The project analyses the effects of the change of institutions that should regulate agricultural land use after the collapse of socialism on agricultural land abandonment rates and patterns in Poland, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, and European Russia between 1990 and 2000.
Figure 1. Agricultural land abandonment rates between 1990 and 2000 detected with satellite images and aggregated by districts boundaries.
Map: Prishchepov et al. 2012.
Figure 2. Agricultural land abandonment rates ((A): by country; (B): separately for Belarus and Russia by provinces). Prishchepov et al. 2012.
In Russia, 31% of agricultural land was left unused in the first ten years of post-socialism, due to a 90% reduction in State support for agriculture while the Russian land reform maintained the socialist farming structures and a moratorium on land sales, which was only rescinded in 2003. Inversely, lowest abandonment rates were found in those countries where institutions that regulated land use were strong during the transition.
For instance, Belarus and Poland exhibited the lowest abandonment rates (10% and 16%, respectively), yet for very different reasons. Belarus retained most of its agricultural land under production by preserving the large-scale farming structures of socialist times with high state subsidies for agriculture. Poland experienced comparatively few changes in farm structures in the transitional period, because the agriculture sector during socialism was characterized by a coexistence of many small-scale private farms and few state farms, whose land was sold after socialisms.Hence, socialist legacies combined with postsocialist government support for agriculture was crucial for abandonment trajectories. The importance of institutional changes and land reform strategies is impressively visible along country boundaries, such as between Belarus and Russia (see figure 1 and 2). Analyzing the patterns and drivers of such differences is vital to better understand how the untapped production potentials on unused agricultural land in the region can be harnessed.
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