Brieﬁng www.future-agricultures.org Land, Land Policy and Smallholder Agriculture in Ethiopia L and and land tenure is a hot policy issue in Ethiopia. Three key issues are raised – farm size a consequence of declining soil quality and fertility in some highland areas. The average farm size is key challenge is to ﬁnd mechanisms for land transfer which allows some consolidation of land, while and fragmentation and the question considered by many too be small offsetting the dangers of a rapid of what is a ‘viable’ farm unit; to allow sustainable intensiﬁcation growth in landlessness through tenure security and whether lack of smallholder agriculture. The dispossession or unproductive of land registration/certiﬁcation probability of adopting fertiliser accumulation of land. Moreover, or titling undermines investment and improved seeds decreases with many critics suggest that peasants in productivity improvements; and declines in farm size. Households open-ended use right should be ﬁnally the issue land markets and with relatively small farm size are changed into a ﬁxed, renewable whether imperfectly functioning generally poor in cash income, long-term lease agreement markets constrain opportunities for have less access to extension following the Chinese or land consolidation, investment and services and credit, and have Vietnamese model. agricultural growth. less risk coping opportunities to take risks of rain failure, and less Land markets and Farm size, land proﬁtable technologies given higher smallholder agriculture fragmentation and transaction costs of acquisition and smallholder production application of fertiliser per unit of Despite policy constraints, land operated land. rental markets remain important Ethiopia is a country of smallholder in Ethiopia. Taking ﬁxed rental agriculture. In the 2000 cropping Tenure insecurity and and sharecropping together, season, 87.4 % of rural households smallholder production 22% and 23% of households operated less than 2 hectares; in Tigray and Amhara regions, whereas 64.5 % of them cultivated Given the absence of any respectively, cultivate someone farms less than one hectare; while contractual or lease agreement with else’s land obtained through land 40.6 % operated land sizes of 0.5 the government and the general rental markets. Such markets help hectare and less. Such small farms belief that land redistribution land transfer from relatively old, are fragmented on average into 2.3 will take place any time, tenure resource poor farmers to young, plots. The average farm size can insecurity is often high. This result healthier and/or relatively resource generate only about 50% of the is that incentives to invest in land rich farmers. Land rental markets minimum income required for the improvement are often minimal. can improve the allocative efﬁciency average farm household to lead a The Ethiopian government has of factors of production and so life out of poverty, if current levels in recent years tried to address expand the use of purchased farm of farm productivity and price this problem through issuing inputs like inorganic fertilisers and structures remain constant. Such certiﬁcates of land use rights to improved seeds. Farm households farmers have little or no surplus for peasants. Moreover, some regional that rent-in or share-in lands investment and for input purchase. governments (like Tigray and not only applied more improved The increasing decline of farm Oromia) have land administration technologies, but also got the size also leads to a reduction of laws that limit the possibilities of opportunity to use labour and oxen fallowing practice or shortening of land distribution/redistribution to that otherwise would be under- or fallow cycles, and rotation, with only certain speciﬁed categories. A unutilized. The Future Agricultures Consortium aims to encourage critical debate and policy dialogue on the future of agriculture in Africa. The consortium is a partnership between research-based organisations in Africa and the UK. Future Agricultures, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, BN1 9RE Tel: +44 (0)1273 877418 Email: email@example.com Brieﬁng Future options and land under such conditions, so the farming operations. Rural areas scenarios argument goes, is not necessarily might then have the chance of prejudicial to investment and prospering with linkages fostered Everyone recognises that land is productivity growth as long, as by a revitalised in the labour a critical issue, and developing land users trust the government market in agro-processing, trading an effective policy framework is and mechanisms for gaining ﬁnance and other activities. External vital for the future of agriculture are secured which do not require investment would then ﬂow in in Ethiopia. However, the land land ownership as collateral. This creating a virtuous cycle of growth issue, perhaps more than any other requires interventions by the state and development, offsetting policy issue, is hotly contested. An in increasing the trust levels of any negative consequences of enhanced free operation of land land management institutions and displacement and landlessness. rental market, some commentators offering alternative methods for argue, could have positive effects, supplying credit and alternative Encouraging land rental encouraging land consolidation employment for the growing markets. and increasing incentives for land landless population. The full privatisation and titling investments and commercialisation. model is however seen by many But many policymakers have a less Land privatisation and titling. as risky. The consequences of positive view. A freely operating Some argue that the efﬁciency gains rapid consolidation of farm areas land rental market could lead, of land privatisation and formal and an increase in landlessness they argue, to unproductive titling in Ethiopia are signiﬁcant, among those selling most or all accumulation of land or translate allowing agricultural entrepreneurs of their land is seen as potentially into the creation of a large landless to consolidate land holdings and catastrophic in both humanitarian class, with unknown social and manage ‘economically viable’ land and political terms. Others argue political consequences. Given these units on a commercial basis. This that a good compromise already debates, what, then, should future would encourage others to move exists in the form of land rental land policies be centred on? Four out of agriculture and away from markets, but is constrained future scenarios are evident: sub-economic ‘starvation plots’ by inappropriate policies. The and seek other forms of livelihood degree to which such government Maintaining state ownership outside the rural areas, or within regulations are enforced is not of land and facilitating linked to new more commercial known, and most case study agriculture-led growth. evidence points This has been referred to as the to an existing ‘China model’ and is the favoured and vibrant land approach of the government. The rental market in argument runs that small farms are highland areas. The not necessarily ‘sub-economic’, as policy challenge long as land productivity is boosted then is to provide through external support and a framework for investments in new technology. encouraging and Total reliance on a farm plot is also formalising land not advisable, and diversiﬁcation rentals – and into other non-farm activities, associated labour fostered by farm-led economic migration/exchanges growth makes sense. This reduces and improvements risk exposure and encourages a of efﬁciency through broader based growth in the rural scale advantages economy. High population densities – while avoiding also encourage market linkages and Land policy is hotly debated in Ethiopia. the downsides of the growth of rural business and But what aspects should future land policy focus on? rapid moves to small towns. State ownership of Image source: IFAD consolidation and landlessness. Readers are encouraged to quote or reproduce material from Future Agricultures Brieﬁngs in their own publications. In return, the Future Agricultures Consortium requests due acknowledgement and a copy of the publication. Brieﬁng Enhancing tenure security. fact lie elsewhere, requiring or its abandonment. Such pilot Some argue that it is tenure more attention to physical land programmes will also create security not land ownership redistribution through other conditions to test empirically the (through registered title, leasehold means. validity of policy makers’ fears or rental agreement) that is the that private ownership of land or issue. Many studies have shown Conclusion unrestricted land rental market how perceived insecurity of tenure will encourage or force Ethiopian restricts people’s incentives Everyone is agreed on the peasants to migrate en masse to invest in land improving overall aim – to boost pro-poor into urban centres due to distress technologies and management agriculture-led growth – and this sale of their land due to drought- systems. The fear of redistribution is echoed in policy documents or poverty-induced problems. or appropriation, as discussed and discussions from all sides of With the next phase of the above, hangs over many people and the debate, but what to do about Future Agricultures Consortium is well remembered from the past. land and land tenure remains work in Ethiopia focusing on Despite assurances, it is apparent a sticking point which urgently regional, state-level discussions of that many smallholders don’t trust needs to be tackled. In order to future agriculture and livelihood the government on this. Recent avoid sudden, nation-wide changes scenarios, the content of this attempts at providing systems with uncertain consequences, paper is intended to provide a of land registration through there is also a possibility to test sound information base for such certiﬁcation may be one route to the potential impact of any policy discussions. providing such assurances. It will revision through pilot programmes be important to ﬁnd out whether in limited areas, commentators by Samuel Gebreselassie this does change perceptions and argue. This will allow time to result in greater investments, make necessary adjustment for full Correspondence to: or whether the constraints in implementation of any programme firstname.lastname@example.org Readers are encouraged to quote or reproduce material from Future Agricultures Brieﬁngs in their own publications. In return, the Future Agricultures Consortium requests due acknowledgement and a copy of the publication.