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‘Land inequality threatens livelihood of 2.5 bln: Report’

Published: 28th Nov, 2020

There is urgent need to act on land equality for any significant progress towards global sustainability, stability and social justice, flags Land Inequality Initiative report.


There is urgent need to act on land equality for any significant progress towards global sustainability, stability and social justice, flags Land Inequality Initiative report.


  • Land inequality has been historically measured in terms of differences in land ownership. But it is much more complex and multi-dimensional.
  • Four approaches were used to look at land inequality:
    • The size and value of land that people have access to or hold
    • Level of security of tenure that people have
    • Actual control that people have, including their decision-making power over land and
    • Control of the benefits from the land
  • Land inequality is central to other forms of inequality as well as many global crises and trends such as economic, political, social, spatial and environmental inequality.

The Report

  • The report, Uneven Ground: land inequality at the heart of unequal societies, is the first of its kind, shedding new light on the scale and speed of this growing phenomenon and providing the most comprehensive picture available today.
  • The report was informed under a wide partnership led by the International Land Coalition, of which CIRAD is a member, and in close collaboration with Oxfam.

Key-highlights: The current scenario of land inequality

  • The top 10 percent of the rural population captures 60 percent of agricultural land value; the bottom half controls only 3 per cent.
  • This land inequality continues to threaten the livelihoods of an estimated 2.5 billion people involved in smallholder agriculture.
  • Global land concentration has increased continuously since the 1980s.
  • Today, the largest 1 percent of farms in the world operate more than 70 percent of the world’s farmland of countries including India, China, Ecuador, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, Ethiopia and Tanzania.
  • About 84 percent of farms were smaller than two hectares, but they operated only about 12 percent of farmland, with little opportunity to be part of corporate supply chains.

The current trend

  • A clear trend in most low-income countries was an increasing number of farms, combined with smaller farm sizes.
  • Across the world, and especially in higher-income countries, large farms were getting bigger.
  • A vast majority of the smallest farms globally were in Africa and Asia, where they were essential to the livelihoods of a large proportion of the population.
  • Most farms were smaller than two hectares, and there was a significant amount of land in farms of 2-10 hectares. A very small proportion of land appeared to be part of much larger farms, the report found.
  • Hidden behind shrinking average farm sizes in most low-income countries was the increasing number of mega-farms, each taking up thousands of hectares of space.

Horizontal inequality

  • Horizontal inequality, which is inequality based on gender, ethnicity or culture in specific groups of people, is interconnected with land access, ownership and control.
  • These types of inequality undermine sustainability.
  • This is because women, indigenous people and local communities tend to be the custodians of household well-being, sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity preservation, bio-cultural conservation and social justice.

Which countries have the highest levels of inequality?

  • Asian countries such as India, Bangladesh and Pakistan had among the highest levels of inequality when land values and the landless population are included.
  • Income inequality, however, makes agrarian crisis challenging for countries like India.

Impact of growing inequality

  • Obstacle to poverty eradication: Growing inequality is the greatest obstacle to poverty eradication – in countries.
  • Loss of land and livelihood: The biggest danger is that the expansion of corporate-controlled agriculture will render the local system unviable, displacing people from their land and livelihood.
  • Conflicts: Increasing pressure on land from industry, agriculture and infrastructure projects has led to violent conflicts.
  • Spread of disease: Rapid urbanization and changes in agricultural practices such as increased commercial monocropping have also been linked to the spread of disease, including the novel coronavirus.

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