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Land Reform and Sustainable Development


Land reform – the reallocation of rights to establish a more equitable distribution of farmland – can be a powerful strategy for promoting both economic development and environmental quality. This paper surveys land reform strategies, illustrated by the postwar reforms in East Asia and the ‘bottom-up’ land reform today being led by Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement. Land reform can reduce rural poverty not only by channeling a larger slice of the agricultural-income pie to low-income households, but also by increasing the size of the pie by raising land productivity. Land reform’s contribution to poverty reduction can be magnified by spillover effects in the urban economy. With a supportive policy environment, land reform also can foster a transition to sustainable agriculture, due to the environmental comparative advantages of small farms.

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