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China's big step in rural reform: Mapping tiny plots of farm land

Published on Feb 6, 2013 11:15 AM
A man shows his certificate for rural contracted land operation right in Yangwang village of Liangyuan township, Anhui province in eastern China. The village is a site of a pilot programme to give villagers clearer title to land holdings. Clearer land rights could encourage ageing villagers to consolidate fields, paving the way for the economies of scale needed for modern agriculture. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

YANGWANG VILLAGE, China (REUTERS) - The bare lightbulbs, unheated rooms and elderly residents of the whitewashed village of Yangwang in eastern China make it seem an unlikely place for an experiment in cutting-edge satellite technology.

This tiny village in Anhui province was home to a pilot project that for the first time mapped farmers' land holdings, putting it on the front line of China's efforts to build modern agricultural sector that can underpin the country's food security - a policy priority for the Communist Party.

The mapping is a tedious but crucial task to make farmers feel more secure about their rights so that they become more willing to merge fields into larger scale farms. It could also help protect them from land grabs by local officials, a leading cause of rural unrest.

"If we don't do this now, and the older generation passes away, the next generation won't know which plot is whose," said Mr Pan Shengyu, who oversaw one of Anhui's land titling pilots.

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