In recent times, the spotlight of international media attention has often focused on problems which have their roots in the inequitable distribution of agricultural land - still a characteristic of many developing countries. For example, media coverage of the social unrest that has beset Zimbabwe since the closing years of the twentieth century has been relentless.
Large plantations still exist in the Caribbean - a legacy of the erstwhile economic importance of sugar in the region. However, on several islands, the traditionally highly skewed pattern of land distribution has been successfully reformed - in most cases without recourse to violence and confiscation in a revolutionary context.
In St. Vincent, the demise of the plantation and the emergence of an independent peasantry are attributable. to a significant degree, to public policy formulated and implemented over a period of one hundred years. Karl John's study chronicles the historical course of these official interventions aimed at reforming the land tenure structure in this small island developing state. The work pays particular attention to the motives for the policies and strategies adopted for land reform, critically evaluates the planning and implementation of related programs and projects, and assesses the role of prevaling economic, social and political forces in both limiting and enabling their success.
Karl John's study of land reform in St. Vincent reveals insights which owe a great deal to his professinal training and career experiences. Karl John holds a masters degree in regional planning and resource development from the University of Waterloo in Canada and has received training at the Economic Development Institute of the World Bank in national economic management and at the International Law Institute and Georgetown University in Washinton, D.C. in international project procurement and contract negotiations and is a member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (UK).
After a brief stint as a land surveyor, Karl John played a key role in establishing the existing institutional framework for physical planning in his native St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Later, he was instrumental in effecting the successful integration of the functions of economic planning and physical planning within a single administrative unit in the public service. As head of the national planning apparatus for over a decade, he was responsible for strategic planning as well as for the implementation of management of key development programs and projects. Following early retirement, Karl John continued to work for several years in the public sector on a consultancy basis in the fields of program and project management and arbitration. In this capacity, he played a key role in the planning and implementation of St. Vincent's land reform program of the eighties and nineties.