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FAO Land Tenure Papers Focus on Inclusion of Small Farmers in Large Investments and Land Reform

FAOFebruary 2013: The Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Natural Resources Management and Environment Department has released Working Papers 23 and 24, which document lessons from land reforms in Eastern and Central Europe since 1989, as well as lessons from seven countries on how large agricultural investments have included smallholder farmers in Africa and Asia.

Working Paper 24 titled "Land Reform in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989 and Its Outcome in the Form of Farm Structures and Land Fragmentation" reviews the reforms that have been carried out in 25 countries. It finds that while land reform was driven by equity and political justice, the approaches have varied dramatically among countries. The paper argues that differences in farm structures today can be partially explained by these land reform approaches.

Working Paper 23 titled "Large Agricultural Investments and Inclusion of Small Farmers: Lessons of Case Studies in Seven Countries" focuses on contract farming in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, the Lao People's Democratic Republic, and South Africa. It also looks at major commodities such as palm oil, rubber tree, fruits and vegetables, cereals, cotton and sugar cane. The paper notes that contract farming is particularly useful where companies cannot otherwise access or extend control over lands, and that it is a means of reducing supply costs and oversight, overcoming land constraints where land is already cultivated. In some cases, contract farming is leading to increased incomes and access to credit, whereas in other cases it has resulted in debt for vulnerable smallholder farmers.

The paper describes how contract farming has led to the commoditization of land and the emergence of land markets. For the most part, contract farming has not been harmful to family food security in the case studies, and it led to the introduction of new technologies and intensification of production systems. The paper stresses the need for the state to establish fair and economically conducive structures to promote contract farming that respects local people's rights, as well as the important potential role for farmer organizations. The paper also calls for agribusiness to support access to inputs, transparency, capacity building and recognition of local land rights. It underscores the key challenge of demonstrating the advantages of contract farming over large-scale land acquisition by agribusiness. [Publication: Working Paper 24: Land Reform in Central and Eastern Europe after 1989 and Its Outcome in the Form of Farm Structures and Land Fragmentation] [Publication: Working Paper 23: Large Agricultural Investments and Inclusion of Small Farmers: Lessons of Case Studies in Seven Countries]