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Regulatory framework for protecting ownership of agricultural land


General property law is expanded to include sections on buying, selling and inheriting agricultural and forestry land and entire farms and businesses (land-use regulations). This is usually associated with the introduction of a country-wide property / land register.

The development of efficient, sustainable agriculture is almost impossible without secure land and land use rights. After all, without reliable land or land-use rights that give the security of being able to harvest the fruits of their labour in future years, entrepreneurs cannot make long-term investment decisions. This holds especially true for farmers in regard to aspects such as soil improvement, irrigation, buildings or machinery. The existence of secure land or land-use rights therefore also impacts on environmental sustainability and the protection of natural resources. Furthermore, they form the basis for the implementation of many different promotion instruments, such as investment subsidies, coupled direct payments or measures to improve settlement structures. They also often form the basis for access to financial services. A recognised state land register and property system protects the buying and selling of land, enables taxes to be raised on these transactions and facilitates the granting of loans on land. A system of formal land rights (e.g. in the form of a property / land register) can help prevent agricultural parcels from being divided up into ever smaller areas, for example by limiting the splitting of real estate or by land reparcelling. These processes must necessarily be carried out with high levels of civic / farmers’ participation (e.g. through multi-stakeholder dialogues) to avoid social tensions.

In many developing countries and emerging economies, state land law, which is oriented towards private ownership, contrasts with locally rooted traditional or indigenous land rights, which are based on common use. Traditional land rights and land management systems generally regard land as the common property of a defined group of people. Traditional land rights may relate to particular plots of land, common land (e.g. grazing land) or the use of natural resources. Population growth, the abandonment of subsistence farming and increasing production for the market cannot be controlled with traditional land rights. These rights are also unsuitable for controlling migration and the arrival of external land users. Purchasing and leasing large areas of land, on the other hand, also conflict with self-sustainable development. A balanced ownership and land policy is needed.


  • A properly functioning country-wide administration and monitoring system with access to the relevant information and sufficient technical and human capacities for its design, implementation and monitoring
  • Clear and coherent political strategy and targets for policy-makers and public authorities
  • Clear responsibilities in public authorities
  • Close cooperation and knowledge sharing with farmers' organisations
  • Jurisdiction or arbitration body with locally recognised authorities
  • Participation of all stakeholders involved, e. g. science / research, agricultural advisory services, civil society, public and private sector (incl. farmers and their interest groups)
  • Sanction mechanisms
  • Respect for cultural landscape and traditions

Possible Negative Effects

  • Traditional, non-documented land rights and land management systems not respected
  • Traditional users driven out or forced to resettle elsewhere to the benefit of national and international investors
  • Necessary structural change restricted (e.g. where strict splitting of real estate is practised)
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This page was last edited on 7 May 2023 | 7:22 (CEST)
  • Instruments
  • Policy Objectives