Bolivia: Land in the Hands of Those Who Work It

Nara Romero Rams

Eighty percent of Bolivia’s arable land is in the hands of peasants, a policy implemented by the government of President Evo Morales since 2006 that benefited 48,634 farming families.

The distribution of three million 366,589 hectares to date for the production of vegetables, tubers, fruit trees and other products for the family basket, guarantee agrarian security.

Juan Carlos León Rodas, vice-minister of land, told Cambio newspaper that from 1996 to 2005 the neoliberal governments only distributed 36,834 hectares for the benefit of 563 farming families, figures that have increased considerably in the last 13 years.

León Rodas said producers live better because they have a place to work and produce to guarantee the country’s food security.

“The fathers and mothers of families benefiting from land produce to increase local products to the country’s markets and the profits they generate are used to educate their children, he said.

He confirmed that Bolivia has an area of 109 million 858 thousand 100 hectares, of which more than six million are urban areas, bodies of water, among others, and the rest are used for sanitation.

The official stressed the need to rehabilitate 84 percent of the land for the delivery of titles and certificates, a figure that already reaches one million 131,456 properties granted by the Plurinational State.

On the cost of investments for sanitation, he recalled that in the republican stage it was 9.4 dollars per hectare, while currently it decreased to 2.81 dollars.

‘If we talk about investment, we spend less and clean up more land. Previous governments spent 85.1 million dollars to clean up 25,450 hectares and we spent 219.3 million dollars to clean up 1,123,456 hectares, three times less than planned,’ he said.

On the other hand, the Ministry of Rural Development and Lands revealed that the Community Lands of Origin (TCO) and the Indigenous-Originarian-Campesino Territories (TIOC) own 24 million hectares, a figure that represents 28 percent of the 87.13 million hectares titled from 1996 to July 2019.

The Bolivian president announced a new agrarian and productive revolution with the objective of regulating the distribution of land to peasant farmers with few economic resources and subsidizing the purchase of seeds for small and medium producers.

On August 2, 2007, Law 3545 on Community Renewal of Agrarian Reform was adopted and, through a supreme decree, declared that date as the Day of the Agrarian, Productive and Community Revolution.

This declaration replaced the so-called ‘Indian Day’ celebrated from 1953 to 2007 as a tribute to the Agrarian Reform adopted in 1952, and was eliminated because it promoted division, humiliation and discrimination.

The law expanded the control mechanisms to guarantee the participation of social organizations and producers in the processes of sanitation, reversion, expropriation, endowment and allocation of public lands.

It also increased from eight to 16 titular members of the National Agrarian Commission and incorporated important rural actors such as peasant women, indigenous people from the highlands and the livestock and forestry business sector.

It incorporated the concept of gender equity in the agrarian process, as well as technical and economic support from the State to peasant, indigenous and native communities benefiting from the endowment of fiscal lands, among others.

AGRARIAN SECURITY GUARANTEES WOMEN’S ACCESS TO LAND

Inclusion policies implemented by President Evo Morales allowed 45 percent of land ownership to be held by women, 53 percent by men and two percent by legal entities, according to official sources.

Data from the Ministry of Rural Development and Lands stated that from 1953 to 1992 only 10 percent corresponded to women and 90 percent to men.

The executive secretary of the National Confederation of Peasant Women of Bolivia ‘Bartolina Sisa’, Segundina Flores, defined land titling in the name of women as an important step forward for the government.

Now women are no longer an object as before, in previous governments we were placed in a corner, there has been an important advance for women,’ she said.

She added that this procedure complies with the gender equity ignored decades ago, before Evo Morales became president.

Likewise, she recalled that the Law of Community Renewal of the Agrarian Reform, in its final disposition, establishes that the participation of this population sector must be guaranteed and prioritized in the processes of sanitation and land distribution, independently of their civil status.

Guaranteeing food sovereignty is one of the 13 pillars of the Bicentennial Agenda (2025), a document that constitutes the government program proposed by the Bolivian president with a view to the general elections on October 20.

To deepen the economic, political and social achievements of the last 13 years is the main objective of his re-election, among them, to continue sanitizing lands to put them in the hands of those who work them.

A process that, in the opinion of Bolivia’s first indigenous president, will contribute to building a more inclusive, participative, democratic society and state, without class or social differences.