Land and socio-economic development: is land size all-important ?

Looking at the African traditional setting, the size of land would determine the amount of wealth that an individual, clan or even a country possessed and would still manifest the socio-economic status and prestige that such an individual or nation enjoyed on the community, regional and international arena.

Looking at the African traditional setting, the size of land would determine the amount of wealth that an individual, clan or even a country possessed and would still manifest the socio-economic status and prestige that such an individual or nation enjoyed on the community, regional and international arena.

This is because this land would be used for agriculture, animal rearing, settlement and other activities.

All this was done using labour-intensive means because labour force was readily available at a cheap cost or even free of charge; most especially whenever family labor was employed.

Because their agricultural tools were rudimentary, the farmers used a lot of energy and, this, on big chunks of land.

To no one’s surprise the returns were miniscule if compared to the material and labour input. Is that still workable or helpful today?

This kind of land use is, of course, still employed in many parts of the world and especially in Africa, where land is either un- or underutilized. Most of the land is still fragmented and so this results in poor returns, leaving no tangible impact to the lives of the owners; after all the owners will depend on vagaries of weather for their harvests.

However big the land is you find the output is not really promising.

However, the point of my writing this article is to challenge this kind of thinking. What I want to bring to light is the importance of quality - the size of land in use doesn’t matter when the owners aren’t using it productively; this argument can be used vice-versa to reiterate that a small piece can be priceless when it’s being utilized in the way it should to garner the most out of it.

If somebody is a farmer, with a cultivable piece of land, it doesn’t matter how big the land is, just subject it to intensive utilization (small area with much output) and you will reap more from that piece than some body who owns land two times bigger than yours.

Use fertilizers, align your sowing to the type of soils and season and adhere to the advice of the agricultural extension workers.

You will see miracles occur in this small piece of land you used to call puny.

For livestock managers, the formula remains the same. Avoid over stocking; put the right number of cows in the right size of your farm.

Use modern high quality breeds, Friesians and others of their ilk. Use artificial insemination to gradually change the other local breeds to ensure their milk and meat production is increased. Break the traditional attachment of prestige to the number of animals.

This I bet will solve the controversial issue of land size in our country and the future will be undoubtedly brighter.  Remember, if you don’t change with the times, change will change you.

The author is an Economist – Ministry of Finance

tbenon132@gmail.com

 

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