Paraguay - Context and Land Governance | Land Portal
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Paraguay agriculture land

In Paraguay, land is still a factor that determines the living conditions of a majority of the population. Current land tenure is characterized by a huge concentration of land being put in the hands of a small group of landowners. This unequal distribution of land is the result of a long and contentious history that has caused the dispossession and uprooting of thousands of men and women in the countryside. Meanwhile, others have managed to remain in their communities through enormous sacrifice and willpower.

The factors that caused this complex and system of land tenure are multiple. One of them is legislation regarding land ownership and access for the peasant and indigenous populations. However, it is important to mention that the current legislation has positive and negative characteristics. What aggravates the rural population’s situation is the way in which these laws are applied in practice by relevant agencies, where in certain respects they are rigorously enforced while in others the laws only exists on paper, as they are systematically violated to the detriment of peasants and indigenous people.

 

Land tenure system and the country’s historical context

Agrarian reform is a pending issue in Paraguay, and this is stated explicitly in the definitions of the Political Constitution of the State, which establishes the progressive elimination of very large estates (latifundios) through a specific tax system, expropriation of private property, and other measures. Likewise, there is the Agrarian Statute, a law that conceptually defines the economic and social function of land and considers it the central aspect of national agrarian reform policy, stating that, in case of non-compliance, the state must expropriate those lands and redistribute them. The National Institute of Rural and Land Development (INDERT, by its Spanish initials) is responsible for these tasks.

However, in spite of enacting the necessary laws and operational tools over the past twenty years,  it is evident that redistributive policies in Paraguay have not had much of an impact on land tenure. The distribution of land is still highly concentrated. According to the National Census of 2008, the number of properties greater than 500 hectares is only 2.6% of the country’s total, but they hold 85% of surveyed lands. On the other hand, farms smaller than 20 hectares represent 83.5% of the total but only occupy 4.1% of the land. Land inequality in Paraguay is the highest in the world, with a Gini index for the distribution of land of 0.93, with a tendency toward the increase of property concentration in the future.

 

Trends in land use

Paraguay has undergone strong demographic and productive transformations in recent decades, especially in the rural world, where there has been an expansion of productive models that are intensive in the use of capital and technologies, and in the exploitation of natural resources. This has brought a growing concentration of land in a decreasing number of productive units, and sustained migration from the countryside to urban areas, due to the expulsion and displacement of peasants and indigenous people from their lands.

Agriculture and livestock raising are among the most important economic activities in Paraguay, and they stand out both for their production levels and their exports. Paraguay is one of the main exporters of beef in the world and, in terms of agricultural production, is known for its world-level leadership in the export of sugar, soybeans, wheat and other agro-industrial crops. To achieve this, Paraguay has opened up completely to foreign capital and to the extractive model linked to the use of transgenic technology and agrochemicals.

 

Key land challenges and problems

The state has strongly supported agro-exporting businesses, mechanized agriculture, livestock raising, and mining, with a political, economic and productive model that is taking up an increasing amount of land.

In spite of the lack of precise data, it is estimated that in Paraguay there are between 200,000 and 300,000 peasant families that do not have land, or that do not have enough land. Likewise, of the existing 480 indigenous communities in the country—which already have great difficulty in defending their land demands—a little less than half (44%) do not have their own land, and instead live and depend on lands owned by the state, businesses, farms, or churches and missions.

Likewise, the situation of legal insecurity is unsustainable for peasants and indigenous people. Land registration is unreliable, as the overlapping of rights is common: Paraguay has an area of 40.6 million hectares and the sum of existing land titles exceeds 50 million.

In addition, there are at least 7.8 million hectares known as ill-gotten lands (tierras mal habidas), which are the result of deals and corruption in the dictatorial era, and which have not been recovered because the Paraguayan judiciary has prevented it.

In this context, the main challenge in Paraguay is to overcome the influence of elite landowners when implementing and controlling agrarian policies. This challenge must be addressed in order to implement progressive rules and policies and to overcome the severe situation of injustice and inequity in land tenure in the country.

 

References

 

Total spending for agricultural reserch measured measured as a share of the value added from agriculture, forestry and fishing activities

Measurement unit: 
Percentage (%)

Distribution of agricultural holders by sex (female - Share %) according to the FAO Land and Gender Database.

Measurement unit: 
Percentage (%)

GDP per capita based on purchasing power parity (PPP). PPP GDP is gross domestic product converted to international dollars using purchasing power parity rates.

Measurement unit: 
PPP$ 2011

Land area is the total area (1'000 ha) of the country excluding area under inland water bodies.

Measurement unit: 
1'000 ha

Total funding (US $) for programmes still ongoing. Last updated on the 31st of January, 2019.

Measurement unit: 
US$ (Current)

Total number of programmes still ongoing. Last updated on the 31st of January, 2019.

Measurement unit: 
Number

Total population is based on the de facto definition of population, which counts all residents regardless of legal status or citizenship--except for refugees not permanently settled in the country

Measurement unit: 
Number

Rural population refers to the share (%) of people living in rural areas as defined by national statistical offices. It is calculated as the ratio between Urban Population and Total Population.

Measurement unit: 
Percentage (%)
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Total population is based on the de facto definition of population, which counts all residents regardless of legal status or citizenship--except for refugees not permanently settled in the country

Measurement unit: 
Number
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Total population is based on the de facto definition of population, which counts all residents regardless of legal status or citizenship--except for refugees not permanently settled in the country

Measurement unit: 
Number
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Arable land (1'000 Ha) is the land under temporary agricultural crops (multiple-cropped areas are counted only once), temporary meadows for mowing or pasture, land under market and kitchen gardens

Measurement unit: 
1'000 ha

It measures the area (1'000 Ha) covered by forest.

Measurement unit: 
1'000 ha

Land area is the total area (1'000 ha) of the country excluding area under inland water bodies.

Measurement unit: 
1'000 ha

Land used permanently (five years or more) to grow herbaceous forage crops through cultivation or naturally (wild prairie or grazing land).

Measurement unit: 
1'000 ha

Land cultivated with long-term crops which do not have to be replanted for several years (such as cocoa and coffee), land under trees and shrubs producing flowers (such as roses and jasmine), and n

Measurement unit: 
1'000 ha

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