Land reform

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Indonesian farmers demonstrate for land rights in Jakarta

The term land reform or land reform refers to a change in the ownership or usage rights to land or in general the legal system in this area, which usually aims at a more even distribution of land ownership. The aim is to redistribute the land from large landowners to smallholders and landless farm workers .

There are political-ideological as well as social and economic-political motives for land reforms. Reasons for reform range from philosophical considerations of justice to more effective use of the land. Mechanisms for their implementation range from market-based land reform, in which small farmers buy the land at the market price, to the expropriation of large landowners by the state without compensation. The latter in particular is criticized because it interferes with the fundamental right to property.

The history of land reforms begins with the reforms of the Gracchi in ancient Rome. In modern Europe, the first land reform took place after the French Revolution . In many former colonies there were land reforms as a result of decolonization. In the 21st century, too , there are land reform movements that are mainly taking place in developing countries .

Motives for land reforms

Land reforms are mostly intended to achieve a more even distribution of land ownership and to redistribute the land from large landowners to smallholders and landless agricultural workers .

In addition, the aim is often to achieve an “optimal farm size”, i.e. not “too large” and not “too small” the size of farms, although this is defined differently depending on the time, country, type of use and soil quality.

Ethical, political and ideological motives

For the goals mentioned above, ethical - philosophical arguments such as social justice are cited. In addition, there is the history of large estates, to the emergence of which military violence, blackmail (development of the medieval feudal society), overreaching (purchase of land in colonies) and racist laws ( South Rhodesian land law ) all contributed.

In areas where settlement colonization has taken place or where land has been forcibly expropriated, some of the expropriated or their descendants regard this as a historical injustice, which must be redressed through land restitution or other compensation. Today this is particularly important in southern Africa , for example in Zimbabwe . Similar questions arise with respect to the American Indians , the Aborigines in Australia, and the Māori in New Zealand. There are big differences to be taken into account as to whether pre-colonial agriculture was displaced (Central America, Andean countries, southern Africa, New Zealand) or whether there was predatory activity (Australia).

Political and religious currents that fundamentally question (private) land ownership are also among the proponents of land reforms. The replacement of real estate with needs-based rights of use of the individual farmers should not be confused with the collectivization of a communist character, in which large production units continue to exist or are newly created, theoretically in the hands of the working people , in practice mostly in the hands of the state. During the Cold War , certain anti-communist regimes even implemented distributive land reforms to save their systems ( Land to the Tiller ).

Economic and socio-political motives

Proponents cite socio-political and economic reasons for land reform. Smallholder agriculture generally creates more jobs than industrially operated large-scale agriculture; in Brazil , for example, large estates provide work for 420,000 people, while small businesses employ more than 14 million. Land reforms are therefore often intended to create jobs and livelihoods for the - mostly poor - beneficiaries and to curb rural exodus.

In addition, land reform can be a measure to food security and food sovereignty to promote a country or territory, as large landowners largely export-oriented economies, applicable as a barrier to investment and therefore harmful pension capitalism operate or their land lie fallow leave, while small farmers rather staple food for Subsistence farming and growing for local markets. Brazil is one of the leading exporters of cash crops such as soy, orange juice concentrate, coffee , beef, etc. , due to the production of the huge fazendas, on the other hand, 70% and 84% of beans and manioc , which are important staple foods for the Brazilian population, are produced by small farmers.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) dedicated a conference in 2006 in Porto Alegre, Brazil , to the importance of land reforms for rural development and combating world hunger .

Party tactical motives

One motive for land reform can also be a government's endeavor to win loyal followers from the beneficiary class. Are partisans targeted in a land reform - z. B. Civil war veterans - so this is a smooth transition between a real land reform and the practices of medieval feudal lords.

Motives and arguments of the opponents of land reforms

The opponents - namely the landowners who have to surrender their land in the course of land reform - claim that land reform represents the theft of what they consider to be legitimate property. Representatives of political views such as neoliberalism , who are fundamentally skeptical of state intervention in the market and economy, tend to reject land reforms.

Large landowners also claim that large-scale farming is more efficient and productive than growing on smaller plots. They also point to the negative consequences of land reforms in history.


Historically, the question of land reform has played an important role several times. In the 2nd century BC In ancient Rome , the brothers Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus tried unsuccessfully to implement land reform as part of the Gracchian reforms . In doing so, they sparked a century of Roman civil wars and the split in Roman politics into populares (originally advocates of land redistribution in favor of the proletarians ) and optimates (defenders of the interests of latifundia owners).

Also in the various peasant wars in Europe belonged u. a. Land reforms and similar issues to the aims of the insurgents. Land reforms and demands for them were part of various socialist to communist oriented revolutions around the world as well as many decolonization struggles in developing countries .

Land reform movement today: Children and young people of the Brazilian landless movement MST

In the first half of the 20th century peasant parties played an important role in articulating and asserting peasant interests, especially in Central and Eastern Europe. Land reforms took place in several East Asian countries after 1945, which are seen as one of the reasons for their subsequent economic rise. Today land reform movements exist mainly in developing countries, especially in Latin America. They partially create synergies with the Third World movement in industrialized countries and the criticism of globalization . The Via Campesina smallholder network is committed to land reforms on a global scale .

Main article: Land reform movement

Forms of land reform

Land reforms can be carried out in different ways. The spectrum ranges from “market-supported land reform” (see below ) to state subsidies or loans for farmers and agricultural workers who want to buy the land they work, to the acquisition and distribution of the land by the state itself. In some cases, buying In this case, the state uses the land of large landowners who sell it voluntarily (" willing sellers - willing buyers "), in other cases it uses the means of expropriation , which can be compensated in full, in part or not at all and sometimes with violence. Sometimes private land is nationalized as part of a land reform , in other cases state land is transferred into the private ownership of small farmers. Private property can be converted to community property ( collectivization ) or joint property can be divided among the members of the community.

Market-based land reform

The market-based agrarian reform is a variant of the land reform promoted by the World Bank. Here, the smallholder who has provisionally received land must buy it from the previous owner at the full market price. If he cannot do this, he will lose the land again. Only land that has been voluntarily thrown on the market by the owners is distributed. This model was used in Brazil, Colombia and South Africa in the 1990s , with the results judged to be modest.

Organizations such as Via Campesina and FIAN criticize the market-based land reform as ineffective, as it is not sufficiently geared to the needs of the poorest farmers and, moreover, predominantly lower-quality land is offered on the market by small and medium-sized farms, while large landowners have better quality land hardly offer voluntarily.

Free-economic land reform movement

According to the “free land” concept of the free economy , landowners should transfer part of the profit they draw from their land in the form of a fee to the general public, since the land is common property. The most important representative of this land reform idea in the 19th century was the American Henry George .

Individual aspects

Land reform and human rights

Organizations like FIAN see the right to food primarily as the right to eat. This must be guaranteed either through a living income from wage labor or through access to productive resources such as land in order to produce food themselves. According to this view, an unequal distribution of land ownership can amount to a violation of the human right to food, and land reform can be a necessary means of implementing that right.

Opponents of land reforms, on the other hand, see the human right to property for the landowners to be expropriated at risk, unless it is illegally acquired property (e.g. through the forgery of documents or the violent displacement of the original landowners). In connection with land reforms, human rights violations sometimes occur, for example in the case of violent expropriations.

Land reform and women's concerns

Proponents of land reforms sometimes criticize that, at least in earlier land reforms, the specific situation and concerns of women were neglected. Of the beneficiaries of the land reform in Honduras from 1962 to 1991, just 4% were women. Since women do much of the housework and field work in many developing countries, but most of the land is owned by men, some feminists advocate a redistribution of land ownership not only from large landowners to smallholders, but also within the farming families.

Land reforms in development policy

Some private development organizations work together with NGOs in developing countries that campaign for land reforms; Overall, however, this topic plays a minor role in development aid and development cooperation in the industrialized countries.

At a special meeting of the food and agriculture organization FAO in November 2006, Brazil, Argentina , the Philippines and other developing countries spoke out in favor of greater involvement by the FAO in this area, which was rejected by the USA , Canada , the EU and Japan .

In 2001, the German BMZ cut the budget line for “structural food security ” in order to use the amount spent on this for emergency aid instead. The BMZ also supports land reform programs based on the willing seller - willing buyer principle, for example in Namibia .

Consequences of land reforms

The consequences of land reforms have varied throughout history. For example, the market-based land reforms carried out in today's “ tiger states ” of Asia after 1945 are considered successful and one of the reasons for the economic rise of these countries. Other reforms were decided but incompletely implemented, others remained largely without consequences, most of them had negative consequences. For example, the forced collectivizations in communist systems contributed to famine several times (in the Soviet Union in the 1930s, in China 1959–62 and in the 1990s in North Korea ), and in Zimbabwe , the "accelerated land reform" from 2000 onwards contributed to the current crisis in the country.
For more examples, see the list below.

In many cases, agricultural production fell immediately after land reform, which sometimes led to supply difficulties and severe macroeconomic problems. Possible reasons for this are start-up difficulties, lack of support for the new landowners (e.g. through training or seeds), the granting of land to people who are unwilling or not qualified to use it productively, or the progressive division of inheritance , which the distributed land in the course of Generations keep getting smaller.

If landowners who had to give up their property due to a reform settle elsewhere and, under certain circumstances, displace the (small) farmers who live there, a land reform can indirectly intensify the differences in another area. The Bolivian land reform of 1953 largely abolished large estates in the highlands; Many large landowners then moved to the lowlands, where they took possession of the land of the local Guaraní and some of them until today (2007) keep Guaraní as farm laborers in debt bondage . After the land reform in neighboring Zimbabwe, which began in 2000, Mozambique specifically recruited expropriated white Zimbabwean farmers to promote commercial agriculture. This also resulted in controversial awards of former smallholder land to the new farmers.

Land reforms by region


The issue of land reform plays a role above all in southern Africa , where, as a legacy of colonialism and apartheid, a large part of the land is owned by white farmers, while most black farmers practice subsistence farming on little land . Significant parts of the black majority of the population regard the land grabbing of white settlers in colonial times as theft and the return of land as a necessary reparation for historical injustice.

Traditional land rights practices in Africa mostly include individual land use rights as well as a certain amount of community control over the land. After decolonization, efforts were made in many states - often with international support - to replace these systems, which were viewed as “backward”, with land laws based on the western model with private land titles for the farmers. The idea behind this was to provide the individual farmer with more legal security than with the often complex and changeable traditional land rights. In practice, such land reform programs often resulted in greater inequality in the distribution of land, as access to the registration procedures was unequal and corruption sometimes played a role in the award of land titles.

In some areas, the loss of fertile farmland (through erosion / desertification ), population growth and lack of employment opportunities outside of agriculture lead to general land shortages.


In Zimbabwe , a fund was set up in accordance with the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement , which sealed the independence of Zimbabwe and the end of apartheid in the country, which operates according to the willing-seller-willing-buyer principle ("willing sellers, willing buyers") Land bought from white farmers to be redistributed. This fund was co-financed by the former colonial power Great Britain and brought about the redistribution of more than 20,000 km² of land to around 70,000 beneficiaries between 1980 and 1990. According to the Labor Party, the poor aid from the Thatcher government for land reform was used in the agreement to buy land for the country's “elites” instead of for the landless. The new Labor government (elected in 1997) ended the financial aid for land reform on this basis. Overall, the land reform has been slow and the popularity of the government shrank, so that President Mugabe 2000, the controversial " accelerated land reform " (fast-track land reform) initiated.

The land occupations were often organized without compensation, in a night-and-fog operation, accompanied by violence. The white farmers fled and previously killed their cattle and devastated the tractors and the irrigation systems. In many cases, the expropriated land was not given to landless black farmers or the former farm workers as originally intended, but to people with good connections to the Mugabe government. Due to a lack of farming experience or because the government promised but failed to deliver seeds and agricultural supplies, many of the new landowners abandoned their land. As a result, there was food shortage, and ten years after the land reform (2011), agricultural production is still lower than before. The former farm workers were usually not given land, were displaced and unemployed.

In March 2015, President Mugabe announced the final withdrawal of white farmland. He called it a "shame" that 163 farms are still owned by white owners. In mid-November a law was passed according to which the new farm users have to pay an annual rent and development fee. The lease period was set for a maximum of 99 years.

In mid-2017, the takeover of the last white farms gained momentum again. Special units of the state, but also the Mugabe family themselves, have taken possession of additional land.


In Namibia , land reform has been carried out since independence in 1990 according to the motto “willing sellers, willing buyers”. In fiscal year 2014/15 alone, 40 farms were acquired by the government, which has a right of first refusal on all farmland for sale at market price, for N $ 257 million with a total area of ​​210,987 hectares .

The land acquired by the government is given to registered, willing buyers on lease. This procedure has come under strong criticism, as farms are divided in order to be able to allocate land to more applicants, but these small farms cannot be operated economically. In addition, most of the applicants are not trained in agriculture at all. In addition, other willing buyers are supported by loans for the normal purchase of a farm. So far, expropriations for appropriate compensation have only occurred in a few individual cases, for example in the case of very large farms that were owned by foreigners and were not managed. Legal ownership of farmland by whites was confirmed by Prime Minister Hage Geingob in March 2015. Farmers shouldn't fear being held accountable for the colonial past.

From 1990 to August 2016, the state bought a total of 502 farmers with an area of ​​3.1 million hectares for 1.7 billion Namibia dollars . More than 5200 families have been relocated here. A land reform law announced in October 2016 is intended, among other things, to facilitate expropriations and thus accelerate redistribution. From 2008 to 2018, more than 440 farms were acquired, which have an area of ​​almost three million hectares.

After a 2nd National Land Conference at the beginning of October 2018, almost 200 steps towards a faster, more effective and fairer land reform were decided. Among other things, the principle of “willing sellers, willing buyers” has been discontinued.

Other countries

  • Angola : After the Portuguese colonial power withdrew in 1975, formerly Portuguese owned farms were converted into state farms. However, these did not pay off and were eventually transferred to private farmers or cooperatives.
    In 2004, in cooperation with civil society organizations, a new land law was drawn up which regulates usage, custom and inheritance rights, rights of compensation in the event of expropriations and the introduction of user fees for large property. In practice, however, this law has not been fully implemented, which leads to legal uncertainty. Corrupt actors - called tubarões (“sharks”) - sometimes illegally take over large estates and drive out the resident population.
  • Ethiopia : The traditional land ownership systems in Ethiopia are diverse. While land ownership was relatively evenly distributed in the north of the country, inequality was greater in the south. From the mid-1960s, parts of the Ethiopian population were in favor of land reforms. The land reform of communist Derg in 1975 was welcomed in the south, but partially rejected in the north. Here, the land was nationalized, with the farmers receiving rights to use land of less than ten hectares . The tendency towards the division into smaller and smaller parcels, which are hardly sufficient for self-sufficiency, continues.
  • Burkina Faso : In the 1980s, Thomas Sankara had the land that had previously been distributed by village chiefs at will, redistributed according to the needs of the farming families.
  • Kenya : In the 1960s, Jomo Kenyatta launched a land reform based on the willing seller - willing buyer principle, which was financed by the former colonial power Great Britain. In 2006, Mwai Kibaki announced the redistribution of land in the coastal region owned by absent landowners to people who have settled on that land.
  • Mauritania : The question arises of the transfer of land owned by the elite of the “ white Moors ” to (former) slaves ( Haratin , “ black Moors ”); many slaves have farmed land for their masters for generations and believe they have a right to it. Since agriculturally usable land is generally scarce in Mauritania, today's landowners and slave owners do not want this at all. This is one of the reasons why the fight against slavery in Mauritania is moving slowly.
  • South Africa : Land restitution was one of the promises made by the ANC when it came to power in 1994. Initially, this was implemented with the help of a willing seller - willing buyer program, under which the government bought and distributed land from large white landowners. Black land that the government had expropriated during the apartheid era has also been returned. However, since the South African land reform is progressing slowly overall, the government announced at the beginning of 2006 that it would also use the instrument of expropriation in future - with compensation for the landowners. Since 2017, land reform has come back into focus at the ANC with a paradigm shift: In 2018, the party, together with the third largest party, the EFF, passed a motion in parliament that supports expropriation without compensation. In his election manifesto presented in mid-January 2019, President Cyril Ramaphosa also spoke of a plan to accelerate land reform - "including expropriation without compensation where appropriate."
  • Tanzania : As a significant part of Ujamaa socialism under Nyerere , millions of villagers were resettled - sometimes under duress - in community villages, where agricultural technology, educational facilities etc. were made available to them and they were supposed to work the land together. After the Ujamaa program ended, many farmers returned to their original villages.


The situation in Asia is very different from country to country. The land reforms in today's “ tiger states ” after the Second World War are seen as one of the reasons for their economic rise. The situation is particular in the Philippines , where land ownership structures for historical reasons are similar to those in Latin America, and in India . Land reforms of varying intensity have been carried out in communist-ruled countries like China .


With the land reform begun in 1946 - three years before the founding of the People's Republic of China - the Communist Party won the support of millions of poor to middle farmers. Land and other possessions of "landlords" were expropriated and redistributed among the farmers, so that every rural household owned roughly the same amount. At the same time, the former “village elites” were eliminated, who were suspected that they might otherwise have opposed the party and its program.

From 1958 on, the peasant households were grouped into collectives and people's communes, which were centrally controlled. A people's commune comprised around 5,000 households or 22,000 people spread over several villages. This also meant that the individual farmer did not derive any direct personal benefit from increasing his productivity and consequently had little incentive to do so. In addition, in the course of the “ big leap forward ”, numerous workers were withdrawn from agriculture in order to build up heavy industry. As a result, agricultural production fell. This policy was partly responsible for the massive famine in the early 1960s and has been partially reversed since then.

At the end of the 1970s, individual rights and responsibilities of farmers were strengthened again. These now had to deliver a quota of their production to the collective at a fixed price, but could otherwise organize their work freely and sell surpluses on their own account. This program was initially very successful in increasing productivity, but later stagnated, probably because the system of periodic redistribution of the land encouraged its short-term exploitation rather than longer-term investments.

Meanwhile, poverty remains widespread in rural China. Many farmers are heavily burdened by - partly illegal - taxes and levies, and in the case of land expropriations, for example for the construction of dams or industrial plants, they often do not receive the compensation to which they are legally entitled.

Other countries

  • India : As a legacy of British colonial times , India had a semi- feudal land ownership system in which land ownership was concentrated to a few owners ( zamindars ) . Therefore , land reforms (efforts) have taken place in several states since independence . Most consistently these were carried out in West Bengal, which was ruled by the Communist Party ; 7.5 million landless people have received land since 1977 and tenant rights have been strengthened. It was similar in Kerala , which was also ruled by communists . Another land reform program was launched in Jammu and Kashmir after 1947 . In Andhra and Madhya Pradesh , the Naxalites are violently fighting for land reforms. In Bihar , massacres sometimes occur in the context of clashes between private militias of landowners, villagers and Maoists . The social movement Ekta Parishad fights mainly in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh , Orissa and Bihar with nonviolent means for land reforms and solution of land conflicts.

  • Indonesia : The Agricultural Law of 1960 aimed to modernize land ownership and partially redistribute land, but was not fully implemented. There are various cases in which smallholders have been arbitrarily and illegally evicted from their land by the state or private companies.
  • Japan : Under the US occupation forces after World War II, the land they cultivated was transferred to tenants as private property, with the previous landlords receiving a small amount of compensation. The Japanese land reform is generally regarded as a "success" and one of the reasons for Japan's economic rise, but it is partly controversial to what extent it was actually economically and to what extent it was politically successful.
  • Cambodia : Under the Khmer Rouge the country should be converted into a "peasant state". For this purpose, city dwellers were forced into the countryside and all rice fields were divided into plots of uniform size, regardless of whether this made geographical sense. By the end of their rule in 1978, the Khmer Rouge killed around 1.7 to 2.2 million Cambodians, according to the most popular estimates.
  • Korea :
    • In 1945–1950, Korean and US authorities confiscated land owned by the former Japanese colonial government , Japanese companies, and colonists in South Korea and redistributed it. The Korean government carried out a land reform that forced Korean landowners to give up most of the land. This created a new class of independent landowning families.
    • Land reform was carried out in communist North Korea after 1946. To this day, former "large farmers" are considered "hostile people".
  • Laos : After the communist Pathet Lao came to power in 1975, the land was declared state property and the smallholders were grouped into cooperatives. However, this program was not very popular among the peasants, as they had not previously been oppressed by large landowners and did not see collectivization as “liberation” but as a restriction. In the course of the economic opening of the country in the 1980s, small farmers were allowed to leave the cooperatives, which most of them subsequently did.
  • Nepal : Land reform laws in the 1950s and 1960s reformed the previously feudalist land ownership structures and redistributed part of the land. After the Kamaiya were freed from debt bondage , these lands were promised as compensation and livelihoods, but this has not yet been implemented.
  • Philippines : As part of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, there is a comprehensive program for the redistribution of state and partly private land to landless farmers, which, however, has not been fully implemented, particularly in the area of ​​the lands of influential large landowners. Sometimes there are attacks on land reform activists.
  • Taiwan : In the years after World War II, Chiang Kai-shek carried out land reform with the help of the US. This was facilitated by the fact that many of the large landowners were Japanese who had fled after the war, and that most of the Kuomintang were from mainland China and were therefore not connected to the local landowners.
  • Thailand : Prime Minister Chuan Leekpai advocated land reforms but met resistance and was unable to implement them.
  • Turkey : Historically, the Turkish peasants were independent of landlords. In its early days, the Ottoman state held most of the land in state ownership and leased it to the peasants on relatively favorable terms; He made sure that land was always large enough to support a family and two oxen, and prevented the creation of a "landowner class". He later deviated from this policy, so that by 1923 the land ownership had passed to a few people with large estates. Since the Ataturk era , land redistributions have been propagated on various occasions to promote rural development, but this has hardly been implemented.
  • Vietnam : After the Second World War and before the country was formally divided, a land reform was initiated in North Vietnam . This led to the distribution of land to two million poor farmers, but also to tens to hundreds of thousands of deaths and was a reason for the exodus of one million people to South Vietnam after 1954. In South Vietnam there were several endeavors in the period after Diệm , of which the The most ambitious was the “ The land to the one who tills it ” program, started in 1970 by Nguyễn Văn Thiệu . This limited the land ownership of individuals to 15 hectares, included compensation for expropriated land, and granted legal land titles to farmers in areas controlled by the South Vietnamese government who had previously received land from the Viet Cong . Land reform has not been effectively implemented in all parts of the country; In the Mekong Delta and the provinces around Saigon , the proportion of land cultivated by tenants was reduced from 60 to 10% within three years.


The expropriations and collectivizations carried out in the Eastern Bloc in the 20th century have largely been reversed. Since the importance of agriculture compared to the industrial and service sectors has generally declined sharply, the importance of land reform issues is now also low.

Ireland (19th century)

Until the 20th century, however, there were land reform movements in Western Europe too, for example in Ireland . After the Great Famine of 1845–1849 - which u. a. was due to the fact that the Irish land was at that time largely in the possession of English, partly also Irish landlords , while the Irish peasants as tenants mostly lived in great poverty - the "land question" took a dominant place in Irish politics. The Irish Land League , led by Michael Davitt and Charles Stewart Parnell , fought for land reforms from the 1870s in the " Land War ". Several land reform laws gradually returned the land to the Irish peasants over the following decades.

Other countries

Land reform memorial in the Uckermark
  • Bulgaria : In 1880 every farmer, part-tenant or farm worker who had worked a piece of land for 10 years without interruption was allocated it.
  • Germany : see land reform in Germany .
  • Estonia ( land reform of 1919 ) and Latvia (land reform of 1920): After the state was founded in 1918, the large estates of German landowners were expropriated and, to a large extent, converted into small-scale farming units.
  • Finland : A number of land reforms followed in 1918 after the Finnish Civil War . These included the transfer of leased land (torppa) to the tenants - with compensation to the landowners - and a ban on land acquisition by timber companies. After the Second World War , Karelians evacuated from areas that had become Russian were given state and private land. War veterans also benefited from such assignments.
  • France : Comprehensive and permanent land reform took place under the rule of the Directory towards the end of the French Revolution .
  • Former Yugoslavia : Under Tito , the country was to a large extent grouped together in cooperatives, and part was allocated to poor farmers.
  • Austria : see land reform in Austria .
  • Portugal : After the Carnation Revolution in 1974, nationalizations and land reforms took place under the socialist wing of the coup armed forces MFA .
  • Romania : After failed land reform attempts by Mihail Kogălniceanu after 1863 (the failure of which resulted in the peasant uprising in Romania in 1907 ), a comprehensive reform was carried out in 1921.
  • Russia / Soviet Union : After the peasant liberation was enforced in the Russian Empire in 1861 , the Russian peasants were no longer tied to large landowners, but to the Mir village communities . Prime Minister Stolypin carried out an agrarian reform that transferred the village community land to the farmers as private property. After the October Revolution of 1917, Lenin banned all private land ownership in his Land Decree . Land was expropriated and collectivized without compensation. In the 1930s, under Stalin , the use of hunger as a weapon against alleged or actual "big farmers" ( kulaks ) to break resistance to forced collection led to famine in parts of Russia, the Caucasus , Kazakhstan and the Ukraine ( Holodomor ). It was not until February 28, 1990 that Soviet farmers were allowed to buy land again and bequeath it to their children.
  • Scotland : The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 ends the historic legacy of feudal laws and provides a framework within which rural communities can buy land on their territory.
  • Sweden : In 1827 the land that had previously been worked jointly by the villagers was divided up as private property.
  • Czechoslovakia : In 1920 the land reform (Czech: pozemková reforma ) expropriated a total of around 220,000 hectares of agricultural land and distributed it to Czech residents or cooperatives via cheap loans.
  • Turkey: see under Asia # other countries .
  • Hungary : In 1945, all of the 142- acre property was expropriated without compensation and distributed among the farmers. In the 1950s, collective ownership based on the Soviet model was introduced. After 1990 the cooperatives were dissolved and the land was distributed among private smallholders.

Latin America

The agricultural structures in Latin America are characterized by great contrasts between a few large landowners and their huge haciendas or fazendas on the one hand and the many small farmers and landless on the other. That is why this is where the pressure for land reforms is currently strongest.


From the 1930s, Getúlio Dornelles Vargas restricted the traditional power of the large landowners and promised land reform, although the latter promise was not kept. This is because the political influence of the large landowners remains significant; In addition, the relevant laws are sometimes difficult to enforce in remote areas where corruption is widespread in the police and where some large landowners maintain private militias (pistoleiros) .

During the military dictatorships of 1964–1985, people and organizations campaigning for land reforms were also subjected to repression. In some cases, attempts have been made to solve the "land question" by settling landless people in the Amazon , which is controversial, as this increased the pressure on the rainforest there. The landless movement MST advocates land reforms, other actors in the land reform movement are liberation theological church groups such as the CPT . Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva , who ruled from 2003 , did not implement any land reform either.


Under pressure from farmers' organizations, in particular the Confederación Campesina del Perú , land was transferred from haciendas to indigenous village communities ( Quechua , Aymara ) as early as the 1960s . The first were the moderate agrarian reform laws Ley de bases para la Reforma Agraria (1963) of the government of Ricardo Pérez Godoy and Ley de Reforma Agraria (1964) of the government of Fernando Belaunde . However, their effects remained very limited. As a result, the military government under Juan Velasco Alvarado passed on June 24, 1969 with decree 17716 a comprehensive agrarian reform law. More than 150 hectares of arable land were expropriated, as was property of more than 1500 hectares of pasture land in the Andes. The expropriated fields and pastures were transferred to cooperatives and farming communities ( comunidades campesinas ). On the coast these were the Cooperativas Agrarias de Producción (CAP, "Agricultural Production Cooperatives "), in the Andean highlands in particular the Sociedades Agrícolas de Interés Social (SAIS, "Agricultural Societies of Social Interest"), which are mixed farms from a modern cooperative and indigenous village communities ( ayllus ) . This land reform led to the extensive termination of the centuries-old system of peonaje ( debt bondage ), but could not solve the problem of food and poverty. Limited land reforms were also carried out under Hernando de Soto and in the early years of Alberto Fujimori's government in 1988–1995 - as a measure against the " Shining Path " .

Other countries

  • Argentina : The country is one of the largest exporters of beef, - partly genetically modified - soy and grain, which bring significant income. However, it is mainly a few large landowners and companies that benefit from the export proceeds, while poverty and hunger are widespread among the rest of the population. In recent years, around 160,000 smallholders have had to give way to the expansion of soybean cultivation. The question of land reform is therefore the subject of social debate. The influential Catholic Church in particular advocates such reforms, as the strong concentration of land ownership harms small farmers.
  • Bolivia : After the 1952 revolution, a land reform law was passed, but only 45% of farming families had actually received land titles by 1970. Further reform programs followed in the 1970s and 1980s. The new president Evo Morales plans to redistribute one fifth of the Bolivian country by 2011; 2.5 million hectares of state land and 20 million hectares of unused private land are to be redistributed
  • Chile : Land reforms began under Jorge Alessandri in 1960 and continued under Eduardo Frei Montalva . Land reform in Chile under Allende reached its climax in 1970–1973; over 80 hectares of farms were expropriated. After Pinochet came to power , it was stopped and partially reversed by market forces.
  • Ecuador : Land reform is one of the demands of the Indigenous Movement in Ecuador .
  • Guatemala : Land reforms occurred from 1944 to 1954 under Presidents Juan José Arévalo and Jacobo Arbenz , but were largely reversed by the CIA after Arbenz was overthrown . The "land question" in Guatemala remains a reason for human rights violations v. a. to indigenous smallholders.
  • Haiti : After the slave revolt under Toussaint Louverture in 1791, the large plantations were divided up among the former black slaves and converted into small-scale farming plots. As a result, the production of agricultural export goods came to a standstill; According to some, this land reform is one of the reasons for Haiti's current poverty.
  • Colombia : In 1936 Alfonso López Pumarejo passed a law that made it possible to expropriate private property in the “social interest”. After that, interest initially sank until the “National Front” party came to power between 1958 and 1974. The Colombian Institute for Agrarian Reform (INCORA) was founded under Carlos Lleras Restrepo , which awarded 60,000 land titles to farmers and workers in 1968 and 1969 alone. After that, the land reform process stalled and began to reverse on its own as the armed conflict in Colombia led to the displacement of millions of smallholders and a renewed concentration of land in the hands of large landowners. Plans by the Colombian government at the beginning of the 21st century to use land legally expropriated by drug lords and land returned by demobilized paramilitary groups have not yet produced any practical results.
  • Cuba : Land reform was a central concern of the 1959 revolution . Large estates were confiscated by the National Agrarian Reform Institute (INRA); thereof was Fidel Castro's father, for his part landowners affected. The size of real estate was capped at 67 hectares and tenants were given full ownership rights.
  • Mexico : A certain amount of land reforms took place as part of the Mexican Revolution , from which the well-known slogan Tierra y Libertad ("Land and Freedom") comes. Today the Zapatistas u. Named after the revolutionary leader and land reformer Emiliano Zapata fight . a. for land reforms.
  • Nicaragua : Due to the land reform under the Sandinista , large estates were nationalized or given to small farmers. This was largely reversed after the Contra War .
  • Paraguay : A 1963 law allows reallocation of land that exceeds 10,000 hectares in the east of the country and 20,000 hectares in the Chaco in the west. In practice this has hardly been implemented. A program to award land titles in the formerly largely untouched eastern part of the country had a greater impact. This promoted the establishment of colonies and the development of this area.
  • Venezuela : As part of President Chávez'sBolivarian Revolution ”, state land and unused private land are distributed to poor campesinos as part of the Zamora mission .

Middle East and North Africa


The Shah distributes land titles as part of the White Revolution

A reform aimed at improving the economic situation of the Iranian people had to be started in the agricultural sector. A special task was the implementation of a land reform, with which the ownership structure of the agricultural land was to be fundamentally changed. The first step in land reform, a redistribution of land from large landowners to smaller farm workers, was actually started in the late 1950s. The Shah in particular gave more than 500,000 hectares of land to around 30,000 dispossessed families.

At the end of the reign of Prime Minister Manouchehr Eghbal by the then Minister of Agriculture was Jamshid Amusegar the Parliament submitted a bill on land reform, which was however diluted by the representatives of the big landowners as in Parliament that despite the adopted 6 June 1960 the first law is to Land reform did not result in a fundamental redistribution of land ownership in Iran.

In January 1963, an amendment to the land reform law drafted by Agriculture Minister Arsanjani was passed, which was supposed to put an end to the feudal system that existed in Iran from the Qajar era .

Land reforms as an element of Arab socialism

  • Egypt : After the 1952 revolution, land reform was carried out under Nasser . It included setting upper limits on the size of land holdings, expropriating land holdings that exceeded this limit and distributing it to peasants and farm workers. Farmers' cooperatives were founded, minimum wages for farm workers and a minimum length for leases were set. Today this land reform is gradually being reversed.
  • Iraq : Land reforms with limited success came under Abd al-Karim Qasim and were resumed under the Ba'ath regime of Saddam Hussein . These reforms led to the formation of large numbers of small peasant units and, together with the emigration from rural areas, reduced the number of the landless. In 1971 over 98.2% of the approximately 5.7 million hectares of arable land were owned by “civilians”, of which 30% had been distributed as part of the land reform. By 1985, an estimated 2,271,250 hectares had been redistributed.
  • Syria : After the Ba'ath Party came to power in 1963, upper limits were set for the size of land holdings depending on the quality of the soil; Land ownership that exceeded these limits had to be expropriated within five years, with the previous owner receiving compensation. Tenants, landless peasants and farm laborers received the land at a fifth of the compensation price and were encouraged to form state-controlled cooperatives.

North America

  • Canada : When Prince Edward Island became part of Canada in 1873, most of the island's land belonged to English absentee landlords . Canada bought this land and gave it to the farmers.
  • USA : The original inhabitants of the country, the Indians , were pushed more and more from their original land in the course of the land grabbing by white European settlers. From 1871 the government forced them into the Indian reservations, which were mostly on barren and therefore insignificant soil for the settlers. In 1887, the General Allotment Act (Dawes Act) parceled out and privatized the land in the reservations . Private land ownership was unknown to the Indians. Out of ignorance or economic hardship, many sold their land to settlers or speculators, so that as a result of the Dawes Act, the area of ​​the reserves was reduced from 138 million to 48 million acres. In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act allowed the Indian tribes to regain communal land ownership.
    Sometimes the question arises of the return of former Indian land or compensation to the Indians.
    After the Civil War and the ensuing liberation of the black slaves, there were efforts by the Republicans to allot or offer for sale forty acres of land and a mule to former male slaves in order to create an economic basis after the liberation. However, this request was rejected in the interests of the original landowners and slave owners and was never sustainably implemented, which some believe is one of the reasons for the long-lasting segregation in US society.

Web links

Commons : Land reform  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files



  1. a b WTO transparent ( Memento of April 30, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) , documentation of the Bern Declaration , 2005
  2. compare e.g. B. the uprising of the Herero and Nama in Namibia, the Mau Mau uprising in Kenya or the Maji-Maji uprising in Tanzania, where the land grabbing by white settlers and the associated loss of land was of decisive importance for the local population.
  3. FIAN: Land reforms: between market and human rights (PDF; 117 kB)
  4. FIAN: Honduras: reprisals against women farmers in the struggle for land to live ( Memento of March 13, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  5. FIAN: Rich Countries block Land Reform Initiative  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  6. ^ Forum Environment and Development: Lean Balance - German Hunger Policy Ten Years After the World Food Summit (PDF; 1.4 MB)
  7. ^ Neue Zürcher Zeitung , 2006: Namibia's new black farmers in need
  8. Tages-Anzeiger : Venezuela expropriates several large landowners
  9. a b GEO 12/2007, pp. 58–86: Bolivia - Departure into the Promised Land
  10. Catherine Besteman: Unraveling Somalia - Race, Violence, and the Legacy of Slavery , University of Pennsylvania Press 1999, ISBN 978-0-8122-1688-2 (chap. 9)
  11. ^ Zimbabwe: The Spark ... Claire Short's letter of November 1997 , by Baffour Ankomah, March 31, 2003
  12. ^ Jean Ziegler: Crash of a hero , Die Weltwoche 27/08
  13. A Land of Scars ( Memento November 4, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) , National Geographic August 2003
  14. Joseph Winter: Zimbabwe land reform 'not a failure' , in: BBC News, November 18, 2011
  15. Martin Plaut: Are Zimbabwe's new farmers winning, 10 years on?
  16. 1/3/2015 News at noon. Hitradio Namibia, March 1, 2015 ( memento of April 2, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) accessed on March 13, 2015
  17. November 16, 2015 - News in the evening. Hitradio Namibia, November 16, 2015
  18. Mugabe to kick out all remaining white farmers, says Zimbabweans need land. News24, June 4, 2017.
  19. Heavily armed Zim riot cops evict white farmer in 'fresh land grabs'. News24, June 24, 2017.
  20. Grace Mugabe 'imposes unofficial curfew' as she grabs iconic Mazowe Dam. News24, July 14, 2017.
  21. ^ Govt buys more farms. The Namibian, February 17, 2015. Retrieved March 13, 2015
  22. Land Acquisition Making Progress, Allgemeine Zeitung, January 28, 2011
  23. Geingob refuses to take the land. Allgemeine Zeitung, March 12, 2015. Retrieved March 13, 2015
  24. August 25, 2016 - News in the evening. Hitradio Namibia, August 25, 2016.
  25. ^ Criteria for expropriation. Allgemeine Zeitung, October 13, 2016.
  26. Land Statistics Booklet. Namibia Statistics Agency, September 2018.
  27. Willing-buyer, willing-seller banned. The Namibian, October 8, 2018.
  28. ^ Angola - Agriculture
  29. Studies on country-specific conflict analysis: Angola # land conflicts (PDF; 285 kB)
  30. Ethiopia - Land Reform
  31. Jean Ziegler : How does hunger come into the world? , ISBN 3-570-30059-5
  32. BBC News: Pledge to redistribute Kenya Land
  33. Kevin Bales , Die neue Sklaverei , ISBN 3-88897-264-7 (pp. 150–156)
  34. see e.g. B. FIAN: The Gumbu-Mutale community gets back land that they lost during the apartheid regime ( Memento of February 19, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  35. South Africa: Deadline for land transfer negotiations set
  36. Der Tagesspiegel: White farmers in South Africa fear expropriations
  37. Der Tagesspiegel: White farmers in South Africa fear expropriations
  38. China - Rural Society
  39. China - The Great Leap Forward, 1958-60
  40. China - Reform of the Economic System, Beginning in 1979
  41. compare e.g. B. On the situation of the Chinese farmers or the case of Farmer Fu Xiancai .
  42. ^ Die Zeit online: suicide or land reform
  43. The Earth - Our Habitat , ISBN 3-906720-50-0 (p. 111)
  44. Work areas of Ekta Parishad in India. ( Memento of December 4, 2009 in the Internet Archive ), last accessed December 3, 2009
  45. ^ Indonesia - Land Use and Ownership
  46. FIAN: Indonesia: Land grab threatens the right to food ( Memento from September 26, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  47. FIAN: Indonesia: Smallholders demand access to their land, which has been declared a state forest ( Memento of September 26, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  48. World Bank: Agricultural Reform in Postwar Japan: Experiences and Issues
  49. ^ South Korea - The Emergence of a Modern Society
  50. ^ North Korea # population
  51. ^ Nepal - Land Reform
  52. FIAN: Philippines: Smallholder leader is victim of an attack in Panabo City, Davao del Norte, Mindanao ( Memento from September 26, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  53. ^ Turkey - Land Tenure
  54. Villager Attitudes durig the Final Decade of the Vietnam War ( Memento from March 11, 2009 in the web archive )
  55. Encyclopaedia Britannica Online: Land reform  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link / secure.  
  56. ^ History of Yugoslavia # Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia
  57. Portugal # Carnation Revolution until EU accession
  58. ^ Augsburger Allgemeine of February 27, 2010: The date section
  59. ^ The Emigrants from Småland, Sweden. The American Dream ( Memento from May 12, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF) (p. 3–4)
  60. ^ The Law on Agrarian Reform . In: Heinz Rudolf Sonntag (ed.): The case of Peru. “Nasserism” in Latin America to Overcome Underdevelopment? A critical inventory . Peter Hammer Verlag, Wuppertal 1971, ISBN 3-87294-026-0 , pp. 117-160.
  61. Law on Agrarian Reform, Art. 28.
  62. Law on Agrarian Reform, Art. 29.
  63. ^ Julio Cotler: Political Crisis and Military Populism in Peru . In: Heinz Rudolf Sonntag (ed.): The case of Peru. “Nasserism” in Latin America to Overcome Underdevelopment? A critical inventory . Peter Hammer Verlag, Wuppertal 1971, pp. 25–112, here p. 81.
  64. El proceso de reforma agraria en la web del Ministerio de Agricultura ( Memento of December 31, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  65. The grain of rice in sheep's clothing ( Memento from June 27, 2006 in the Internet Archive ) , documentation of the Bern Declaration, Greenpeace and SWISSAID (PDF; 626 kB)
  66. Argentine farming riches spark land reform debate
  67. BBC News: Bolivia head starts land handout
  68. Latin America News Online: Bolivia: Morales is full throttle with reforms . See also Critical to Morales' Agricultural Policy - accessed June 20, 2015
  69. Amnesty International: Guatemala: Deaths in land disputes continue ( Memento of October 31, 2006 in the Internet Archive )
  70. Paraguay - Land Reform and Land Policy
  71. ^ Gérard de Villiers: The Shah. P. 460
  72. z. B. Human Rights Watch: Egypt: Attacks by Security Forces in Sarando
  73. Iraq - Impact of Agrarian Reform
  74. ^ Syria - Agriculture # Land Reform
  75. z. B. Tages-Anzeiger Online: Indians flash before the Supreme Court
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on January 20, 2007 .