Special Issue "Land Reforms from the Ground: Actor Perspectives"

A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 1 July 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Paul Hebinck
Guest Editor
1. Wageningen University/Department of Sociology of Development and Change, The Netherlands
2. University of Fort Hare/Department of Agricultural Economics and Rural Extension, South Africa
Interests: land and land related issues; land and agrarian reform; agriculture; rural development; rural livelihoods; re-agrarianisation and re-peasantisation and rural development
Special Issues and Collections in MDPI journals
Dr. Marc C. A. Wegerif
Guest Editor
Human Economy Programme, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Interests: food systems; land and agrarian change

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Land reform is an ongoing process of reshaping land and property relations. These processes are often addressed as a once off following historic moments (e.g., liberation from colonial rule in the Global South, or communist and other forms of dictatorship in Eastern Europe). In contrast, this Special Issue argues that land reform is a timeless process of contestation, with many failures and some successes. There is little sign of reaching a definitive end point. Land reform seems always to unfold as not achieving stated programmatic objectives, raising a series of conflicts between the state, experts, and beneficiaries. Thiesenhusen [1] succinctly summarized over 50 years of land reform in Latin America: ‘’… reform programmes have been too small, too late, too underfunded, too dictated from above, too hierarchically organized, and too infrequently responsive to pressure from the grassroots’’. This often results in disenchantment on the side of the intended beneficiaries, resulting in some of them taking control over the land reform process themselves. There is ample evidence of both resistance, redesigning, and accommodating by actors seeking land reforms. There is evidence of occupations [2], removal [3], and reworking [4], but also of local elites maneuvering to capture the fruits of land and agrarian reform [5]. What is less known is the nature of the struggle between beneficiaries and the state-cum-expert system in implementation. Olivier de Sardan commented that (land reform) ‘’‘projects on paper‘ have little in common with the project itself as it exists in practice, once into the hands of the people to whom it is destined’’ [6]. Development interventions generally and inevitably encounter and simultaneously give rise to emerging and robust practices that attempt to redesign or oppose, and sometimes blatantly resist, them. We observed in South Africa, for instance, that land reform beneficiaries become disenchanted with the land reform process and/or that resource use does not follow expert-designed business models, often leading to a particular entanglement of practices and new resource use patterns [7]. These could be understood as a processes of repeasantization [8].

This Special Issue aims to bring together a series of papers that address key and contemporary issues of land reform.

  1. Papers should contain detailed descriptions of land reform situations that depict that land reform involves and is made by people in their everyday struggle to obtain a decent living on the land and in secure homes. Papers must be empirically based and not based on government- or agency-based documents and policy statements;
  2. Papers should address and depict, where relevant, the nature of the contestations and conflicts between beneficiaries and the land reform bureaucracy;
  3. Papers should contain detailed descriptions of how the land is used, and by whom (e.g., division of labour), and what institutional arrangements have been developed to make a living and construct homes on the land in rural or (peri-)urban contexts (i.e., markets for input and output; property rights issues and arrangements);
  4. Papers should explain how women are reshaping gender relations in land reform contexts with their own initiatives to defend and transform their rights to land;
  5. We solicit papers across the globe to engage a collaborative and comparative search for a reconceptualization of how to understand and refine land reform practices.

Dr. Paul Hebinck
Dr. Marc C. A. Wegerif
Guest Editors


  1. Thiesenhusen, W.C. Conclusions: Searchning for agrarian reform in latin america. In Searching for agrarian reform in latin america, Thiesenhusen, W.C., Ed. Unwin Hyman: Boston, 1989; pp 483-504.
  2. Wegerif, M. The right to land restitution as inspiration for mobilization In Land, memory, reconstruction and justice. Perspectives on land claim in south africa, Walker, C.; Bohlin, A.; Hall, R.; Kepe, T., Eds. KwaZulu-Natal University Press and Ohio University Press.: Scottsville and Athens, 2010.
  3. Ramutsindela, M. Second time around: Squatter removals in a democratic south africa. GeoJournal 2002, 57, 53-60.
  4. van der Ploeg, J.D. The new peasantries. Rural development in times of globalization. Second Edition ed.; Earthscan: London, 2018.
  5. Hall, R.; Kepe, T. Elite capture and state neglect: New evidence on south africa’s land reform. Review of African Political Economy 2017, 44, 122-130.
  6. Olivier de Sardan, J.-P. Anthropology and development: Understanding contemporary social change. Zed Press: London, 2006.
  7. Hebinck, P.; Cousins, B. In the shadow of policy: Everyday practices in south african land and agrarian reform. Wits University Press: Johannesburg, 2013.
  8. van den Berg, L.; Hebinck, P.; Roep, D. ‘We go back to the land’: Processes of re-peasantisation in araponga, brazil. The Journal of Peasant Studies 2018, 45, 653-675.

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Land is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1000 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • state bureaucracy
  • land use
  • alternatives
  • peasants

Published Papers

This special issue is now open for submission.
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