September 21, 2004

Land resettlement so far is problematic, says Parliamentary Committee

Settling landless Namibians without the means and skills for them to become productive farmers is proving a major problem for Government's land reform programme. "Such a practice is as good as not resettling them at all," said Chairperson of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Economics, Natural Resources and Public Administration Ponhele ya France, when he tabled a report on resettlement in the National Assembly. Overcrowding on some farms has also led to overgrazing and has affected productivity. At least four farms visited by the committee were too densely populated and numbers continued to grow as farm workers were retrenched or dismissed. "The challenge with the category of priority settlers is that they mostly do not have the means at their disposal to embark on a productive farming career after being allocated a piece of land," the report says.
The committee had before visited 16 resettlement and ostrich farms in the Hardap, Karas, Omaheke, Otjozondjupa and Kunene regions, to familiarise itself with the progress and challenges on the farms. It found that the San community, in particular, was struggling to make a success of farming because of a lack of necessary training and resources. On the farm Skoonheid - where about 70 San families are settled - houses built by Government 10 years ago still did not have toilets, bathrooms or running water. Farmers were found suffering from hunger and going onto nearby commercial farms in search of water and food. The 4.709 hectare farm of Goab was found to have 14 families living on it - when it is meant to accommodate only four. As many as 86 families were found living on the 4.315 hectare farm of Vasdraai.
The parliamentary committee found that those who had been resettled - the San community, former soldiers, displaced, destitute, disabled and those from over-crowded communal areas - expected Government to give them livestock, access to finance, training and assistance in maintaining the infrastructure of the farm they had been given. Because farmers are not presented with leasehold certificates, their access to finance has also been found to be limited. The committee has suggested that the Ministry of Lands, in collaboration with Agribank, devise financial and credit facilities, especially for settlers. In general the committee recommended that access to basic social services in areas where farms have been turned into a resettlement blocks be improved. It was further suggested that Government integrate settlers with the San community so that they can learn best practices from one another. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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