Cao’s Story

Land Rights Make Business Bloom for China’s Farmers

For decades, Cao Fenping and his wife farmed their tiny plot of land with little security. As was standard throughout China, they had no title and knew that village leaders could and would reallocate farmers’ plots regularly. So they made no improvements on their land, such as irrigation and organic fertilizers. Like many farmers across China, they focused on growing produce that required little long-term investment. They earned about $500 per year.

All that changed when the government, informed by Landesa’s research and recommendations, began a historic land reform program that provided farmers with 30 year land rights and protections against readjustments and seizures.

With this new found security, Cao and his family dug three wells to improve irrigation, converted about half their land into a vegetable garden, and switched to organic fertilizer. Today they earn $2,900 a year and have a foothold in the global modern economy.

Land tenure security, he says, is the key to their new-found success. “You have to spend a lot of time and money to nurture the soil before getting into the business,” he said, “but if the land were reallocated to someone else, your investments would be gone like water.”