September 26, 2005

Land programme is flawed, says NGO

Namibia's land reform programme is flawed because poor and landless people are not being empowered to become successful farmers once they have been resettled, claims a new report.
"An Analysis of the Namibian Commercial Agricultural Land Reform Process", released by the Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), a local NGO, stressed that land reform involved more than just "buying or expropriating land from one group in order to give more land to another group". Most resettled persons had little or no knowledge of rotational grazing, livestock breeding systems or financial planning and management skills, the report pointed out: they simply continued subsistence farming on the piece of land they had been allocated. "Although the government resettlement policy states that its support for beneficiaries would be restricted after five years, our research team did not find a single resettlement project to be sustainable after five years," the authors commented. "Beneficiaries do not get loans, as they have no collateral because resettlement farms are not owned by the people", and therefore did not hold title to the land, the report noted.

Since launching the land reform programme in 1996 to correct colonial-era discrimination in ownership, the government has bought a total of 146 commercial farms covering 932 864ha. At a ministerial workshop on resettlement issues in August, Minister of Land Jerry Ekandjo had disclosed that the ministry had resettled a total of 5 890 families. "So far, 1 538 families were resettled on freehold land and 4 352 families in communal areas - altogether 38 000 people," he said. A special scheme allowed black Namibians to acquire commercial farms by applying for soft loans from the state. According to the ministry of agriculture, over 700 farms were acquired this way.

A step in the right direction was the Emerging Commercial Farmers' Support Programme, said the report. Based on an agreement between the governments of Namibia, The Netherlands and the European Union, the programme will make mentorship and other assistance available to resettled people and fledgling black commercial farmers. Recommendations by the researchers included shared ownership models and joint ventures between emerging black farmers and white commercial farmers. "Such an approach would transfer land as well as skills, without compromising the important contribution of the commercial farming sector to Namibia's economy." (The Namibian, Windhoek)


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