Social Science Baha

Lecture Series

Agrarian Relations And Rural Poverty

Magnus Hatlebakk
Lecture Series LXVI
March 25, 2013

Magnus Hatlebakk
Agrarian Relations and Rural Poverty

To what extent can traditional agrarian relations still explain rural poverty? Many traditional South Asian societies with unequal land distribution are characterised by a class of landless agricultural workers, quite often Dalits, who depend heavily on local landlords. The village elite have traditionally controlled politics as well as land, labour and local credit markets. There may be benefits from being under the wing of the local landlord as he can provide financial support in times of need. In that sense, the tenant-worker, to some extent, may trade off the short-term freedom of choice of contract partner against the benefits of a local social welfare net.

In Nepal, historically there are a range of contracts from the most exploitative Kamaiya contract to free labourers combining agricultural and non-farm daily wage labour. With all the variation in contracts, and motives for entering into them, it is not a simple matter to classify a contract as mutually beneficial or as exploitative.

This lecture will present research–where the underlying motivation has been to understand some of the mechanisms that explain why people are still poor–conducted over the last 15 years in an attempt to separate different types of contracts and reasons people enter into them.

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Listen to or download lecture in audio format


Magnus Hatlebakk is a senior researcher at CMI, a development studies institute in Bergen, Norway. His research focuses on the rural economics of Nepal and, in particular, of the Tarai region. Dr Hatlebakk’s recent publications include the book Statistical Evidence on Social and Economic Exclusion in Nepal (2010) (with Arun Das), as well as journal articles such as ‘Triadic Power Relations in Rural Nepal’ (2011) in Journal of Development Studies; and ‘Capacity-constrained Collusive Price Discrimination in the Informal Rural Credit Markets of Nepal’ (2009) in Review of Development Economics.

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