Ecuador's National Assembly approved Thursday a comprehensive land reform aimed at improving agricultural production, the redistribution of idle land, and ending the concentration of land in hands of few.
Carlos Viteri, president of the National Assembly's Specialized Permanent Committee for Biodiversity and member of the ruling PAIS Alliance party, said that the proposed Land Law represents “a symbol of the transformation of the country.”
Viteri, an Indigenous Amazonian Kichwa, well known for his daily-worn crown made of toucan feathers, added the reforms would finally eliminate the legacies of previous land laws, which allowed a few families to concentrate ownership at the expense of campesinos and small farmers.
“The National Assembly has finally heard the demands of the rural sector, from the campesino, Indigenous, montubio, afro-Ecuadorean peoples and the small and middle producers in this country,” Jose Agualsaca, president of the Confederation of Peoples, Indigenous and Peasant Organizations of Ecuador, told teleSUR English. His group contributed to the development of the law.
“We are happy that the National assembly … has generated, through this new Land Law, public policies with the aim of framing a modern process, a development process of (agricultural) production and access to land, the creation of a model of food sovereignty, based fundamentally on food for the people, instead of money,” Agualsaca added.
Agualsaca explained that in regions where there is no more land, such as the Andean region of Ecuador, the new law should work to generate policies that improve productivity “combining ancestral knowledge with foreign expertise.”
Thursday's debate prior to the vote was the second discussion inside the National Assembly, but the Commission for Food Sovereignty had held a number of public consultative sessions throughout the country previously to discuss the contents of the proposed law.
According to the report prepared by the commission, 97.3 percent of organizations that participated in the consultations “accept and agree with the substantive issues that are incorporated into the law.”
The new Land Law also allows unproductive or idle land to be expropriated by the state and turned over to landless campesinos and farmers, with peasant's organizations receiving special consideration.
“The fundamental thing is the improvement of the lives of campesinos,” said Agualsaca.
This kind of policy in other countries, such as Venezuela and Brazil, has seen hundreds of thousands of acres of land recovered and put to productive use.
The law also prohibits the concentration of rural land for speculative, commercial or monopolistic ends. It also specifies that foreign state companies may only invest in agricultural production inside Ecuador in conjunction with a state enterprises or with an Ecuadorean business approved by the National Agrarian Authority.
The Land Law would bring the country's law in line with the 2008 constitution, which specifies in article 282: “The State shall make laws for the use and access to land that must fulfill social and environmental functions ... Large estate farming and land concentration is forbidden.”
The law was passed with 98 votes in favor and will go to President Rafael Correa for final approval.