Panos Media Toolkit on Communicating Research-No.1
People’s capacity to access and use land is of utmost importance because of the bearing it has on several processes like economic growth, poverty reduction, and increased private investment and transparent and accountable government. Thus for the development of society as a whole it is essential that the government establishes a system that ensures access to land and housing. To ensure a sound policy, research must be carried on, on land management. Researches have brought forth the flaws of reform movements. The Zambian 1995 Land Act, provided for private ownership over customary rights, research showed that this worsened the position of the poor people. There have also been positive reforms. In particular the ‘Land to the tiller’ reforms which put an end to the feudal system e.g. in the Indian States of Kerala and West Bengal, however these reforms did not benefit those who were not tilling their own lands. Modernization has given rise to several problems in land management. Growing of cash crops has led to fragmentation of lands, smaller holdings are available to people for cultivation. Modernization has also posed a threat to pastoralism. Its survival as put forth by academics will depend on political decisions and the ability of the customary system to adapt to change. Urbanization has resulted in a very lopsided situation, while the standard of living of a few is very high the remaining live in extreme poverty. The poor turn towards illegal housing markets of slums. Because of the illegal status of these settlements no basic amenities are available. It is argued by some that land reforms are based on that assumption that the allocation of land to the male head of the family would ensure the benefit of all members but this does not always happen. Some researchers assert that in spite of the fact that women are excluded from ownership, such reforms provide paid work, access to health care etc. Decentralized governance has always been favored for development but however if the local governments are weak then the local vested powers may manipulate the policies in their favour. When property rights are insecure the forest resources may be taken over by the elites. Even if this does not happen, research shows that community based natural resource management is not always just and fair because of the hierarchical nature of most communities. Research further shows that devolution of power directly in favour of people works better than allocation of decision-making power i.e. local government, for various land management issues.