A few notes on the SEARCA conference:
Yujiro Hayami explores new ground with a theory of African underdevelopment. Taking off from a conjecture by co-author Platteau, he hypothesizes that property rights in African agriculture are undermined by a social norm of redistribution. These norms evolved under conditions of shifting cultivation, nomadic grazing, and land abundance, where redistribution had served as insurance against bad lack from a risky environment. However they fail to adjust to norms more respecting of property rights, once the resource condition altered to one of land scarcity. For example, a farmer who invests in improved livestock breeds, and receives higher-than-normal returns, is hounded by villagers to share the money or risk community censure, disapproval, and ostracism.
James Roumasset has a comprehensive retrospective and prospective on agricultural and rural development thinking. Obviously hard to summarize. Jock Anderson spoke on globalization and food security; he thinks that policy advice and development optimism should be tempered by real-world problems associated with risk, uncertainty, and uneven quality of governance in developing countries.
Keijiro Otsuka elaborated on the idea that population pressure leads to the development land rights (first argued by the late Ester Boserup). Based on case studies in Indonesia, Nepal, and Vietnam, he shows that land rights do evolve, in response to resource characteristics, population growth, and market conditions. Initially resources are degraded by poplation growth, but with the induced development of land rights, the resource stock recovers. Land rights need not always be private individualized ownership, though this emerges when the forest produces high-value timber and the cost of resource protection is low (i.e. accessible forest areas). Ian Coxhead also delivered a talk on poverty and the environment under globalization, but it was parallel with Kei Otsuka's so I unfortunately missed it.
How do the young say it these days? This is so not a waste of time.