Shifting Land Law Structure and its Effects on Small-Scale Farmers’ Land-Use in Debnica Kaszubska, Poland from 1947-Present

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What does “land ownership” mean to Polish farmers and has that definition changed in the midst of Poland’s economic and political transitioning from communism to capitalism? In sustenance economies, land ownership is defined by one’s physiological relationship with nature and land usage is practiced communally. Conversely, in the market-economy-based framework, land is capital, collateral, and amateur farmers’ legal ownership of it is crucial to economic self-sufficiency as it increases their chances of acquiring loans and credit for private sustainability projects. But which system do amateur farmers who have survived regime-change in rural Poland prefer? In many developing countries, farmers lobbying for their land and property rights in the midst of land-code changes are waging an uphill battle against the economic, interests of foreign investor and governments and are subsequently being displaced, resettled, simply pushed off their land by para-military groups and other organizations. Is that the case in Poland? This qualitative, journalistic-type of research endeavor set in the rural Pomeranian village of Debnica Kaszubska, Poland, is designed to answer the question: How have Polish farmer's lives changed in the continuum of their country's history from communist-based to capitalist-defined land codes between 1947-present? This research will include translations of Polish land laws from 1947-present and a collection and a elderly farmers' oral histories pertaining to their coping with the legal as well as institutional, ideological, economic, social and political changes that have changed definitions of "land" and "property" (from communal to private) throughout the past 60 years. This question is an important one for it can shed light on whether or not the globalization of the market-economy and the privatization of land effectuate transnational trends amongst farmers' experiences and their abilities to find agency for their causes in the international sphere.

Keywords: Land-Use, Communal Lands, Land Ownership, Privatization of Land, Poland, Rural Pomeranian Village, Amateur Farmers, Land-Code
Stream: Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Gender
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English

Dr. Edyta Materka

Undergraduate Researcher, Aresty Research Center, The State University of New Jersey
Ewing, New Jersey, USA

Proceeding the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Edyta Materka's parents, who believed an education in the United States would save their children from bucolic village life, sold their strawberry plantations along with all of their material possessions and left Słupsk (German: Stolp), a port-city bordering the Baltic Sea along northwestern Poland. In 1993, Edyta, her two older siblings and her parents arrived at Newark International Airport in the United States. In the midst of social, cultural and geographic displacement, Edyta-now the daughter of a construction worker and cleaning lady-grew up "different" in central New Jersey. Feeling displaced, in 1998, she returned to Poland for two months and visited Auschwitz, Warszawa, Kraków, Gdańsk, Częstochowa, Toruń, Zakopane, and climbed the Tatry Mountains. She often dreams of climbing the large sand-dunes in Poland's quasi-desert in Czołpin again. After the tsunami-disaster that hit South-East Asia in December 2004, Edyta flew to Khao Lak, Thailand in June 2005 to volunteer as a full-time construction worker at Hat Laem Pom-a beach settlement along the Andaman Coast-for the duration of two months throughout which she also became a human buffer in a land-ownership dispute between the local villagers and a Thai private firm. Since then, she has become fascinated with gender and land-rights. Edyta has translated Polish land law and has been collecting on-the-ground research about land-rights disputes in Kenya, Mexico, China, as well as on the Thai-Burmese Border. At the age of 21, she has presented her work on land-rights at several international conferences in Amsterdam, China, and San Francisco and is currently working on a book project inspired by her favorite journalist: Ryszard Kapuściński. In 2004, Edyta enrolled into Rutgers University and is currently a prospective B.A. recipient in Women's & Gender Studies, Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies. She is currently a Grammatical and Technical Editor for Global Scholarly Publications in New York City. Edyta has stylistically edited essays written by Presidents Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan and Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, a book by Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev of Azerbaijan to the United States, and speeches by Pope Benedict XVI, Kofi Annan, et al. Edyta wishes to pursue establishing transnational correlations between land-rights movements in the international sphere. She hopes to become a land-rights activist, lawyer, nomad and writer in developing countries. She owes all of her successes to her parents-Bogusława and Czesław Materka.

Ref: I08P0402