Farm settlement schemes were government initiatives promoting rural development by providing small farmers with resources and land for commercial farm operations. A secondary goal was to increase the standard of living among rural communities in a cost-effective manner. Farm settlement schemes have largely become obsolete, having typically been implemented only in Third World countries lacking the stability and resources to have permanent success. The closest counterpart to farm settlement schemes in the United States were the series of Homestead Acts passed by Congress during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, though those programs have long since disappeared.
Farm Settlement Schemes in Africa
Africa has been home to the most ambitious farm settlement schemes, which benefited from the assistance of foreign aid organizations. The schemes depended on participants voluntarily relocating and were seen as the fastest method for developing rural areas. They also served as testing grounds for new farming methods and as a way to transform market economies. Governments implementing the schemes hoped that by infusing large amounts of capital into specific areas, surrounding areas would benefit economically. Most of the developments failed, however.
Latin American Farm Settlement Schemes
In Central and South America, farm settlement schemes were largely tied to the notion of land reform. This led to the practice of clearing large areas of tropical forest for conversion into commercial farms. To a lesser extent, farms left over from earlier colonial efforts were also reclaimed and used to settle peasants with farming experience. Individuals in Central and South America were eager to gain ownership of land and to formalize the documentation process, which was previously almost non-existent. Once the land was largely settled, the farmers pressured their governments to build up a supporting infrastructure of roads, water supply, buildings and schools.