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Klaus W. Deininger

Klaus has made outstanding contributions to the profession in the areas of research, capacity building, and data. His work on the impact of secure land rights on investment, the relationship between farm size and productivity and its determinants, and the operation of land and other factor markets in the process of structural change spans the globe. His ability to identify good practice (even if implemented only on a small scale), rigorously analyze the impact, and draw out implications for scaling up resulted in very high policy impact through cases in Mexico, Ukraine, Ethiopia, Rwanda, China, and India.

Several of his papers that are among the most cited in the agricultural economics profession, including the 1996 article on “A new data set measuring income inequality” (with Lyn Squire), a chapter on ‘Power, Distortions, Revolt, and Reform in Agricultural Land Relations’ (with H. Binswanger and G. Feder), and a book on ‘Rising global interest in farmland’ (with Derek Byerlee) that shaped the debate on the ‘land rush’. This is complemented by publications on inequality of income and assets, micro-finance, decentralization, education and health service delivery, and the dynamics of poverty and land use.

Beyond its academic value, his research always aimed to foster evidence-based policy dialogue and building in-country analytical capacity. This allowed him to set the policy agenda for land in various ways. Frist, based on extensive consultation with a range of stakeholders in regional workshops, his 2003 policy research report ‘Land policies for growth and poverty reduction’ profoundly affected subsequent research and policy in the field. His leadership prompted other agencies to develop land policy guidelines in processes aligned with the World Bank, culminating in the adoption of a ‘Framework and Guidelines for land policy by African Heads of State in 2009 and the 2012 adoption of Voluntary Guidelines by FAO’s Committee for World Food Security. To translate global policy into action at country level, he spearheaded development of the ‘Land Governance Assessment’ has by now been applied in more than 40 countries, to yield prioritized policy recommendations, identify areas where more research is needed, and to set up data systems to report on progress and inform further research.

To build analytical capacity, showcase innovation, and foster dialogue, he initiated an annual event on land policy at the World Bank in 1999 that has grown into the premier conference for the land community. The 17th Annual Bank Conference on Land and Poverty in 2016 attracted 800 paper submissions and 1,200 participants from 125 countries. Beyond participation at Ministerial level, a rapid increase in papers by developing country authors, many of them encouraged and mentored by Klaus, is helping to visibly transform the agenda in this field. 

Good research and evidence-based policy depend on researchers’ access to quality data. Starting from the ‘Deininger-Squire’ database on income inequality that helped to set new standards in terms of the data quality and access in the area of income and asset distribution, helping to provide such data for land has been a third area of emphasis. At the household level, his efforts to improve micro-data collection on land include attention to sampling, a standardized module, use of GPS, administrative data, and satellite imagery in the World Banks’ LSMS as well as farm surveys. Beyond this, his work with the World Bank’s ‘Doing Business’ team to make the ‘registering property’ indicator more meaningful allowed him to establish a ‘land administration quality indicator’ that is now available globally. As it partly draws on administrative data, this has led to more consistent processing and regular public reporting of such data, to then be combined with remotely sensed or census information, as a way to give a boost to transparency and accountability, promote high quality research, and help countries report progress towards meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.