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Bolivian land returned to the people

Plans are under way in Bolivia to redistribute land. The first phase will be to distribute 4.5 million hectares of state-owned land. Two million hectares have been earmarked for women and indigenous peoples. The second phase will involve expropriating privately owned land that is deemed to be unproductive or held solely for speculation and investment purposes. Bolivian legislation forbids foreign citizens to own property within 50 kilometres of the border, and indigenous and small farmers’ organizations are calling for these lands – owned by Brazilian and Paraguayan entrepreneurs – to be expropriated for their benefit.

These reforms will drastically change land distribution. Presently just 100 families own 25 million hectares of Bolivian land while 2 million small farmers have access to only 5 million hectares, according to a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Earlier this year President Evo Morales quoted the example of landowners who put one cow out to pasture on 50,000 hectares of land to explain why he intended to promote fair land distribution during his five-year term. Indigenous leaders in the eastern district of Santa Cruz have reportedly registered 22,000 families – who are now landless or land poor – to become beneficiaries under the land programmes.


New Internationalist issue 392 magazine cover This article is from the August 2006 issue of New Internationalist.
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