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March 08, 2011

Namibia threatens to reclaim non-productive resettlement farms

by Irene !Hoaës

The Namibian Ministry of Lands and Resettlement has given three months to resettlement beneficiaries who lease their farming units to stop the practice or face the consequences.

“We want to take action. It is getting serious now. The law is clear, people should know,” warned the Director of Resettlement, Alfred Sikopo.

Sikopo said land would be withdrawn from those who make themselves guilty of the offence. The land would thereafter be re-advertised so that it is given to people who would use it productively.

Any beneficiary who is subleasing a farm or farming unit, is contravening the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act No 6 of 1995 and the Resettlement Policy of 2001 as well as the Conditions of the Lease Agreement.

“We don’t care with those who lease but with the land beneficiaries. They brought in these people and should get rid of them,” he said.

Sikopo revealed that about 30 to 40 percent of the resettlement farms are being subleased, as per a Resettlement Audit carried out two to three years ago. The practice is rife all over the country and is not unique to a specific region.

Sikopo said the cause for subleasing is the fact that there were no selection criteria when units were allocated but broad qualifying criteria, resulting in ‘wrong’ people getting land and being resettled.

“Apart from a qualifying criteria, you need a selection criteria. Many people might just need land for residential purposes and not necessarily agricultural land,” the director added.

According to Sikopo, a new selection criteria has just been approved and would come into effect soon.

The new selection criteria would make use of a scoring system, whereby criteria such as being a female, residing in a communal area versus somebody who resides in an urban area, being literate, age lower than 75 would score more points.

“Farming is a business, hence a literate person will be at an advantage as he/she will need to understand financial management, understand rangeland management etc,” Sikopo added.

The ministry held a workshop a week ago, which looked at the resettlement beneficiary criteria.
The aim of the workshop was to guide the resettlement process and ensure that only suitable candidates are selected for resettlement farming units.

Broad qualifying criteria stipulates that the following could get land:

• People who have neither land nor income nor livestock;
• People who have neither land nor income, but have livestock;
• People who have income or are cattle owners, who need land to settle on with their families, or to graze their livestock, could benefit from the resettlement programme.

Some critics are of the opinion that one of reasons people sublease is the fact that farmers do not receive post-settlement support or any other support that would enable them to productively farm.

Some farmers do not even have the means to buy diesel for their water engines, while resettlement beneficiaries do not even own livestock, hence subleasing could be the only option for the farmers.

The reason for land redistribution after independence was to redress past imbalances in the distribution of economic resources particularly land, to give some sections of the population an opportunity to produce their own food with a view towards self-sufficiency, to bring smallholder farmers into the mainstream of the Namibian economy by producing for the market, to create employment through full time farming, to alleviate human and livestock pressure in communal areas, to offer an opportunity to citizens to reintegrate into society after many years of displacement by the colonialisation process, war of liberation and circumstances.

In a recent change with regard to the selection criteria, the ministry would only advertise 30 percent of a farm bought by government for resettlement purposes, while 70 percent would be reserved for regional inhabitants.

According to the Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Alpheus !Naruseb, this is a policy directive necessitated by government’s desire to equitably spread land to people who need it the most.

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