Access to Land and Development
Alain de Janvry and Elisabeth Sadoulet, 2008. “Access to Land and Development” New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics, 2nd edition, edited by Steven Durlauf and Lawrence Blume, Palgrave Macmillan.
Access to land, and the conditions under which it happens, play a fundamental role in economic development. This is because how the modes of access to land and the rules and conditions of access are set, as policy instruments, has the potential of increasing agricultural output and aggregate income growth, helping reduce poverty and inequality, improving environmental sustainability, and providing the basis for effective governance and securing peace. This potential role is, however, difficult to capture, and there are many cases of failure. History is indeed replete with serious conflicts over access to land and with instances of wasteful uses of the land, both privately and socially. Governments and development agencies have for this reason had to deal with the “land question” as an important item on their agendas (de Janvry et al., 2002). We explain in this note: (1) why access to land, and the conditions under which it is accessed and used, are important for economic development, (2) how different types of property rights can affect access and use, (3) what are different modes of access, and in particular the role of land markets, and (4) what are some of the policy implications to enhance how access to and use of the land can contribute to economic development. We stress in this note that access to land may be a difficult policy question, but that access will only translate into development if the harder question of influencing how it is used is effectively resolved.
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