Colin J.-Ph., Daoudi A., Léonard E., Bouquet E., 2020. “From formal rules to local practices: A comparative perspective between Algerian and Mexican land reforms”, Land Use Policy.
One of the key issues raised by land policies is the frequent distance between the legal and administrative frameworks as designed by the central power (i.e., formal institutional change), the effective implementation of these policies, and the actual local land practices grounded in the actors’ agency. This paper tackles this issue from a comparative perspective regarding land reforms in Algeria and Mexico, drawing on literature reviews, a sound knowledge by the authors of the two countries’ land policies, including in a historical perspective, and on the authors’ long-term involvement in first-hand field research. Despite historical, social and political differences, the comparison reveals a strikingly convergent picture that allows a certain degree of generalization either in land reform dynamics or in the local practices that emerged after the reforms were implemented. In both cases, the reforms went through successive stages of expropriation and land redistribution, reorganizational structures through which the land was accessed and used, and a specification of beneficiaries’ rights emphasizing their collective, non-tradable dimensions. Comparing the situation in Algeria and Mexico sheds light on two fields of practices that reflect the actors’ agency while facing heavy government interventions in the local governance of land: a process of de facto decollectivization of agricultural production, and individualization of land rights, and a process of illegal land commoditization, partly through sales, but mainly, through tenancy arrangements. The comparison also illustrates convergences in the form of inadequate public interventions, as well as pragmatic adjustments in administrative practices in order to accommodate for the informal dynamics of individualization and fragmentation