From rural livelihoods to agricultural growth The land policies of the UK Department of International Development

Transnational Institute and 11.11.11, Land Policy Series 4, February 2009


This paper examines the policies and practices on land of the Department for International Development (DfID) of the United Kingdom. While DfID’s approach to land reform in the 1980s reflected the dictates of modernisation, formal registration and market-led distribution of land of the international financial institutions, this was followed by a period from 1997 to 2002 where some changes were made to move land policy in the direction of a rights-based approach. However, after these five years, DfID’s central capacity on land policy was reduced substantially, which to some extent allowed the return of the market-based thinking of pre-1997, although now framed in the language of economic growth and good governance. This change in approach to land policy is characterised here as a shift from a Rural Livelihoods period (1997-2002) to an Agricultural Growth period (2003-2007).

After a discussion of DfID’s land policy, this report looks at DfID’s programmatic support for work on land issues. A data analysis is undertaken of the overall funding, changes in funding levels, focus countries and different emphases of DfID ́s in-country work. This brings up some interesting results, including the fact that different country offices develop a different approach to land issues. For example, in Bangladesh there is very solid support for land-based ‘social movements’, while in other places this is not the case. Furthermore the analysis shows that after Africa, the region DfID has invested most of its land related funds is the area with former Soviet states. The report concludes with specific recommendations for activists and researchers.