People without Land to Call Their Own

Written and Created by: Brandon Desiderio

Even today, many of the world’s poor and vulnerable people do not have the right to own private property. Property rights remain among the hardest rights to enforce worldwide.

Take, for instance, Guatemala. To this day, according to the Rural Poverty Portal, less than three percent of all of the farms in Guatemala control nearly 70 percent of the country’s farmland. Guatemala’s economy still relies heavily on coffee, sugar and banana farming – and without land to own in order to grow crops, Guatemalan farmers are exploited by wealthy farms and paid unfair wages.

This is what’s known as wage slavery. Farmers are not able to earn enough to have a savings, to provide an education for their children, or even sometimes to feed their families. They’re enslaved to their jobs just to scrape by.

About 275 million of the world’s poorest people do not own land. Without land ownership, it becomes extremely difficult for their lives to improve, since farming could be the first step out of poverty for many.

Land rights for Palestinians in Israel and the Occupied Territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are also being violated. As both territories have been walled off by Israel in response to suicide bombings and other violent attacks, Palestinian residents endure economic hardship through crippling unemployment, and also face difficulty seeing loved ones who often live just miles away on the other side of the walls.

Palestinian farmers in the West Bank have lost land since the construction of a 400-mile-long wall between the West Bank and Israel began in 2001. An estimated 42 percent of the West Bank’s land is controlled by Israeli settlements – over half a million of Israelis who have either legally or illegally moved into neighborhoods and towns of the West Bank that have been built up by the Israeli government or by private companies. Palestinians are often given eviction notices from their homes when a settlement is being built in the area, and homes of Palestinians could be demolished to make room.

The international community agreed to entitle every human being to the right to own property in association with others. Whether between indigenous Mayan farmers and wealthy Guatemalan farm owners, or between Israeli and Palestinian neighbors in the West Bank, peaceful coexistence should be the goal.