Constraints on Land Reform


By Prota Thomas

(Part 11)

In the case of peasant organizations, one must distinguish between those whose origins and purposes are focused on the struggle for their rights and those created primarily to perform economic functions.

Peasant collective action in the fight for land was more visible and significant in Latin America’s earlier reforms in countries such as Mexico, Venezuela and Bolivia.

The author wishes to emphasise that local collective action before and after will remain crucial to the support of meaningful land reforms. The following section explores the hypothesis that local action has become more constrained due to a variety of development over the past decades.

4. Obstacles to Effective Action
Scholars have argued that during the course of the past 100 years, changes in the conditions of agricultural life were unique and momentous.

Early on, a family needed little to provide for its subsistence beyond a parcel of land and basic tools. In today’s world, subsistence farming is becoming less and less viable, and it is next to impossible to exchange excess Omahangu for the raw materials of other life-sustaining necessities.

The market is now all important. All items vital to life are becoming necessities. The market penetrates and rules many aspects of life, even in the remotest of rural areas.

The technological revolution in farming totally transformed the conditions under which it is carried out today.

According to Krishna (1995) technology and the market demand new institutional rules and procedures, locally, nationally and internationally. Yet Korten (1995) observed that these developments have led to the increasing globalization of a food system in which the interests and powers of other nations, as well as of multinational corporations, penetrate deeply into life and decisions at the local level.

The author could also argue that all these developments have made actions and initiatives by local people, especially peasant interests, increasingly difficult to be guarded against.

This is because one of the most significant phenomena of today’s world is globalization, growing ties, networking and interdependencies among and between nations the world over.

Krishna (2001) argues that all economies, even those of the largest nations that were essentially self-sufficient a generation or two generations ago, are today highly dependent on international trade.

A corollary of this increased trade is that national economies are less amenable to direction by domestic economic policies, making life increasingly difficult for national legislators and executives. Cleveland (1985) concludes that “no nation controls even that central symbol of national independence, the value of its money, and inflation and recession are both transnational”.

5. Future Institutional Modernization to Level the Playing Field.

What are the fundamental essentials underlying the major constraints discussed above? Technology!!! But the question is can we turn back on technology? The author cannot propose to shut down the inquisitiveness of the human mind.

However, not all technologies are spreading world wide. How many states have nuclear weapons at their disposal? I leave it to you to find an answer.

The writer cannot profess to answer all questions. In addition, it is a fact that technology and globalization are here to stay. Who wants to deny humanity?
Krishna (200 I) argues that free markets are magnificent if the economy has the right characteristics for them to operate effectively. However, the author is of the opinion that market forces are subject to manipulation and control by those with the economic and political power to do so.

In fact nations do not possess the same knowledge, skills and experiences. It is also important to mention that when resources and opportunities are widely and equitably distributed, most economic activity is best left to individual and market forces.

But this is not in the interest of Namibia, where skewed distributions make self-help impossible for a larger and desperately poor proportion of the society due to the colonial legacy on this nation.

The author wishes to conclude by saying that this means that if we do not do it ourselves, we have failed Namibia! Why? Simply because a larger group of people is better at solving complex problems than an expert, no matter how brilliant he is.

So this implies that local people must be given the freedom to act on local problems. Let the local people do it, let local people take charge and solve their own problems.

6. Conclusion
The author has observed that only if responsibility is seriously embraced at each level can there be meaningful, fruitful, harmonious and widely accepted actions and consequences on land reform.

It is especially difficult when dealing with issues such as land redistribution, yet this issue must be dealt with by the people themselves.

The alternatives are either no solution to such difficult problem and risking a prospective revolt by the otherwise powerless masses or some selective but key-issue partial solutions with the potential to evolve into more general solutions.

In conclusion, I just wish to mention that there is a Chinese symbol for crisis called Wei ji which has two faces – one is risk, the other is opportunity. Doers are a different breed from head scratchers -Scott Sassa
-Prota Thomas is a land economist and Acting Deputy Valuer General in the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement. Views expressed are those of the writer and not those of the employer.


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