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Journal of Public and International Affairs , Volume 14/Spring 2003 Copyright 2003, the Trustees of Princeton University http://www.princeton.edu/~jpia 6 P LOWING A HEAD : T HE E FFECTS OF A GRICULTURAL M ECHANIZATION ON L AND T ENURE IN B URKINA F ASO John F. McCauley John F. McCauley is a Master of Arts candidate, International Relations, Yale Center for International and Area Studies, Yale University (john.mccauley@yale.edu). Tensions are emerging in Burkina Faso between mechanized agriculture and traditional land tenure policies. Although the influx of tractors came late to the country, their increasing presence has led to agricultural land expansions that encroach on plots granted to small farmers through traditional processes. This paper explores these tensions in four main sections. The first section traces the changing land tenure policies in Burkina that have resulted in a delicate balance between official laws and customary practices. The second considers the rise of agricultural mechanization and the growing significance of tractors. The third examines the various tensions, exacerbated by rising populations, which arise as mechanization encroaches on traditionally held lands. These tensions lead to the exploitation of labor, persistent land grabs, and the forcing of small farmers into a void in which few market alternatives exist. To help mitigate these tensions, the final section recommends the tempering of large tractor expansion and the gradual adjustment of land tenure policies toward increased privatization. By harmonizing land tenure policies and agricultural mechanization, the conditions will exist for more prudent development in Burkina Faso.
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2 I NTRODUCTION Agriculture is becoming increasingly mechanized throughout the world. As industrialized nations approach complete mechanization, many developing countries are also making significant shifts toward mechanized farming. In Burkina Faso, farming techniques are changing, but the shift toward mechanization is not without difficulty. In particular, there are growing tensions between farmland expansion due to mechanization on one hand, and traditional land tenure policies on the other. This paper explores these tensions by considering the changing land tenure system in Burkina, the rise of mechanization in the country, and the relationship that develops between these two phenomena. Setting the Stage While agricultural mechanization and land tenure policies in Burkina Faso have been evolving autonomously over the last few decades, they are not entirely independent issues. Broadly speaking, tension arises when the spread of mechanized farming begins to encroach on the land rights of small farmers who are not able themselves to mechanize. This paper argues that, though land is still considered an abundant factor of production in Burkina, mechanization will begin to have effects similar to those of a rapidly expanding population, namely that the demand for more area will push people to marginalized lands. At some point,
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