This paper questions the novelty of post-2000 development strategies, in particular the US’s Millennium Challenge Corporation and its ethos of ‘poverty reduction through economic growth.’ Using land as a lens, I explore recent eras of development assistance and ask if the Millennium-era has been appreciably different from pre-2000 development. The backdrop of my study is an MCC-sponsored land reform in Lesotho. I use data drawn from fieldwork in Lesotho to argue that the logics and outcomes of the Development industry’s land policies have remained largely the same. Despite the anti-poverty rhetoric, the residents of a peri-urban village near Maseru, Lesotho’s capital, are more likely to be dispossessed of their land than they were before the MCC’s land reform began. The reform provided Lesotho with economic growth, but no apparent poverty reduction. I argue that the MCC’s land reform project in Lesotho demonstrates the continued primacy of economic growth in post-2000 international development. There is a gulf between economic growth and poverty reduction that is not addressed by Development practitioners who claim that growth itself is sufficient to reduce poverty. In the case of Lesotho, I argue that the work of Development and dispossession are linked, amounting to ‘Development by dispossession.’
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