Landlessness and Rural Poverty in Underdeveloped Countries (Invited Lecture)

Publication Year : 1986

Poverty blights the lives of millions in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Most of the poor, at least in Africa and Asia, reside in rural areas, dependent directly or indirectly on agricultural land. The rural poor are, in the main, landless or near landless. While landlessness is among the most important characteristics of the rural poor, they are by no means an undifferentiated or a homogeneous mass of humanity. They may be the minifudistas in Latin America, marginal owner-operators in Asia, smallholders in Africa, who are struggling to survive by selling their labour to others either in or outside agriculture. The rural poor may also be tenants, either as sharecroppers (called by various names) or as “bonded” labour in some countries of Asia and colonos on the haciendas in Latin America. These households often have access to the usufruct of land, however tenuous their attachment to land. An increasing number of the rural poor are, however, the landless workers, who could be permanent, seasonal and even migratory. The temporary and migratory nature of rural labour has become the most visible sign of the “agrarian crisis” in many underdeveloped countries. It is also a reflection of the extent to which the rural sector has been brought into the nexus of the dominant international (capitalist) economy.

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