land tenure

land tenure
   Land tenure is a crucial factor in the operation of rural land markets, influencing the pace and direction of agricultural development. Since land tenure systems govern access to the means of production in agriculture, they have also been an intensely political subject in rural societies, being one of the factors contributing to the Spanish Civil War. As recently as 1960, over 40 percent of the labour force in Spain were engaged in agriculture. Since that date employment in agriculture has fallen to less than 10 percent of all employment. With fewer people depending on agriculture for their livelihood, land tenure as a political issue has largely disappeared from the national political agenda.
   In the south of Spain the existence of large estates (see also latifundia) has prevented many people from acquiring viable farms. In other areas of Spain, for example in parts of Galicia, the land tenure system has allowed property to be divided and sub-divided, leaving very small and fragmented farms (see also minifundia) quite unable to compete effectively or support a family. The net result of the division of land is a distorted farm size structure, where a large proportion of all holdings are very small and cover only a small proportion of the total land area, while a small proportion of all holdings are very large and occupy a large proportion of the land area. Moreover, statistics on farm size conceal the extent to which individuals own large areas of land through ownership of more than one farm. These characteristics of land tenure have led people to argue for land reform at least since the late eighteenth century when Jovellanos published his report on agriculture (Andrés Alvarez 1955). Where the land tenure system is deficient, land reform may be necessary to restore equity and/or efficiency. However, in a democracy where private property is respected, such reform can only be slow. During the twentieth century the redistribution of land from large estates was begun under the Republic but then reversed under General Franco. Land reform during the Franco regime concentrated on irrigation projects, settlement schemes and land consolidation supervised by state agrarian organizations (the last of which was the National Institute for Agrarian Reform and Development, IRYDA). Following the institution of democracy and the emergence of regional governments, responsibility for land reform was transferred to the regions, where policy has continued to avoid the division of large estates.
   Contemporary patterns of rural land tenure are complex, varying from one part of Spain to another, reflecting events which stretch back into history. Nevertheless, three principal forms of rural land tenure are recognized in official statistics: owner occupation, tenancy and sharecropping (aparcería). These statistics show some 95 percent of all farms as being owner occupied. Three-quarters of the total agricultural land area is under owner occupation and a little over onefifth under various forms of tenancy (INE 1995). The conditions of tenancies vary, for example in respect of the length (five years being quite common in the early 1990s), frequency of rent reviews and rights to have tenancy agreements extended. There may even be different rights of use (usufruct) in the same piece of land (for example for hunting or for cropping). Although security of tenure is regarded as being of fundamental importance on both equity and efficiency grounds, inflexible tenancy regulations can discourage land owners from renting out land. Hence, measures have been sought which will increase the flexibility of the land market through more flexible leases. Other factors such as the taxation system, the nature of government intervention, agricultural product prices, the possibilities for conversion to non-agricultural use and the age structure of land owners (the majority being aged 55 and over) also effect the operation of the agricultural land market.
   Over half the moorland and woodland (bosque) is under private ownership and about two-fifths belongs to local authorities (this land is frequently upland and unsuitable for agricultural use). Less than 10 percent belongs to the state and regional governments. Apart from their commercial use woodlands provide an invaluable leisure facility; as such they require careful management. Exploita-tion of the woodlands threatens not only the woodlands themselves but the whole ecosystem. However, while many woodland areas are now designated as protected areas, the pattern of woodland ownership offers only limited opportunity for the state and regional governments to become directly involved in woodland management. In part this explains the extensive planting, sometimes unauthorized, of fast growing eucalyp-tus trees.
   - Andrés Alvarez, V. (1955) Informe sobre la Ley Agraria 1785, por Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, Madrid: Instituto de Estudios Políticos.
   - Instituto Nacional de Estadística, INE (1995) Encuesta sobre la estructura de las explotaciones agrícolas 1993, Madrid.
   Further reading
   - Bosque Maurel, J. (1973) "Latifundio y minifundio en Andalucía Oriental", Estudios Geográficos, 132–3: 457–500 (a detailed discussion of latifundia and minifundia in eastern Andalusia).
   - King, R. (1973) Land Reform: the Italian Experience, London: Butterworth & Co (an interesting comparative study).
   - Malefakis, E. (1970) Agrarian reform and peasant revolution in Spain, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press (deals with the political issue of land reform).
   - Naylon, J. (1973) "An Appraisal of Spanish Irrigation and Land Settlement Policy Since 1939", Iberian Studies, 2, 1: 12–18.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Spanish culture. 2013.

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