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Need for land reform

I read with great interest the timely article, ``Donor nations seek long-term solutions to famine in Africa'' [March 5]. The reporter should be commended for focusing attention on long-term solutions rather than reiterating the already well-publicized problem. As important as the article is, I feel that the writer has, unfortunately, offered solutions which, although helpful, do not address the root cause of poverty for millions of Africans. Namely, an unequal distribution of and control over resources; especially land.

In most developing countries a small number of rich landowners control the vast amount of agricultural land. This disproportionate control can be as high as 80 percent of the land being controlled by 3 percent of the population.

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In many of these countries the majority are, therefore, either forced to farm small tracts of marginal land or are left with no land at all.

If incentives to grow more food are established and technical help offered without more basic reforms being instituted -- i.e., land reform -- then these changes will only serve to widen the already existing gulf between the rich and the poor.

It is naive to believe that a substantial ``trickle down'' effect will take place if the landowners increase agricultural output. On the contrary, it has been shown that the mechanization of agriculture has created unemployment and further impoverished the small farmer and the landless. Albert Cennerazzo Catholic Relief Services Brookline, Mass.

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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