthy, which may
explain the rise of a new class of large landowners among the supporters of Napoleon.
The social and political
objectives of the reformers were fully realized. The censiers and serfs became
owners. Feudalism was destroyed, and the new regime won peasant support. The economic
effects, however, were limited. Incentives could not be increased substantially since the
peasants already had full security of tenure prior to the reform. The scale of operations
was not changed; and no facilities for credit, marketing, or capital formation were
created. The major achievements were the reinforcement of private, individual ownership
and perpetuation of the small family farm as a basis of democracy. The small family farm
has characterized French agriculture ever since.
There were other reforms in
most European countries. England resolved its land problems by the enclosure movement,
which drove the small peasants into the towns, consolidated landholdings, and promoted
large-scale operation and private ownership. Sweden and Denmark pioneered between 1827 and
1830 by peacefully abolishing village compulsion, or imposed labour service, and the strip
system of cultivation, by consolidating the land, and by dividing the commons among the
peasants. Though influenced by the French Revolution, only after the 1848 revolutions did
Germany, Italy, and Spain free the peasants and redistribute the land. Reform in Ireland
took a whole century before substantive results were achieved, in the mid-1930s, after
Ireland was divided into Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State. The tenants were
converted into owners by subsidized purchase of the land.
The first major Russian reform
was the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. At the time of emancipation about 45 percent of
the land was private property and the remainder was held as allotment land, cultivated in
units averaging 9.5 acres (3.8 hectares) by the peasant serfs against rent in kind and
labour, payable to feudal lords. In contrast, fewer than 1,000 noble families owned about
175,000,000 acres (70,000,000 hectares) and received rent therefrom. Conflict between such
extremes of poverty and wealth caused restlessness among the peasants and rendered reform
inevitable. As Tsar Alexander II put it: "It is better to abolish serfdom from above
than to await the day when it will begin to abolish itself from below."
The Emancipation Act of 1861
abolished serfdom and distributed allotment land among the peasants. The homestead became
hereditary property of the individual, but the field land was vested in the village mir
as a whole. The peasant paid redemption through the village authority, while the landlord
received state bonds as compensation equal to 75 to 80 percent of the land market value.
Though legally freed, the private serf had to ransom his freedom by surrendering a part of
the allotment land. In contrast, serfs belonging to the imperial family were emancipated
in 1863 and received the maximum amount of land fixed by law. Serfs of the state were
emancipated in 1866 and allowed to keep the land they occupied against money rent. The
Cossacks received two-thirds of the land, to be held in common, but in lieu of redemption
payments they had to serve 20 years in the army. The serfs in mines and households were
freed but received no economic assets.
Redemption payments, however,
soon proved too burdensome, village restrictions were tight, and the allotment land area
declined, all of which led to renewed restlessness and disturbances. Following the revolt
of 1905, the government, under Pyotr Stolypin, tried to create middle-class, independent
farmers by replacing the village tenure with private ownership, consolidating holdings,
and encouraging land purchase by individuals; but the time was too short for effective
implementation. The Soviet Revolution overthrew the tsarist regime and introduced the
concepts of public ownership and collectivization.
By decree in 1918, the Soviets
abolished private ownership of land, made farming the sole basis of landholding, and
declared collectivization a major objective of policy. Marketing of agricultural products
became a state monopoly. In 1929 Stalin embarked on a full course of collectivization, and
by 1938 collective farms occupied 85.6 percent of the land and state farms 9.1 percent.
Credit facilities and tractor stations supplemented collectivization, while agricultural
production was integrated in the national plan for industrialization and development.
The costs of Soviet reform
included the destruction of capital and the death of large numbers of kulaks, or rich
peasants. Total output and productivity increased, however, and capital formation was made
possible through forced saving, taxes, and regulated prices. The peasant received
extensive social services such as health care, and education and better working
conditions. The objectives of the decree of 1918 have been fully realized.
Reform in eastern Europe was
complicated by the fact that most of the eastern European countries remained under foreign
rule until the middle of the 19th century or later. In Hungary, the Decree of 1853
abolished the robot, or forced labour and feudal dues, freed the serfs, liberalized
land transaction, and encouraged consolidation. The Romanian reform of 1864 freed the
serfs and distributed both the land and the redemption payments in proportion to the
number of cows or oxen each peasant had. Formal emancipation in Bulgaria was introduced by
the Turkish government in the 1850s, but actual reform came in 1880, after independence.
Each peasant, including sharecroppers and wage workers, who had worked the land for 10
years without interruption, was entitled to the land he had cultivated. With the exception
of Bulgaria, the distribution of ownership throughout most of eastern Europe remained
highly uneven. Political instability reached a dangerous point between the two world wars.
Following World War II, the eastern European countries established Communist governments
with a strong tendency toward collective, cooperative, and mechanized agriculture.
The Mexican reform of 1915
followed a revolution and dealt mainly with lands of Indian villages that had been
illegally absorbed by neighbouring haciendas (plantations). Legally there was no serfdom;
but the Indian wage workers, or peons, were reduced to virtual serfdom through
indebtedness. Thus, the landlords were masters of the land and of the peons. The immediate
aim of reform was to restore the land to its legal owners, settle the title, and use
public land to reconstruct Indian villages. The motives were mainly to reduce poverty and
inequality and to secure political stability, which was then in the balance. A decree of
1915 voided all land alienations that had taken place illegally since 1856 and provided
for extracting land from haciendas to reestablish the collective Indian villages, or
ejidos. The 1917 constitution reaffirmed those provisions but also guaranteed protection
of private property, including haciendas. Nevertheless, a combination of loopholes,
litigation, and reactionary forces slowed implementation, and effective reform came only
after passage of the Agrarian Code of 1934 and the sympathetic efforts of Pres. Lázaro
The reform restored many
villages and freed the peons, but land concentration and poverty continued. In 1950, more
than 31 percent of the private cropland was owned by fewer than 0.5 percent of the owners.
Small-scale operation was retained or encouraged, a fact explaining the decline of output
in the early years. More recently, efficiently run farms have been exempted from
The social and political
impact was more positive. The peasants acquired more land and liberty, and control by
landlords was reduced, although it was replaced by village restrictions. At least legally,
farming became the basis of landholding. Some have seen in land reform the reason for
Mexico's political stability, although there have been sporadic peasant uprisings and
other violent encounters.
Reforms since World War
Recent decades have witnessed
widespread, comprehensive reform programs, but the concept has undergone major changes.
The eastern European countries and China originally followed the Soviet model, with
different modifications in the individual countries. A few other countries have continued
to follow that model, with major emphasis on "land to the tiller," cooperation,
collective ownership, large-scale operation, and mechanization, and with economic
development as the common denominator. In capitalist-oriented reforms, private ownership,
family farming, and dual tenures have remained basic objectives with the aim of promoting
democracy, equality, stability, and development. Under the influence and with the guidance
of the United Nations, nonsocialist reforms of the 1950s were equated with community
development and emphasized institutional and rural self-help in addition to land
redistribution. In the 1960s the emphasis shifted to agricultural productivity and
economic development by means of large-scale operation, new technology, and cooperation.
The 1970s witnessed the advent of "integrated rural development" as the focus of
reform and as a way of combining productive activities with improvements in the social and
physical infrastructure. The integrated approach, however, soon proved to be unmanageable,
and the emphasis shifted to the "target" group as the focus of reform. The most
recent conception of reform has been to satisfy "basic needs," with or without
land distribution, although no policymaker in the capitalist countries would openly
question the idea of land redistribution or the creation of small family farms. These
experiments with the concept of reform have been accompanied by attempts to broaden the
concept to incorporate women as equal beneficiaries of reform in their own right. The
results have been mixed.
The Japanese reform came immediately after World War II at the insistence of the Allied
Occupation Army. The reform was designed to fit the uniquely high literacy rate and
advanced industrial level of the country. Although the Meiji government had formally
abolished feudalism and declared the land to be the property of the peasants, usurpation
of land by the rich and by moneylenders had created classes of perpetual tenants and
absentee landlords. In 1943, 66 percent of the land was operated by tenants against rent
in kind that averaged 48 percent of the farmers' product, while population pressure
resulted in fragmentation of holdings. The social class structure was closely tied to
tenure, the owners in each village being at the top of the structure. Conflict between
landlords and peasants was widespread.
After the war, the crisis was revived by food shortages, the breakdown of the urban
economy, and the return of absentee landlords to the land. The Occupation Army insisted on
reform, presumably to democratize the society and rehabilitate the economy. The reform law
of 1946 established a ceiling on individual holdings and provided for expropriation and
resale of excess land to the tenants against long-term payments. The government
compensated the landlords in cash and bonds redeemable in 30 years. Tenants were protected
by contract, and rents were reduced to a maximum of 25 percent of the product. The
redistributed land was made inalienable, though this restriction was relaxed four years
later. The program also provided for marketing and credit cooperatives. An important
supplementary measure was the Local Autonomy Law of 1947, which decentralized the power
structure and put village affairs in the hands of the villagers.
Within two years tenancy declined by more than 80 percent. Rent control and land
distribution helped to equalize incomes in the villages and rehabilitate the
sociopolitical status of the peasants. Crop yields per unit of land increased, but despite
improved techniques the output per worker declined. In general the reform seemed to
realize the objectives of the reformers and the peasants, although smallness of scale, low
per capita incomes, underemployment, and insufficient mechanization have persisted. Even
black market rents developed. These problems were tolerable because their effects were
mitigated by the upsurge of the urban economy and the ability of the Japanese farmer to
supplement the family income from nonagricultural employment. Even so, the farmers
continue to depend on government subsidy to stay in farming.
The Egyptian reform of 1952 followed the revolution that overthrew the monarchy and
brought young middle-class leaders to the helm. Though affecting only about 12 percent of
the arable land, it was applied thoroughly and touched all aspects of rural life. Egypt
had two main forms of tenure: private ownership and waqf, or land held in trust and
dedicated to charitable or educational purposes. Waqf land was inalienable, but
private land was subject to speculation and concentration. In 1950, 1 percent of the
owners had more than 20 percent of the private land, and 7 percent had more than
two-thirds. The operating unit was small, with 77 percent of all the holdings occupying
less than one acre each. Tenancy was widespread and rents were exorbitant. The peasants
were exploited by middlemen who sublet the land to tenants, mediated between them and the
market, and extended credit at high rates of interest.
The revolutionary reformers aimed at abolishing feudalism, recruiting peasant support,
promoting economic development, and bringing the villagers back into the stream of
national life. The Agrarian Reform Law of 1952 put a ceiling on individual holdings at 200
faddans (one faddan = 1.038 acres), later reduced to 100 faddans,
with special allowance for male children. The excess land was expropriated and distributed
to the peasants in parcels not exceeding five faddans. Compensation was given in
bonds, while land recipients had to repay in annual installments. The new owners were
obligated to join cooperatives for production, marketing, and credit. Tenancy conditions
were also regulated, with contract replacing traditional terms; rent could not exceed 50
percent of the product, nor could a tenant hold more than 50 acres, to avoid subletting.
An interesting feature of the reform was the special attention given to college graduates
by allowing them up to 20-faddan parcels.
The reform was enforced quickly and had a great impact on the morale of the peasants.
The economic effects, however, were minor since agriculture was intensive and land yield
high. Producer cooperatives served only to offset the impact of distribution on the scale
of operation. Some increases in yield have been claimed, but the evidence is still
inconclusive. Furthermore, little capital was redirected into productive investment since
the compensation bonds were not negotiable. Peasant savings remained limited, income
increments being spent mostly on consumption. Finally, underemployment in agriculture has
remained widespread. The defects of the agrarian structure continue to prevail, and
relatively large ownerships exist, while certain groups in Egypt are calling for reversal
of the reform.
The social and political effects, however, were far reaching. Redistribution and
regulation of rent raised the incomes of small owners and tenants. Cooperatives replaced
the middleman and captured his share for the farmer. The peasant gained social status and
enjoyed a higher level of political participation, mostly in support of the revolutionary
regime. These effects, however, can be easily exaggerated. The peasants became dependent
on the cooperatives whether they liked them or not. Great differences in landholding
continued to exist, and peasant incomes remained low. Black market rents appeared. The
example of Egypt suggests that successful reform in densely populated countries requires
an upsurge in the industrial sector to relieve population pressure and permit technical
advance and higher productivity in agriculture.
The model of Japan's reform has been attempted in Southeast Asia, especially in Taiwan,
South Korea, and South Vietnam, all influenced by American experts and by the
anti-Communism of the respective governments. The objectives were to sustain the political
order, raise living standards, and promote some degree of economic development. The
reforms began with regulation of tenancy, restriction of rent, and the institution of
written contract for leases, following which tenants were to be transformed into owners.
Taiwan's reform was implemented between 1949 and 1953, in three stages. First, rents,
which had sometimes reached 70 percent of the product, were reduced to 37.5 percent. Next,
tenant-farmed public land was sold to the tenants. Finally, tenant-farmed private land was
bought by the government and resold to the tenants.
The Vietnamese reform was introduced in 1955. Rents were reduced to a maximum of 25
percent of the product. A ceiling of 247 acres (100 hectares) was put on individual
holdings, however, and only the excess land was subject to redistribution in parcels of
7.4 to 12.4 acres (three to five hectares) to the tenants. The collapse of the South
Vietnamese regime and the unification of South and North Vietnam ended that reform and
replaced it with the socialist model of North Vietnam.
The reform in Taiwan, as in South Vietnam prior to unification, was supplemented by
other measures described as community development, such as adult education, credit
facilities, improved technology, and other social services. Though land consolidation was
attempted, the scale of operation was little affected. The main effect seems to have been
the regulation of tenancy and the redistribution of rent incomes. An innovation of
Taiwan's reform was the partial compensation of landlords with industrial shares in public
enterprises, which helped them and helped industry.
Taiwan's reform has been hailed as a major success, in both economic and political
terms. Some observers, however, are unwilling to reach such a conclusion until
restrictions are removed and the peasants have a free choice of tenure and farm
South Korea's land reform (under the Land Reform Law of June 1949) roughly followed the
Japanese model by removing tenancy, creating small ownerships, implementing the law
thoroughly and promptly, and depending heavily on nonagricultural (basically industrial)
employment to absorb labour and supplement rural income. Like the Japanese and Taiwanese
reforms, Korea's successful reform was generously supported by foreign aid.
The Philippines introduced a reform program in 1963, which aimed primarily at replacing
share tenancy with lease contracts and eventually with ownership, and at revitalizing
agriculture through extension services. By the mid-1980s the program had given titles to
about 400,000 tenants and secure leases to another 600,000, but the economic viability of
the new units has been uncertain because of their small scale and the lack of
supplementary facilities. The main effects initially were seed improvement, greater use of
fertilizers, and an increase in contractual tenancy. To combat the negative effects of
small-scale farming, the Philippine government has resorted to what it calls the
"compact farm," which is a voluntary grouping of small farms to be operated
under one management as one consolidated farm. The problem of surplus labour, however,
remains to be solved.
Various other reforms have been introduced in Southeast Asia, but the only innovative
program has been that of Malaysia. The program in Malaysia has been highly organized and
development oriented. It tries to promote social and economic objectives by emphasizing
the production of rubber and palm oil for export and gradually transforming the landless
into hereditary tenants on newly reclaimed and settled plantations. A typical plantation
covers 4,500 to 5,000 acres (1,800 to 2,000 hectares) of jungle land and absorbs about 400
families. The land is cleared and planted by contract, and a village is constructed, with
all the necessary services, before the settlers arrive. Each house has a quarter of an
acre for a household garden. Cropland is divided in blocks of 120 to 200 acres (48 to 80
hectares), to be worked by a team of 15 to 25 people until the plants have matured. Upon
maturation, each settler receives a share by lottery and a lease title for 99 years. This
tenure arrangement precludes alienation, subdivision, or subleasing; it thus protects the
tenant farmer and sidesteps the Islamic laws of inheritance, which tend toward
fragmentation of the land.
The settler is responsible for the cost of clearing and planting, but the government
pays the administrative costs. The settler is guaranteed supplementary employment to earn
subsistence income pending maturity of the plants, and cultivation is guided by experts.
The rate of settlement is determined by the overall economic plan. It is clear that
landholding has become tied to cultivation; fragmentation and diseconomies of scale have
been avoided, and cultivation has become a rational economic operation. The Malaysian
program has much in common with the cooperative settlements of Israel and the Gezira
Scheme in The Sudan.
Except for the early example of Mexico, reform in Latin America has been recent and
appears to have come only in response to the threat of social and political instability
and mounting international pressures. Reform in Latin America after World War II must be
seen against a background of rapidly increasing population and of extreme contrasts
between plantation economies and small units; high concentration of land ownership,
income, and power and dire poverty; modern farming and relatively backward cultivation
methods; and nationalism and extensive foreign ownership of land. In addition,
Latin-American society is complicated by its ethnic mixtures and by dependence on staple
trade items such as sugar, tobacco, cocoa, coffee, and beef cattle.
Reform in Latin America has reflected the ideologies and objectives of the regime in
power. Brazil has had several attempts at reform. The measures have been indirect and
relatively mild, the most important being taxation of idle land and large plantations and
reclamation and settlement of the Amazon region, with provisions for credit and tenancy
protection. The results have been modest, however, largely because of the physical and
biological hardships faced by settlers in the tropical Amazon environment.Peru has
deviated by creating collective administrations of the nationalized feudal estates. The
title resides in the nation, and the estates are run by the Agricultural Societies of
Social Interest (sais) , a mechanism devised to avoid breaking up
economically efficient enterprises rather than to modify the tenure institutions.
At the other end of the Latin-American spectrum is theCuban reform that followed the
revolution of 1958. Cuba retained private ownership but reduced it substantially in favour
of the public sector. As proclaimed a few months before the overthrow of the old regime,
the reform aimed at the elimination of latifundia tenure, expropriation of land
owned by foreign companies, higher standards of living for the peasantry, and national
economic development. It began by setting a ceiling of 30 caballerías (one caballería
= 33 acres, or 13.4 hectares) on individual holdings, with a maximum of 100 caballerías
if economic operations required such a scale. All foreign-owned land was nationalized.
Public land on which rice and cattle were raised was converted into state farms, and the
peasants became permanent wage workers on these farms. Sugar plantations were converted
into cooperatives to avoid their subdivision into small uneconomic units. Before long the
ceiling on individual holdings was lowered to five caballerías, and all such
holdings became private family farms. The rest were nationalized, and the expropriated
owners were compensated with a pension for life. The reform was supplemented by the
organization of national farmer associations; people's stores; credit, housing, and
educational facilities; and the production of machinery and fertilizers. In 1963 a major
reorganization of state farms took place; they were subdivided on the basis of crop
specialization into smaller operational units of about 469 caballerías.
Effects of the reform were comprehensive and immediate. The tenure institutions were
radically changed in favour of public ownership, while minifundia and tenancies
were abolished. Socially and politically, the reform realized the objectives of the
reformers. Economically, the government claimed higher yields of sugarcane, vegetables,
and fruit, but this claim has been disputed by foreign observers.
Other Latin-American reforms fall between those of Brazil and Cuba, though closer to
the former than to the latter in comprehensiveness and thoroughness. For example, the
reform in Costa Rica has overlooked land concentration and income inequality and
concentrated on the squatters, or parásitos, who in 1961 numbered between 12,000
and 16,000 people. The reform aimed at legalizing existing squatter holdings, preventing
further squatting, and conserving virgin land. Even this modest program was implemented
very slowly. As late as 1973, 7.3 percent of the landholdings comprised 67 percent of the
total agricultural land. Colombia has had reform programs for at least 30 years, but
concentration of ownership, fragmented holdings, backward methods of cultivation,
inequality of income distribution, and widespread poverty have remained characteristic; in
1970, 4.3 percent of the holdings contained 67.4 percent of the total area.
Chile undertook various reform programs before achieving concrete results. In 1962 a
program was enacted to encourage settlement of new land, but only about 1,000 families
were settled. A comprehensive reform was introduced in 1965 with three main objectives: to
make the agricultural workers owners of the land they had cultivated previously, to
increase agricultural and livestock production, and to facilitate social mobility and
peasant participation in political life. The Chilean reform was unique in its method of
implementation. Once the plantation had been designated for expropriation and the
prospective owners selected, they were organized into asentamientos, or settlement
groups. The group elected a committee to take charge of settlement. The members cultivated
the land as a team for three to five years. Meanwhile they received training and guidance
in social participation, decision making, and modern farming. Upon completion of the
transition period, the land was divided among those who had shown promise, to be held
outright and without restriction. All new owners were obligated to join cooperatives, the
form of these being determined by the members. The socialist regime that came into office
in 1970 expedited the expropriation process and the creation of settlement groups or
cooperative farms under peasant committees. By 1972 all the potential land, which had been
in farms larger than 200 acres (80 hectares), had been expropriated and reallocated. The
new regime that took over in 1973 decided, however, to privatize the land and reverse much
of the reform by returning large areas to the former owners, dissolving the cooperatives,
and creating private ownerships in their place. Most of the reverse changes had been
completed by 1979. Nevertheless, most of the excess land in farms of more than 200 acres
remained in the hands of the reform beneficiaries. Owners of less than 12 acres (five
hectares) were hardly affected; those who owned between 12 and 50 acres (five and 20
hectares) benefitted most. In the final analysis, less than 15 percent of the agricultural
land was affected by the reform between 1965 and 1979 under three regimes.
Observers of the Latin-American scene have been pessimistic regarding the adequacy of
these land reform programs. With the exception of Cuba, capital formation in agriculture
has not increased substantially; the pattern of land distribution has undergone little
change; social and political stability have remained in question; and the agrarian
structure is still considered defective.
Other recent reforms
Attempts to reform the agrarian structure have been made in most other countries, with
varying degrees of seriousness. India and Pakistan have concentrated on abolishing
intermediaries who prevailed as survivals of traditional and feudal tenures. In India the
tenants have become hereditary holders, with the title vested in the state. India has left
reform to the states and emphasized peaceful and compensatory methods; hence the results
have varied from one state to another. Pakistan, following the revolution of 1958, enacted
a reform that made most of the tenants owners. In both countries, however, small-scale
farming has persisted, while Pakistan has continued to tolerate and protect owners of up
to 500 acres (200 hectares). In neither country has fragmentation been effectively reduced
or have capital formation and cultivation methods significantly advanced.
In contrast, after the Communists came to power in China, private ownership was
eliminated and the peasants were organized in village communes. Extensive supplementary
measures have been tried, and the role and organization of the commune have varied
according to the pressures on the economy. The most recent innovation in China's
agriculture has been the "production responsibility system," which allows the
commune to contract with its members for quotas of output; the members are free to sell
the surplus on the open market. The change is seen as an incentive generator, but land
cannot be rented, bought, sold, or used except as authorized by the commune. The effects
of China's agrarian policy on peasant living conditions and the Chinese economy have been
generally accepted as positive, genuine, and impressive.
In 1962 Iran made owners of most of the former sharecroppers, in the classic tradition
of Western-type reform, mainly to create political stability. Given Iran's revolution of
1979, however, the reform evidently was not sufficient to sustain the old social order.
Reform was also introduced in Syria, Iraq, Algeria, Libya, and other countries of the
Middle East and North Africa following independence or revolution. Most of these reforms
were influenced by the Egyptian example, with the state playing a major role. In all cases
emphasis has been placed on farm cooperatives, although they have been largely
In contrast, tropical Africa has witnessed a wave of innovative reform in recent years.
Reform has sometimes come in "packages," which combine tenure reform and other
measures affecting cultivation and productivity. Among the innovations is the
"villagization," or ujamaa, program of Tanzania, according to which a
group of families lives, works, and makes decisions together and shares the costs and
benefits of farming the land. The program began as a voluntary movement in 1967, but by
1977 it had become almost mandatory. At the same time, "block farming" and
individual holdings had become acceptable forms of cooperation. The Ujamaa Villages Act of
1975 made the village the main rural administration and development unit. The most radical
reforms in Africa, however, have been those of Ethiopia in 1975 and of Mozambique in 1979.
Both vested the land title in the nation and abolished rent, sale, and absentee control of
the land. The land was placed in the hands of the tillers, who have guaranteed right of
use for themselves and for their descendants. Except in the public sector, farming is a
small, family operation with a high degree of equality of landholding but of uncertain
Land reform and agrarian
reforms have become synonymous, indicating that reform programs have become more
comprehensive and encompass much more than the reform of land tenure or land distribution.
Reform movements have recurred throughout history, as have the crises they are intended to
deal with, because reform has rarely dealt with the roots of the crises. Reform has served
as a problem-solving mechanism and therefore has only been extensive enough to cope with
the immediate crisis. Reformers have often faced hard choices: to promote and sustain
private ownership with inequality or to institute public or collective ownership with
equality but with restrictions on the individuals' private interests; to spread employment
by supporting labour-intensive, low-productivity techniques or to promote high
productivity through capital-intensive, efficient methods; to pursue gradual "repair
and maintenance" reform that is basically ineffective or to promote revolutionary,
comprehensive, effective but disruptive reform. In capitalist reforms these contradictions
have usually been resolved in favour of the first set of options; in socialist reforms, in
favour of the second. Land tenure reform seems to have been of little significance in
creating substantive economic change, although it has been important for improving the
status of peasants and maintaining social and political stability. Most reforms have
narrowed the gap between reform beneficiaries and other farmers through land
redistribution and tenancy control, but only the comprehensive socialist reforms have
narrowed the gap between agriculture and other sectors of the economy.
Land redistribution programs
have had limited success for several reasons. They often have deprived the farm of the
former landlord's contributions without providing a substitute. They have inhibited
mobility of labour by giving the peasant a stake in the land, though only in the form of
an inefficient minifarm. They frequently have threatened large, efficiently run farms and
therefore have had to be compromised. They have provided compensation for the expropriated
land and hence left wealth and income distribution largely unaffected. They have been
conditional upon peasant participation in social and political activity and cooperative
organization, even though the peasant was unprepared for these activities. Moreover, the
redistribution of land has rarely been fortified by protective measures that could prevent
reconcentration of ownership and the recurrence of crises. Nevertheless, major efforts
have been expended by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and
other international bodies and by governments to devise viable frameworks for solving
agricultural and rural problems emanating from defective agrarian structures.