Monday, July 03, 2006

Fighting poverty with property rights

Farmers in many less-developed countries cannot own the land they farm. Not because they can't afford to buy it, but because their countries don't have a clear system of titles for real property - land, homes, etc. Not being able to establish ownership of the land messes up the economy. Your family has been farming the same land for 3 generations. But you want to move to another area or stop farming and start a business. How do you sell the land? Who would pay you for the land you say you own when you can establish that you have title to it? So people are restricted from moving. Land has less value; I mean, the land's value is locked up and can't be used. Prof. Roy Prosterman of University of Washington is in the middle of the fight to fix this problem. Rural Development Institute
is an international land law and policy group fighting one of the chief structural causes of global poverty—rural landlessness—with passion, professionalism and great effect. Over the past 38 years, RDI professionals have worked with the governments of 40 developing countries, foreign aid agencies, and other partners to design and implement fundamental legal, policy, and programmatic reforms resulting in large-scale transfers of land ownership or ownership-like rights to the world’s rural poor.
Hernando de Soto of Peru has also worked getting third-world countries' legal systems corrected also. See De Soto's Institute for Liberty and Democracy.

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