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Chapter 6. Short-term strategy for land redistribution

6.1. Basic characteristics of the strategy
6.2. Intervention at the national level
6.3. Intervention at the local level

6.1. Basic characteristics of the strategy

6.1.1. Objective of the strategy
6.1.2. Structure of the strategy

The implementation of the Land Registration Programme recommended by the Land Reform Commission provides an opportunity to initiate a coordinated set of actions aimed at modification of the skewed land distribution pattern of the country. The land adjudication process and cadastral survey are instrumental to the Programme's implementation and will allow the Government to accurately ascertain the extent of land ownership concentration and to carry out research on production and income characteristics in rural communities.

The introduction of the registration by title system will bring about flexibility in land markets. Existing evidence shows that without Government intervention this flexibility will not benefit small farmers. Coordinated Government action is therefore required to ensure that subdivided land will not continue to be acquired only by groups with access to capital or credit. Consideration of the short- and medium-term political circumstances has directed Government attention to a limited range of the possible actions discussed in Chapter 5. They do not represent a full scale land reform but are designed only to initiate a process of change whose ultimate objective is the attainment of a more equitable and efficient land distribution structure in Saint Lucia.

6.1.1. Objective of the strategy

The proposed strategy has been designed to enable the Government to initiate implementation of actions leading to the achievement of its goal of removing land distribution constraints now facing farmers. The objectives of this strategy are to improve the productive capacity of the agricultural sector and to guarantee that the majority of full-time small farmers have access to sufficient land to enable them to engage in surplus production agriculture. The design of the strategy included consideration of 1) the limited financial and institutional capabilities the Government currently has for programme implementation, and 2) the need for avoiding disruption in agricultural production, which is critical to the country as a foreign exchange earner and major source of employment.

The aim of the strategy is gradual transformation of the land distribution structure by provision of incentives which it is hoped will encourage positive aspects of existing trends in land ownership distribution. Direct and indirect actions and interventions within the context of the institutional, legal and financial framework of the country are proposed.

The strategy adopts a short-term, multi-level approach, to avoid the difficulties of obtaining full coordination between long-term complex actions at various levels of Government. Each recommendation included represents a set of possible actions or projects at one level (national or local) of the land distribution problem. While integration of the recommendations into a comprehensive programme of land reform and rural development is desirable in the long run, the recommendations are sufficiently independent to allow for differential phasing in of their implementation without sacrifice of efficiency.

The identification of points of direct intervention at the local level has been based upon opportunities presented by the Government decision to change the system of registration of land rights and to carry out a cadastral survey at the national level. The implementation of the Land Registration Programme requires a pilot project to be undertaken in an appropriate area and that the Programme be expanded from the project area to the rest of the country as the process of land survey and adjudication advances.

6.1.2. Structure of the strategy

Of the alternatives available for direct and indirect interventions to fulfill Government objectives, six were chosen as part of the strategy. Three are directed to the national level and three to the local level (see Table 6.1). Interventions at the national level are both direct and indirect and are geared to guide spontaneous operation of the market mechanism towards the removal of land concentration constraints. Direct interventions at the local level are aimed at small holding consolidation, redistribution of unused land on large estates and expansion of the agricultural frontier.

Indirect national interventions of the type included in the strategy can have significant impact on the structure of land redistribution in the long run. The proposed direct interventions are very limited in spatial scope and therefore do not intensify the impact significantly.

6.2. Intervention at the national level

6.2.1. Land taxation
6.2.2. Financial instruments
6.2.3. Regulation of land development

6.2.1. Land taxation

The objectives of land taxation are 1) to increase the availability of agricultural lands in the market by inducing large holders to dispose of land they cannot farm efficiently, and 2) to generate revenue for implementing other land redistribution projects.

A progressive land tax already exists in Saint Lucia. Holdings under 10 acres are exempt, and the rate rises as holding size increases. The combined effect of the low level of the tax and the nature of the collection procedures makes the existing land tax system ineffective both as a source of revenue and as a policy instrument for attainment of land redistribution goals.


Level of Intervention

Direct Interventions

Indirect Interventions



1. Land taxation

Promote disposal of unused lands by large holders, and as source of revenue for land redistribution

2. Financial instruments

Facilitate access to land for small farmers, adjust supply and demand of lands

3. Regulation of land development

Prevent inefficient utilization of natural resources and subdivisions of agricultural lands

Cadastral Survey and Land Adjudication

Secure tenure of lands


4. Consolidation of small holdings

Reduce land scarcity as a constraint to small farmers to engage in surplus agriculture

5. Redistribution of land

Allocation of unused or underutilized land in large holding to committed small farmers

6. Expansion of the rural frontier

Incorporation into agricultural production of unused land by adoption of new technologies

Source: Rojas, E., and L. Strachan, "A short-term Strategy for Land Redistribution in Saint Lucia," OAS Technical Report, Castries, September 1981.

Collection procedures can be improved and there is considerable latitude for increasing the tax base without creating undue hardship for farmers effectively working their land and for discouraging speculative retention of lands. The present tax rate for large properties is only EC$1.00 per acre. A higher tax would encourage the sale of land that is not being productively farmed, the possible effect being expansion and improvement of the land market. Tax revenue must be used to finance land acquisition and other aspects of land reformulation. Increase in this tax should be phased to allow farmers to adjust to the new levels and for Government to incorporate land productivity considerations to avoid excessive taxation of infertile lands.

According to the 1973/74 Agricultural Census, a total of 54 729 acres the 796 holdings will be affected by an increase in land taxation, although differentially, because it is advisable to retain the progressive nature of the tax. The tax is to be designed to include in the land market lands currently unused in large holdings (approximately 22 900 acres) which have agricultural potential (over 40 percent).

6.2.2. Financial instruments

Facilitation of access to land for small farmers by provision of long-term financing for land purchase and adjustment of the long-term supply and demand for agricultural lands are two objectives of the use of financial instruments.

No effective capital market exists in Saint Lucia for long-term financing of land purchases. The absence of an effective market decreases the chances of small farmers to acquire more land in the open market. Bank loans are granted for short periods and at commercial interest rates. This discriminates against the farmer who has no alternative income source to pay for land in the short run. Long-term credit for land purchases would help small farmers to acquire 1) lands presently unused or underutilized by large holdings, 2) adjacent small properties that may be consolidated with their existing property, or 3) the inheritance rights of co-heirs of family lands so as to get enough land into surplus agriculture. Adjustment of supply and demand in the land market is particularly important when large undeveloped tracts of land are put on sale. Development of these lands prior to sale is a function that can be undertaken by a land bank. Such a bank can also provide the financing function described above and serve as a repository and clearing house for lands acquired by the Government for land redistribution.

A nationwide and fully comprehensive attempt to consolidate small holdings in Saint Lucia requires the transfer of ownership of no less than 12 000 acres to provide the nation's full-time farmers with at least 5 acres each. At an average price of EC$2 000 per acre, the land bank may be dealing with financing over EC$24 million worth of land purchases and become involved in developing the necessary infrastructure on at least 50 percent of this land (6 000 acres). Given the possible scope of the land bank, it is necessary to consider the use of alternative purchase instruments (bonds, treasury notes, etc.) and a phased programme of land acquisition as the land survey programme advances. This would greatly reduce the cash flow requirements.

6.2.3. Regulation of land development

A major objective of land development regulation is the utilization of the country's most important natural resources (land, water and coastal areas) to prevent ecological damage from misuse. Long-term development of agriculture and tourism, the country's most important economic activities (in terms of employment and foreign exchange earnings), is heavily dependent upon the rational utilization of natural resources.

Degradation of resources is observed in agriculture in the form of soil erosion, which goes unchecked because of lack of capital investment and inadequate agricultural practices. Progressive deforestation of the headwaters of watersheds has reduced the availability of water for irrigation and is affecting the stability of coastal ecosystems on which tourism heavily depends. Loss of agricultural lands to urban use, arising from uncontrolled urban growth in recent years and excessive subdivision of some agricultural land, is systematically reducing the number of holdings effectively engaged in agriculture. These problems persist because of the deficient institutional arrangements for land development control. Considering the changes in land distribution that will occur in the near future, it is necessary that control aspects of national land use and development should ultimately be vested in a single entity to eliminate duplication of action and provide definition of authority. This entity, the Natural Resources Development Authority, would be responsible for both rural and non-rural land and would control the utilization of natural resources of economic importance in the country. In addition, it would control subdivision of agricultural lands and ensure that new holdings arising from subdivisions conform to a set of criteria for long-term economic viability.

6.3. Intervention at the local level

6.3.1. Reconsolidation of small holdings
6.3.2. Redistribution of land
6.3.3. Expansion of the rural frontier
6.3.4. Coordination with other agricultural development activities

The strategy contains three types of actions at the local level: 1) reconsolidation of small holdings to fully utilize land actually occupied by small farmers, 2) redistribution of land to farmers who cannot be accommodated on lands previously occupied by the community, and 3) expansion of the rural frontier. The two initial steps closely follow the implementation of the Land Registration Programme. The primary focus should be on a pilot project area selected to satisfy certain criteria. The project area should:

a) Illustrate problems of land registration whose solution would provide valuable experience for future stages of implementation of the Land Registration Programme.

b) Contain a majority of full-time farmers controlling less than five acres of good agricultural lands (or the equivalent in lands on lower classes).

c) Be situated in an area where underutilized land exists, so that the Government may obtain control of land that can be used to alleviate the scarcity of land experienced by small farmers.

The tangible results of the complex undertaking of such a programme must involve the appropriate combination of reconsolidation and redistribution activities. A project including these activities has the advantage of helping to solve conflicts that may arise from a land registration programme, particularly those related to land occupation accompanied by no proven claim. Local community participation is critical in this regard because community feedback is continuously necessary to optimize the consolidation and redistribution activities. Property owners must therefore be prepared to accept and participate in the survey process.

6.3.1. Reconsolidation of small holdings

Reconsolidation is aimed at reducing the land scarcity constraint on small farmers and thus enabling them to engage in surplus agriculture and make a larger contribution to agricultural development. Existing data indicate large numbers of holdings in small farmer communities that are composed of too little land to support the owner family and permit productive investment. Only a minority of the families in these communities (about 40 percent) are full-time farmers. Others depend on rural wage employment or urban jobs as their principal source of income and work small garden areas primarily for subsistence. The reconsolidation of small holding will hopefully create viable full-time farming unit by facilitating the exchange of lands between farmers and through the purchase of previously unused lands by qualified candidates drawn from the same communities. Land reconsolidation activities will be linked with land redistribution activities when purchase of unused land occurs.

6.3.2. Redistribution of land

The reconsolidation activity outlined in the preceding section will reveal the existence of a shortage of land for full-time farmers. Acquisition and redistribution of estate land will be necessary to accommodate these families. Allocation to committed farmers of unused or underutilized lands currently controlled by large holdings is the objective of land redistribution.

While the precise extent of land underutilized in large estates is unknown, there are indications that up to 50 percent of the land included within their boundaries falls within this category, representing 21 000 acres. A large portion of these lands may be marginal for cultivation with present technology, thus reducing the extent of redistribution of suitable land to small farmers. Questions on how the rich valley lands should be organized once estates are purchased as well as those regarding tenure rights for squatters will further affect the actual amount of land available for distribution. Regardless, lands suitable for agriculture must be developed and subdivided into economically viable plots with development and subdivision based upon ecological and technological criteria. A major role of Government in this process will be the provision of necessary conditions conducive to the establishment of a productive rural community. Two very important preconditions for that development will be feeder road construction and technical assistance to farmers.

6.3.3. Expansion of the rural frontier

To satisfy the objective of expanding the rural frontier, marginal lands must be incorporated into agricultural production through the introduction of new technologies and crops and innovative forms of production.

The lands specified for local level intervention actions in sections 6.3.1 and 6.3.2 are those with potential for permanent farming using existing technology. Where moisture or soil contraints are severe, large areas of land are rendered submarginal, making continuous traditional agriculture impossible. Technology exists for transforming these areas into forests for charcoal or methane production or into special arid areas for crops such as cashew. The process involves relatively large capital expenditures and/or excessive gestation periods that are prohibitive for individual farmers. However, special projects can be designed for these areas, using Government participation as the necessary catalyst to attract private investors to these areas.

There is ample scope for projects on marginal lands and over 23 000 acres of this type of land exist in Saint Lucia. Nevertheless, topography, ownership problems, and technological constraints may reduce the amount of land that can actually be used to expand the rural frontier.

6.3.4. Coordination with other agricultural development activities

The success of the local level interventions described in this chapter requires preferential support from the Ministry of Agriculture. Support is especially important for interventions related to extension, diversification of production, and marketing. The successful execution of limited actions of direct land redistribution by Government may in time become more sophisticated and comprehensive and approach what may be considered a desirable level of integrated rural development.

A continuos process of evaluation and reformulation of the actions being carried out as part of the strategy must be undertaken by the appropriate bodies of the Ministry of Agriculture. This process should concentrate mainly on the following activities;

a) Detailed survey of the areas where the land registration is going to take place in order to identify possible conflicts and project opportunities;

b) Continuous monitoring of the effect on the land distribution structure of the indirect interventions at the national level;

c) Assessment of the results obtained through direct interventions.

The knowledge gained through this research and evaluation process is essential for the successful implementation of both the Land Registration Programme and the Land Redistribution Strategy.

The basic premise of the various activities outlined in the short-term strategy for land redistribution is that a strong political commitment to implement the land registration process does exist, and it is presumed that basic studies concerning land development regulation have been made. To illustrate the complexity and difficulties likely to be encountered in the implementation of even mild corrective actions related to agricultural development, the following chapters concentrate on 1) a brief discussion of the characteristics of the pilot project on land registration, and 2) the types of legal and administrative changes required to increase Government capacity to regulate the use of natural resources, protect the ecology, and implement land registration and redistribution actions.

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