Freedom to Farm: Agricultural Land Use, Crop Selection, Fallowing, and Proposed Changes to the Myanmar Farmland Law Necessary to Strengthen Land Tenure Security

Published in: Annual World Bank Land and Poverty Conference

The freedom to farm one’s land as one chooses, as manifested in basic choices about what crops to grow and when to fallow fields, is an assumed freedom held by many agriculturalists. In the Myanmar context, government restrictions create a different environment for smallholders. In Myanmar, the Farmland Law of 2012 prohibits the growing of alternative (non-staple) crops and the fallowing of land without permission of the government, and the same law requires applications for permission to grow alternative crops or to change from one agricultural land use to another. This paper explores the basis for rights to agricultural land use freedom, crop selection, and fallowing practices by examining economic, cultural, ecological, climate change, and international rights factors. Concluding that the freedom to select one’s land use and crops and to fallow one’s land is advantageous for farmers and for the broader sustainability and productivity of Myanmar agriculture, the paper then describes recommended amendments to the Farmland Law. The paper’s discussion of suggested amendments is grounded in the 2016 National Land Use Policy (NLUP), offering amendments to the utilization restrictions on crop selection and fallowing, as well as to elements of the Farmland Law that impact women’s land rights and the rights of customary users.

Key Words: aquaculture, crop selection, fallowing, Burma, Myanmar