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Changing Rural Power Structures Through Land Tenure Reforms: The Current Dismal Role of International Organizations

15 Aug 2002

  • Author(s):
  • Source: Canadian Journal of Development Studies, Volume XXIII, No. 2, 2002
  • This is an outreach document

Canadian Journal of Development Studies, Volume XXIII, No. 2, 2002; ISSN 0225-5189

ABSTRACT*. - Agricultural or rural development, although generally considered to be a process to improve the economic and social conditions of poorer groups in rural areas, signifies different things to different people. The meanings vary in terms of priorities to be considered, the means needed to achieve the set goals, and how the principal actors should co-operate. This paper examines the role of leading international agencies in sponsoring land tenure reforms – a role which had vanished from the development agenda in the 1980s and early 1990s, but which has resurfaced in recent years thanks to actions by national and international civil society organizations and to grassroots mobilizations. Promoting reforms in land tenure institutions and relations is key to reducing rural disparity and improving food security, income and family welfare among marginalized rural population groups. But modifying a rural power structure to promote the interests of the poorer and weaker segments of the rural population is a complex process, and the international organizations included in the analysis have focused their activities on less politically sensitive, subsidiary issues, leaving existing rural power structures and relations largely unimpaired. The paper is based mainly on secondary material, combined with primary information and the author’s observations of a number of ongoing land reform initiatives.

*The article from which this abstract is taken relates to a research project on land reform co-ordinated by the author at UNRISD. The usual copyright of this article belongs to CJDS.



This article reflects the views of the author(s) and does not necessarily represent those of the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development.