The agrarian reform experiment in Chile

Produced by: 
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Available from: 
August 2014
Paper author(s): 
Alberto Valdés
William E. Foster
Agricultural - Natural Resource Economics
Politics and Economy

The study of past land reform efforts can serve to guide policy analysts and policymakers in their evaluation of the merits and the possible design of future reforms to land tenure systems. The key question about land reform is; What is its potential to improve equity and efficiency? The answer is not obvious; indeed, history shows that reforms are complicated, are often messy, and sometimes fail, because they are based on incorrect assessments not only of the problems motivating reform but also of the farm model intended to be the solution. This paper examines the Chilean experience in detail in order to better understand the history of a major agrarian reform effort in Latin America. Agrarian reform was more than a redistribution of land from large holders to small—in fact, that was not the original intention. Rather, the reform efforts were subject to a complex political and economic dynamic, with the process acquiring a life of its own. Once initiated, it was difficult to anticipate its evolution and final results. This paper presents what is known about the role of agrarian reform and the subsequent counter reform in producing a successful dynamic evolution of Chilean agriculture.


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