By Beth Main
A small village in Anhui province has become home to a pilot project to map farmers’ land holdings using satellites, with a view to future rural reform. The satellite mapping system aims to modernise China’s agricultural system and alleviate fears of food shortages caused by a growing population.
It may sound tedious work but it is important to make farmers feel secure on their assets and rights before merging their land into larger farms. The trial project in the village of Yangwang will hopefully be expanded to the whole country in the future.
Since Mao Zedong’s land reforms when land was assigned to families under the management of a commune, no one has really been sure where the boundaries lie and there is certainly no legal documentation to support ownership. Fears that the current knowledge will be lost with the death of the elder generation prompted the satellite mapping project.
China’s annual rural policy document released last week calls for title to farmland to be defined nationwide over the next five years. It is a technical challenge that could cost $16 billion.
Assigning title is painstaking work that involves correlating satellite pictures with villagers’ records, issuing certificates and creating databases to register and search land transfers.
The mapping of land and issuing of certificates should be a comfort to farmers but, due to a history of government backed land-grabs, some are understandably suspicious of the project.