paraguay landless eviction farmers

In Paraguay, In Senegal, the Struggle Goes On
nigeria sierra leone tenure land conflict

A Lone Landlord Demands Whose Rent For Nothing?

People still kill each other for land, but when people use land efficiently, there’s plenty for all. And practice shows people do use land efficiently when they must pay rent not to a lord but to their community. We trim, blend, and append three 2012 articles from: (1) BBC, Jun 16, on Paraguay; (2) Leadership, Jun 23, on Nigeria, by D. Nadi; and (3) IRIN, Jun 22, on Senegal.

by BBC, by Donaturs Nadi, and by IRIN

In Paraguay seven police officers and at least nine landless farmers have died in clashes.

A police spokesman said the officers were shot dead when they tried to evict landless protesters who had occupied a property in the east of Paraguay.

The owner of the land in Canindeyu province said about 100 families had invaded his property three weeks ago; it is not clear how many remain.

Local doctors say dozens more police and farmers have been injured.

The farmers said the land was illegally taken during the 1954-1989 military rule of Gen Alfredo Stroessner and distributed among his allies.

Landless leader Jose Rodriguez told Paraguayan radio that those killed "were humble farmers, members of the landless movement, who'd decided to stay and resist".

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has ordered the military to intervene.

The Paraguayan Congress and the Senate have convened an extraordinary session to decide whether to declare a state of emergency in the region.

To read more

JJS: The pattern of a powerful man giving land to cohorts and extracting rent is widespread throughout the tropics (and more subtly in the developed world).

Assakio, in Lafia of Nasarawa, was turned into a theatre of war with no fewer than 30 killed following a clash over disagreement over land rent.

In a predawn raid, combatants from both communities engaged in battle that left many dead, thousands injured, and the face of the communities disfigured.

The bodies of men, women, and children littered the streets while many property were destroyed.

The tears for the dead continue to fall like rain and not many of the families can be consoled by any word of encouragement.

Although the dawn raid took many by surprise, others had got wind of the impending assault and fled before the invaders set their foot on their targets.

Even though one official heard rumors of war, he took it as careless talk and relaxed in his house. When the attackers raided the area they killed his elder brother.

The Alago traditional ruler, His Royal Highness Francis Inarigu, is alleged to be at the centre of the recent crisis.

Inarigu demanded from the leaders of the various communities in his domain an increased amount to be paid by farmers cultivating any part of community land.

Although the practice of farmers paying royalties to the traditional ruler is not new in the area, the law has not been enforced for some time.

Newcomers who long ago started converting the royal forests to farming continued the tradition of giving the chief part of their harvest (instead of part from their hunt).

But the tradition faded away and the Osakyo of Assakio’s attempt to revive it was met with stiff resistance.

Armed military personnel and riot policemen have been deployed to all trouble spots leading to Assakio.

To read more

JJS: Innocent women and children may suffer the most.

The belief that land exists for the dead, the living, and the unborn, and so cannot be permanently alienated is still strongly held in many areas in Africa.

Sierra Leone’s conflict was set off in part due to highly unequal distribution of natural resources, including land. During the war, which ended in 2002, two thirds of the population was displaced, and those who returned home often found their farmlands destroyed or occupied.

Like many African countries, Sierra Leone has a dual land tenure system, with aspects from the colonial era and customary ownership. This creates confusion regarding land rights for women.

The 2007 Devolution of Estate Act criminalizes depriving a woman from inheriting her husband's property after his death. It recognizes customary marriage, the rights of polygamous spouses, and imposes penalties for evicting a spouse or child from the marital home.

The inheritance should be shared among surviving family, with 35 percent going to the spouse, 35 percent to the children, 15 percent to parents. and 15 percent in line with any customary laws.

But the act only recognizes an individual’s right to land, not a family’s, and the vast majority of Sierra Leonean women live under traditional land tenure structures that do not recognize a woman’s right to own property.

Customary law -- under the heads of ruling families known as paramount chiefs -- governs the provinces. Paramount chiefs, the “custodians of the land”, are generally men and most ethnic groups do not allow women to inherit land and property. Customary law applies in 12 of Sierra Leone’s 14 districts.

Women use the land more. But when it comes to ownership, women do not own the land.

Agriculture accounts for over half of Sierra Leone’s income, up to 80 percent of the country’s agricultural workforce are women, and women farmers directly affect 40 percent of the national revenue.

As a result of losing their land, many women and their families are pushed into hunger, children drop out of school, and families are forced to live on the street. Others must marry one of their husband’s male relatives to survive.

Sierra Leone’s 1991 constitution states that all persons are equal under the law, “unless customary law says otherwise”.

To read more

JJS: People have settled land conflicts by recognizing the fact that each user should pay the community for exclusive use. This rent could be recovered by a tax on land value or by other means. Denmark, California, Australia, New Zealand, and Taiwan all used this method to settle land disputes, break up huge latifundia, and get land into the working hands of family farmers. If you’re in touch with anyone disputing land ownership, let them know.

The notion of paying community for land leads to a whole new way of studying economics, which one might call geonomics. Its leading proponent over a century ago was a reformer named Henry George. To hear an interview on WGDR radio in New York City from July 9 of Scott Baker, President of Common Ground – NYC and Huffington Post Blogger, discuss the topic, click here . It's 1 minute in and half an hour shorter than planned due to technical difficulties.


Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .

Also see:

Corruption Afflicts Africa and America Dearly

Buying Time: The Pursuit of Happiness

Outsiders re-claim Africa but also stiffen the rules

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