Country Listing

Peru Table of Contents


Land Reform

The most striking and thorough reform imposed by the Velasco government was to eliminate all large private landholdings, converting most of them into cooperatives owned by prior workers on the estates. The reform was intended to destroy the basis of power of Peru's traditional elite and to foster a more cooperative society as an alternative to capitalism. Such socialpolitical purposes apparently dominated questions of agricultural production or any planned changes in patterns of land use. It was as if the questions of ownership were what mattered, not the consequences for output or rural incomes. In fact, the government soon created a system of price controls and monopoly food buying by state firms designed to hold down prices to urban consumers, no matter what the cost to rural producers.

As mentioned earlier, the cooperatives had very mixed success; and the majority were converted into individual private holdings during the 1980s. The conversions were authorized in 1980 by changes in the basic land reform legislation and were put into effect after majority votes of the cooperative members in each case. The preferences of the people involved at that point clearly went contrary to the intent of the original reform. But the whole set of changes was not a reversion to the pre-reform agrarian structure. In fact, the conversions left Peru with a far less unequal pattern of landownership than it had prior to the reform and with a much greater role for family farming than ever before in its history.

Data as of September 1992