Latin America, Caribbean the region with Greatest Land Distribution Inequality 


Human Wrongs Watch

Santiago de Chile  – Improving the recognition of land tenure rights and creating a more equitable distribution of land is a necessary step to eradicate hunger and advance towards the Sustainable Development Objectives in Latin America and the Caribbean, FAO on April 5, 2017 said.*

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in South America the inequality is even higher than the regional average , while in Central America it is slightly below average. Photo: FAO

The region has the most unequal land distribution in the world: the Gini coefficient (which measures inequality) applied to the distribution of land in the region as a whole reaches 0.79, far surpassing Europe (0.57), Africa (0.56) and Asia (0.55).

In South America the inequality is even higher than the regional average (reaching a Gini coefficient of 0.85), while in Central America it is slightly below the average, with a coefficient of 0.75.

An OXFAM report published late last year shows that one percent of Latin America’s productive units concentrate more than half of its agricultural land.

According to the FAO, improving governance of land tenure, forests and fisheries and addressing growing land concentration is a key aspect of reducing rural poverty and protecting natural resources.

This and other issues, such as the impact of the agrarian reforms that have taken place in the region, will be discussed between 5 and 6 April at a high level meeting that will analyze the current situation and challenges of the governance of tenure of land, forests and fisheries in the region.

More land in less hands

Aurélie Brès, Land and Natural Resources Officer of FAO, warned that the land in the hands of small landowners has suffered a significant decrease, a situation that especially affects women, who only own 8% of the land in Guatemala and 31% in Peru, properties that are usually of smaller size and quality than those owned by men.

According to the FAO, as a result of a significant expansion of investments in the region through seed pools, annual leases of large land purchases, today the concentration of land reaches an even higher level than before the agrarian reforms that were carried out in several countries of the region.

It is estimated that 23% of Latin American lands are managed or are in the hands of indigenous peoples. Recognition of their rights has improved over the last twenty years, especially in the case of the region’s forests, but important steps still need to be taken to improve their land tenure.

FAO is supporting countries in the region to implement the Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance of Land Tenure, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of Food Security (VGRT), adopted by the countries five years ago, an instrument seeks to ensure the participation of all parties involved in the governance of tenure.

“The Guidelines ensure equitable access to land, fisheries and forests as a means to eradicate hunger and poverty, support sustainable development and improve the environment,” said Aurelie Bres.

The high-level meeting held at the FAO Regional Office seeks to generate a joint commitment by countries to advance the implementation of VTDs and analyze the positive experiences that have been developed in countries such as Colombia and Guatemala.

Colombia: land for peace

More than 50 years of conflict in Colombia deeply affected the Colombian countryside. According to official figures, currently only 7 of the 22 million hectares with agricultural potential that the country has are used.

According to FAO, reorganizing rural areas, redistributing land and using it appropriately represents one of the major challenges facing the country’s peace process, and the Voluntary Guidelines are one of the tools Colombia can use to improve access and use of land.

Felipe Fonseca, director of the Rural Agricultural Planning Unit of Colombia (UPRA, in Spanish), explained that 82 percent of the country’s productive land is in the hands of only 10 percent of the total owners, while 68 percent of the farms have less than 5 hectares, and only 50 percent of the land is formalized.

The FAO and UPRA signed a cooperation agreement to generate legal and institutional conceptual frameworks regarding the concentration and foreignization of productive lands of Colombia.

FAO is also supporting the country to use the Voluntary Guidelines to create adequate legal frameworks that promote decent livelihoods in rural areas and also schemes for the conservation and sustainable use of natural resources.

“With the Land Restitution Unit, FAO works together with the Swedish government on the characterization of collective lands and on a new land restitution initiative that will benefit diverse ethnic groups with over 100,000 hectares of land”, explained FAO’s Representative in Colombia, Rafael Zavala.

Guatemala used the Guidelines to create its new agricultural policy

In Guatemala, 92 percent of smallholders occupy 22 percent of the country’s land, while 2 percent of commercial producers use 57 percent of Guatemala’s land.

Guatemala was the first country in Latin America to officially use Voluntary Guidelines on Responsible Governance to develop, socialize and implement a new national agrarian policy.

FAO supported the government to reformulate the country’s agrarian policy in an inclusive way, with the participation of multiple actors from different sectors. The dialogue with different sectors included multiple aspects of the Voluntary Guidelines that shaped the country’s new agrarian policy.

FAO has also worked with the civil society to disseminate the Guidelines, training hundreds of people in their implementation and in their gender aspects.

Last January, FAO and the Secretariat of Agrarian Affairs (SAA, in Spanish) signed an agreement to strengthen their agrarian institutions and support the implementation of the country’s agrarian policy in the framework of the DVGT.

“These were consulted and validated by representatives of government institutions, the public and private sector, the civil and academic world,” said Diego Recalde, stressing the importance of DVGT to guarantee rural development in Guatemala.

*SOURCE: FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean. Go to Original

2017 Human Wrongs Watch

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