Challenges in the transformation of land unequal local economies: from land reform to territorial development?


This paper provides a compilation and discussion of some of the main conceptual and empirical findings of the DFID financed policy research project Land Access and Participatory Territorial Development, drawing on case studies undertaken with research partners in South Africa and Brazil. It discusses the salient features of Brazil’s rural territorial development approach, and the implications for land reform. The paper then considers perspectives on land, territory and local economic development from South Africa including theoretical analysis of localism and the impacts of globalisation on the post-apartheid reorganisation of space, and the practical approaches adopted through the Integrated Development Planning (IDP) framework, Local Economic Development methods and the opportunities for territorial, or “area based” approaches to land reform.

Much of the paper is devoted to the main findings of the case studies undertaken by the research project, in particular a detailed study of land access and rural territorial development in Medio Sao Francisco, Brazil, and an assessment of the performance and impacts of land distribution in Elliot District, Eastern Cape in its wider economic context. It also draws on the experience of an area based land reform initiative developed by a land NGO, Nkuzi Development Association in Makhado municipality, Limpopo province, the greater part of which is subject to land restitution claims by communities forcibly relocated into the Venda and Gazankulo former “homelands”. The paper and sets out overall conclusions and policy implications under three main headings, the construction of territories and territorial identity, the implementation of land reform at a territorial scale, and discusses the challenges of institutional transformation involved in achieving socially inclusive rural territorial development in a context of unequal access to land.


Land and Territory Research Paper No. 8, 40 pp.

Challenges in the transformation of land unequal local economies: from land reform to territorial development?

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