Tuesday, June 15, 2010


World over increased urbanization is a worrying phenomenon as massive migration of rural population into towns and cities in search of better earning opportunities and such population shift has far reaching impact on the future of these countries. While progressive decline in agricultural labor can adversely affect food production, the influx of uneducated and unskilled ruralites into urban regions becomes a burden on the already strained infrastructure creating massive slums in which they lead a miserable life. In contrast to this general phenomenon, Ethiopia is a country where the rural population has not changed for the last two decades and the reason for this has been attributed to the land policies being followed in that country by successive governments. Whether this trend is good for the people is a debatable point.

"Unfortunately, at the same time, the government has stuck to its radical policy choice of maintaining the previous regime's policy of government ownership of all land (public land tenure), despite the fact that it goes against the practical experience of most countries, both developed and underdeveloped. Over the past twenty years, this policy has had several unintended negative consequences. It has kept the rural population, specifically the population living on small farms, high. Because of the tenure system, farmers cannot easily sell their land for full value. They can rent their land and leave, but they tend to be reluctant to do so because they think that in their absence, their land might get taken away. They do not perceive that their tenure is secure, so they end up staying on their land. As a result, today, about 80-85% of the country's population live in rural areas, about the same percentage as twenty years ago. In absolute numbers, the rural population has increased from about 45 to 65 million, the overall population having increased from about 55 to 80 million".

In India the percentage of urban population is continuously on the increase and it is currently estimated that more than 30% of the country's population live in the urban areas. Such migratory trend has created a boom in land prices, exploited by the real estate industry. Ethiopian policy, to some extent has restrained the rural-urban migration while land values are not allowed to soar as is happening in many Indian towns and cities. The visionary idea of the former President of India, Dr Abdul Kalam to create urban living comforts in rural area is precisely to reverse the current trend of massive desertion from villages by landless labor population. How ever it is easier said than done with the present myopic rulers who are at the helm of affairs in the country, not able to see its wisdom.


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