The issuing and distribution of land certificates for free has been a flagship program of the government in recent years. The Agrarian and Spatial Planning Ministry and National Land Agency (BPN) have set an ambitious target to distribute 60 million land certificates until every landowner has a legal document of land ownership by 2025. In this year alone, there are 11 million land certificates intended to be distributed.
It is the right policy that is in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In achieving the first goal of no poverty, for instance, one target is to ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal access to economic resources, including land.
One indicator to measure the progress of the target is the proportion of the total adult population with secure tenure rights to land, with legally recognized documentation.
Unfortunately, such an indicator is not yet available for Indonesia. It is one of the limitations of land statistics in Indonesia that should be addressed to monitor the progress of SDGs properly.
However, the results of the 2018 National Socio-Economic Survey (SUSENAS) pointed out that about 17.73 percent of the total land and/or residential owner households all over the country lack documented tenure rights in the form of either land certificates or other legal documents.
It makes their rights to land
face a high risk to be threatened by competing claims and forced eviction. Moreover, only 42.8 percent of all households hold land certificates. The figure in the rural area even is worse. The SUSENAS pointed out that only 34.45 percent of rural households hold land certificates and almost one-quarter of the land and/or residential owner households do not own any documented tenure rights.
In terms of the tenure of the agricultural land, the same picture was captured by the results of the 2018 Inter-Census Agricultural Survey (SUTAS).
The SUTAS showed that about one-quarter of the total of 27.7 million agricultural households in Indonesia do not have either a land certificate or other documented tenure rights. This circumstance makes them unusually prone to unforeseen difficulties and poverty.
Land tenure security is vital for agricultural households, not only for agricultural production. It also allows them to diversify their livelihoods by using their land as collateral for loans or renting it out or selling it. Therefore, land tenure security can improve their self-reliance.
In contrast, the lack of secure land tenure for agricultural households can exacerbate poverty in rural areas. However, issuing and distributing land certificates for free is far from enough to alleviate poverty. It does not address another critical issue — the inequality of land distribution.
The ministry and BPN calculated that the Gini ratio of land tenure was 0.58 in 2016, indicating high inequality in distribution of land holdings. Meanwhile, the distribution of land tenure among agricultural households is much more unequal. The SUTAS shows 20 percent of the agricultural households hold about 71 percent of the total land.
For agricultural land, about 69 percent of the total agricultural land is owned by only 20 percent of the total agricultural households. The consequence of such very unequal land distribution is pretty clear. Our agricultural sector, particularly food crops farming, is dominated by small-scale farmers.
The SUTAS found that 15.8 million agricultural households (58 percent) only hold less than 0.5 hectares of land. Meanwhile, based on the 2013 Agricultural Census, the National Development Planning Agency (Bappenas) calculated that about 14.4 million (56 percent) agricultural households, in aggregate, only hold 1.8 million ha of agricultural land, or on average merely 0.13 ha per household.
This fact makes a profitable economy of scale in agricultural cultivation hard to meet. Plenty of studies suggest that food crop cultivation can make a profit only when the cultivation area is at least 0.5 ha in size. Therefore, the combination of low productivity and the small scale of farming is pretty clear: chronic poverty in the rural agricultural sector.
Land access, in particular for agricultural households in a rural area, is fundamental. From a piece of land, they shape their livelihoods. For them, it is a source of food, shelter, income and social identity. Unfortunately, statistics show that land access is becoming more tenuous than ever.
So, it is unavoidable that redistributive land reform must be part of a bold development agenda of the new upcoming government. It also must be a key component of anti-poverty strategies in rural areas alongside Village Funds (Dana Desa).
The return of 2,800 ha of land to the residents of Sinamanenek village in Riau province some time ago should be an initial step for a more massive scale of land redistribution. It is time the promise of agrarian reform stated in Nawacita becomes more of a real action, not only words.
[…] statistics show that land access is becoming more tenuous than ever.