In principle, a reduction in the number of the farming population
is nothing bad, but rather a necessary component of economic
development. A widening man-land ratio means relatively less
pressure on the land and a chance of increasing labour productivity.
This phasing out of many families from cultivation is a process
paid for by agriculture and can be seen as a contribution
of this sector to development. During the period of transition,
one can expect a rapid inclusion of the rural areas in the
monetary system and the financing of agricultural inputs with
the income earned from non-agricultural activities. This may
speed up the introduction of modern technologies in smallholder
In the long run, however, the negative consequences may
predominate, especially if the process is not geared by suitable
policy measures. The smaller the holdings become, the less
they can be the base for financing training and migration
costs, the less they can pay for local infrastructure and
its maintenance and the less the proceeds suffice to allow
the application of modern inputs in agriculture.
As farm size decreases, the common rural social security
system becomes paralysed. Hitherto, the farm acted as a buffer
to absorb the risk of invalidity, sickness and old age, primarily
for the owner family, but, to a minimal extent, for the dependent
labourer and the service community as well. This depends,
naturally, on the capability and thus on the income-generating
capacity of the farm related to its size. Today, we experience
that, in more and more cases, the farm size shrinks below
subsistence level and thus, below the possibility to provide
minimal social security before other institutions take over.
Labourers are affected earlier than owner family members.
Turkey is a good example of this situation, and not the only
The necessary introduction of social policy into the measures
of rural development will require time, not least because
it involves a basic change in concepts. It includes difficult
problems of organization under the conditions prevailing in
developing countries and of financing in poor societies. These
problems are not unsurmountabie, especially if one considers
the numerous payments for social purposes already effected
today by private, public, religious and other sectors.
The main issue along with a diminishing traditional peasant
agriculture is the future relation between man and land, a
highly political question which requires time-consuming processes
of thought, conceptualisation and negotiation. There are several
options for a post-peasant agriculture, however, a mix is
the most likely:
Peasants may stop dividing the farm at the time of inheritance
in order to keep the farm going as a centre for the whole
family. This requires enough non-farm jobs and affects the
old custom of equal treatment for all children.
- Heirs of small plots of land may start part-time farming
of one or the other type.
This, as well, requires non-agricultural jobs and differs
from the first alternative
mainly because of its different effect on the place of residence
of the persons
Lease, contract farming and entrustment of land may become
widespread, with one brother continuing farming his and
his brothers' land. The others engage in non-agricultural
activities. Again, such jobs are a precondition. This system
settles the distribution problem among the brothers in a
way well known to all.
- If this continues over a long time, the result may be
a division of landownership
between a small number of progressive farmers cultivating
larger holdings of
owned and leased land along modern lines, and the majority
only, which they keep for sentimental reasons, as a rural
residence or as
subsistence contribution. Not only social but also economic
ties are possible
between those two groups.
- Smallholders may choose not to work as part-time farmers
proper, but to join a
production cooperative which has personnel and a machine
stock and performs all
or most of the work, while the owner family helps only in
a limited number of
activities such as weeding and harvesting.
- Landowners with secure non-agricultural jobs, perhaps
residing far away, may
prefer to hand over the land to companies which assume all
the responsibility for
management and work and pay at the end of the year for the
use of the factor land
like a stock company.
All these forms already exist, even if some of them only
in a small number. Each type gets on with the different goals
of the landowners concerned which, again, are generated by
the varying circumstances under which these live. Which type
becomes most widespread is strongly influenced by policy and
is, in cause and effect, a question of values in societies.
The development will lead to a reduction in the independence
of villages and peasants in the agrarian society and to an
increase in the differentiation and mutual dependencies of
groups in the society.
It is important to study at an early stage the pros and
cons of different types of man-land relations so that the
policy-makers have enough information and instruments to guide
the process. Neglecting this process will lead to speculation,
non-agriculturists taking over the land, windfall profits,
especially on the fringe of urban areas, tax avoidance, etc.
Some newly industrialized countries, where the process has
progressed most, already show enough undesirable cases.
The last generation
of 'peasants' is approaching
in: Quarterly Journal of International Agriculture ; 30, H.