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Agrarian reforms in Africa 1980–2016: solution or evolution of the agrarian question?

  • Víctor O. Martín Martín, Luis M. Jerez Darias and Carlos S. Martín Fernández

Abstract

The first period of agrarian reforms with clear state control over the land (African socialisms) took place between 1945 and 1980, but then a second period started in which market agrarian reforms have prevailed. This work synthesizes agrarian structural reform policies (property systems and land tenure) between 1980 and 2016 in African countries, especially those that had or have bureaucratic bourgeoisie governments (one-party and/or African socialist). The two periods are complementary, rather then being opposed to each other, as state agrarian reforms smoothed the path to market agrarian reforms. Although there is not yet sufficient empirical research on the results of the agrarian reforms implemented during this period, our hypothesis is that they are helping to: increase the unequal structure of property; develop tenure systems and non-capitalist contractual labour relations in new ways, both non-associative (the grabbing of vast tracts of land) and associative (renewed control of customary lands by traditional authorities); and force peasant expropriation and the subsequent increase in the number of landless non-proletarianized peasants. Therefore, the problem of poor agrarian structures in Africa is still unresolved.

La première période de réformes agraires avec contrôle clair de l’État sur les terres (socialismes africains) a eu lieu entre 1945 et 1980, mais une seconde période a ensuite débuté au cours de laquelle ont prédominé des réformes agraires par le marché. Ces travaux synthétisent les politiques en matière de réforme des structures agraires (systèmes de propriété et régimes fonciers) entre 1980 et 2016 dans les pays africains, notamment ceux qui ont eu ou ont une bureaucratie bourgeoise (gouvernement unipartite ou socialiste africain). Ces deux périodes sont complémentaires, plutôt qu'opposées, dans la mesure où les réformes agraires d’État ont préparé la voie aux réformes agraires par le marché. Malgré le manque de recherche empirique sur les résultats des réformes agraires mises en place durant cette période, les auteurs émettent l'hypothèse qu'elles contribuent à renforcer la structure inégale de la propriété ; à développer des systèmes fonciers et des relations du travail contractuel non capitalistes selon des modes nouveaux, à la fois non associatifs (l'accaparement de vastes étendues de terres) et associatifs (contrôle renouvelé de terres coutumières par des autorités traditionnelles) ; et l'expropriation forcée de paysans et l'augmentation du nombre de paysans non prolétarisés sans terres qui en résulte. La faiblesse des structures agraires en Afrique reste donc un problème toujours pas résolu.

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