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LATIN AMERICA
Increasing land concentration
Latinamerica Press
5/1/2017
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Region has the world’s greatest inequality in distribution of land.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) made an appeal on Apr. 5 to improve “the recognition of land tenure rights and creating a more equitable distribution of land as a necessary step to eradicate hunger and advance towards the Sustainable Development Objectives in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

According to a report published in November 2016 by the humanitarian organization Oxfam, entitled “Unearthed: Land, power and inequality in Latin America”, “economic and social inequality are some of the greatest impediments to Latin American societies achieving sustainable development and economic growth. The 32 richest people in the region hold the same amount of wealth as the 300 million poorest people. This economic inequality is closely related to the possession of land, as non-financial assets account for 64 percent of total wealth.”

“Land distribution is a historical structural problem in Latin America; for two centuries, this issue has caused more wars, population displacements, social conflicts, hunger, and inequality than any other,” Oxfam said

Latin America has the most unequal land distribution in the world, FAO maintained. The Gini coefficient — which measures inequality where 0 is the perfect equality and 1 is the perfect 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,” FAO added, “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.”

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 percent of the land in Guatemala and 31 percent in Peru, properties that are usually of smaller size and quality than those owned by men.”

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, to which is added that 23 percent of Latin American lands are managed or are in the hands of indigenous peoples.

“Vast areas of forest, pasture, shoreline, and other communally owned resources have been grabbed from their legitimate ancestral owners, whose territorial rights are frequently violated”, Oxfam said. “As a result, distribution and control of land is now even more heavily concentrated than it was prior to the implementation of redistributive policies in the 1960s. Yet there are different forms of control over land, besides ownership. Leases, concessions, production under contract, and control of strategic value chain segments are becoming increasingly important, and have reconfigured land-related power through a complex system of commercial, political, and financial relationships.”

FAO has recommended the Latin American countries to improve governance of land tenure, forests and fisheries and addressing growing land concentration is a key aspect of reducing rural poverty and protecting natural resources. —Latinamerica Press.

LATIN AMERICA
  Gini coefficient for land distribution
Country
Gini coefficient*
Most recent year available
Paraguay
0.93
2008
Chile
0.91
1997
Colombia
0.88
2009
Venezuela
0.88
1997
BraZil
0.87
2006
PerU
0.86
1994
Guatemala
0.84
2003
Uruguay
0.84
2000
Argentina
0.83
1998
El Salvador
0.81
2001
Ecuador
0.80
2000
Bolivia
0.77
1984
PanamA
0.77
2001
Nicaragua
0.72
2001
Costa Rica
0.67
nd

* 0 is the perfect equality and 1 is the perfect inequality
Source: OXFAM

 


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