May 12, 2006

Cabinet approves new land reform plan

Cabinet has given the green light to a wide-ranging action plan on land reform aimed at speeding up and improving the process, including setting targets for land acquisition in certain areas as well as the price to be paid for farms. The action plan prepared by a permanent technical committee contains recommendations and strategic options. It suggests that the Ministry of Lands together with landowners' representatives, such as the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), negotiate a solution to the short- and medium-term acquisition of land.
They should also discuss ways of making more land available for sale on the open market.
"Expropriation should be used in conjunction with targeting specific land areas for specific purposes," a Cabinet statement says.

The Recommendations, Strategic Options and Action Plan on land reform in Namibia are the outcome of the Namibian Government's mission to review and realign its post-independence land reform and national developmental goals. The plan was accepted by Cabinet at its seventh meeting on April 11. The action plan proposes that the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme be expanded to make provision for "group borrowing" to give more people access to the scheme at a more affordable rate, but without increasing the cost to Government and beneficiaries.

Cabinet noted that the current high land prices make repayment difficult, as profit margins are low and this reduces the intended benefits of the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme.
The action plan also contains strategies for improving Government's national resettlement programme and Cabinet has endorsed a proposal that tailor-made "support packages" be designed to suit the specific needs of different categories of farmers.
Cabinet recognised the need for Government to improve its system of screening and selecting beneficiaries in line with social, economic and political considerations.
"Policy should, as a matter of urgency, take into account the priorities of disadvantaged groups in need of resettlement, such as farm workers and women," reads the Cabinet resolution.

The participation of civil society in the land-reform process is also to be encouraged and future policy amendments should encourage community-driven resettlement, giving priority to beneficiaries who indicate a preference for rural, agriculture-based lifestyles and who have agricultural experience. Cabinet also ordered that Government urgently determine under what terms and conditions resettlement beneficiaries would be permitted to grant land-usage rights to third parties. Cabinet further recommended the immediate reassessment of under-utilised or "virgin" land in communal areas as an important prerequisite for future land-reform plans.
The Cabinet Committee on Lands and Social Issues will now have to co-ordinate activities on land reform while the Technical Committee on Lands and Social Issues will be assigned to advise and facilitate the implementation of the approved action plan on land reform. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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