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The impact of land property rights interventions on investment and agricultural productivity in developing countries

Additional Info

  • Authors: Steven Lawry, Cyrus Samii, Ruth Hall, Aaron Leopold, Donna Hornby, Farai Mtero
  • Published date: 2014-01-02
  • Coordinating group(s): International Development
  • Type of document: Review, Plain language summary
  • Library Image: Library Image
  • See the full review: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.4073/csr.2014.1
  • Records available in: English, Spanish
  • English:

    PLAIN LANGUAGE SUMMARY

    Land property rights interventions improve agricultural productivity and investment in Latin America and Asia, but less in Africa

    Land property rights interventions increase investment, agricultural productivity and farmer incomes in Latin America and Asia but have weaker effects in Africa. But there can also be negative social outcomes such as displacing the poor and reducing women’s access to land.

    What is this review about?

    Farmers who have secure land rights can invest in long-term improvements to their farms without worrying that their land will be confiscated. Formalizing property rights may improve agricultural productivity, increase farmer income and improve access to credit.

    The most common approach to strengthening land rights in Latin America and Asia is to convert communal or non-demarcated rural land to freehold title, then register rights to the land in an official registry. In Africa, the more common approach is to demarcate and register existing customary rights. Underlying ownership remains with the state, and land sales are often restricted. This review examines the evidence on the impacts of such interventions on agricultural and livelihood outcomes in rural areas in low and middle-income countries.

    What is the aim of this review?

    This Campbell Systematic Review examines the effect of interventions to strengthen land property rights on outcomes such as investment, agricultural productivity and farmer incomes in rural areas in low and middle-income countries. The review summarises evidence from 20 quantitative studies (quasi-experimental studies with statistical adjustment for bias) and nine qualitative studies.

    What studies are included?

    The review includes 20 quantitative studies with quasi-experimental study designs with statistical adjustment for bias, and nine qualitative studies. The studies were conducted in Latin America, South Asia, East Asia and Africa, and each compared households or land parcels where the interventions did and did not occur. The time between intervention and assessment ranged from two years to 44 years.

    No studies of sufficient quality were found on another kind of land property right intervention: statutory recognition of customary land rights at a legal status equal to state and private ownership, and registration of these rights in an official registry).

    What are the main findings of this review?

    What are the effects of agricultural and livelihood outcomes of land property rights interventions?

    Land property rights improve productivity, consumption expenditure and income. However, caution is needed in interpreting this finding as there are few high-quality studies available.

    Where are land property rights interventions effective?

    Land property rights interventions have significant effects in Latin America and Asia. In Africa, the effects are positive, but much weaker. Landholders in Africa may have sufficient security from customary tenure arrangements and therefore have less need for formalization. They may also have less ability to invest in their farms after gaining land rights, due to lower incomes. And tenure reforms may not be coupled adequately with investments in training, roads, or other forms of “public capital.”

    What are the other outcomes of land property rights interventions?

    Qualitative studies show that social outcomes such as displacement, conflict or gender equality are unpredictable and sometimes negative, such as displacing the poor and reducing women’s access to land.

    How has this intervention worked?

    The studies suggest that land property rights interventions contribute to welfare through improved perceived security and resulting long-term investment. No studies showed that land property rights interventions improve access to credit.

    What do the findings of this review mean?

    Land property rights interventions are promising in terms of economic outcomes but the context should be considered carefully, because benefits may not outweigh negative social consequences, especially in areas with strong existing customary land rights. More research is needed on social outcomes.

    How up-to-date is this review?

    The review authors searched for qualitative and quantitative studies published until October 2012; the search for qualitative studies was updated in July 2013. This Campbell Systematic Review was published in January 2014.

  • Spanish:

    Click on 'Download PDF' on the right to view the plain language summary in Spanish.

Select language:

PLAIN LANGUAGE SUMMARY

Land property rights interventions improve agricultural productivity and investment in Latin America and Asia, but less in Africa

Land property rights interventions increase investment, agricultural productivity and farmer incomes in Latin America and Asia but have weaker effects in Africa. But there can also be negative social outcomes such as displacing the poor and reducing women’s access to land.

What is this review about?

Farmers who have secure land rights can invest in long-term improvements to their farms without worrying that their land will be confiscated. Formalizing property rights may improve agricultural productivity, increase farmer income and improve access to credit.

The most common approach to strengthening land rights in Latin America and Asia is to convert communal or non-demarcated rural land to freehold title, then register rights to the land in an official registry. In Africa, the more common approach is to demarcate and register existing customary rights. Underlying ownership remains with the state, and land sales are often restricted. This review examines the evidence on the impacts of such interventions on agricultural and livelihood outcomes in rural areas in low and middle-income countries.

What is the aim of this review?

This Campbell Systematic Review examines the effect of interventions to strengthen land property rights on outcomes such as investment, agricultural productivity and farmer incomes in rural areas in low and middle-income countries. The review summarises evidence from 20 quantitative studies (quasi-experimental studies with statistical adjustment for bias) and nine qualitative studies.

What studies are included?

The review includes 20 quantitative studies with quasi-experimental study designs with statistical adjustment for bias, and nine qualitative studies. The studies were conducted in Latin America, South Asia, East Asia and Africa, and each compared households or land parcels where the interventions did and did not occur. The time between intervention and assessment ranged from two years to 44 years.

No studies of sufficient quality were found on another kind of land property right intervention: statutory recognition of customary land rights at a legal status equal to state and private ownership, and registration of these rights in an official registry).

What are the main findings of this review?

What are the effects of agricultural and livelihood outcomes of land property rights interventions?

Land property rights improve productivity, consumption expenditure and income. However, caution is needed in interpreting this finding as there are few high-quality studies available.

Where are land property rights interventions effective?

Land property rights interventions have significant effects in Latin America and Asia. In Africa, the effects are positive, but much weaker. Landholders in Africa may have sufficient security from customary tenure arrangements and therefore have less need for formalization. They may also have less ability to invest in their farms after gaining land rights, due to lower incomes. And tenure reforms may not be coupled adequately with investments in training, roads, or other forms of “public capital.”

What are the other outcomes of land property rights interventions?

Qualitative studies show that social outcomes such as displacement, conflict or gender equality are unpredictable and sometimes negative, such as displacing the poor and reducing women’s access to land.

How has this intervention worked?

The studies suggest that land property rights interventions contribute to welfare through improved perceived security and resulting long-term investment. No studies showed that land property rights interventions improve access to credit.

What do the findings of this review mean?

Land property rights interventions are promising in terms of economic outcomes but the context should be considered carefully, because benefits may not outweigh negative social consequences, especially in areas with strong existing customary land rights. More research is needed on social outcomes.

How up-to-date is this review?

The review authors searched for qualitative and quantitative studies published until October 2012; the search for qualitative studies was updated in July 2013. This Campbell Systematic Review was published in January 2014.

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