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November 25, 2011

Land reform progress slow in Namibia

by Catherine Sasman

Despite claims by Namibian Minister of Lands and Resettlement Alpheus !Naruseb that the land reform programme is on track, the situation on the ground reads differently, insisted civil society organisations at a weekend indaba on land.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church of the Republic of Namibia (ELCRN), Nangof Trust, the Namibia National Farmers Union (NNFU), and grassroots organisation for the landless //Naosan /Aes, concluded that land reform in fact seems not to be a government priority.

According to the Lands Ministry's statistics, 293 resettlement farms were bought at a cost of N$560 million since independence, resettling 4 000 beneficiaries, with an estimated 200 000 Namibians indicating that they want access to land to engage in productive agricultural activities.

The civil organisations concluded that there is a "complete lack of vision" for the resettlement programme", adding that the land reform programme has been divorced from agricultural production, and demanded for a complete review of the criteria for resettlement.

NNFU executive director Oloff Munjanu suggested that the current resettlement criteria is widening the gap between rich and poor blacks, urging for an audit on the socio-economic impact of resettlement so far.

Government indicated that low budgetary allocations and uncontrolled prices of commercial farms on offer meant that it could not buy up more land. And yet, said the civil society organisations, large tracks of land belonging to absentee landlords remain unoccupied, and that, as a case in point, 36 farms bought for resettlement purposes in the Karas region have still not been allocated.

Furthermore, they said a mechanism must be devised to identify un-utilised or underutilised commercial farms of absentee landlords for expropriation.

The organisations suggested that ancestral land rights should be evoked as part of the land reform programme, which is a departure from the recommendations of the 1991 national land conference upon which Government's land reform efforts are hinged.

They further said Government's inability to deal with illegal fencing, particularly in northern Namibia, has led to a scenario where those squeezed off land compete with others for resettlement further south.

Moreover, said the organisations, Government is slow to exploit the full potential of communal areas, arguing that some interventions are "misplaced and a waste of scarce resources", such as the 20-hectare farming units in particularly livestock areas.

They called for a comprehensive package of support to communal areas to address tenure security, infrastructure development, fencing and roads.

Government was called upon to resolve the tribal disputes in the Okavango region that has denied support for development of more than 42 farming units to communal farmers.

The pending eviction of Audabib squatting communities now moved to November 21 was discussed, and the gathering extended an urgent call on Khomas governor Samuel Nuuyoma to intervene.

It said a stakeholders forum must be convened by Government between the "so-called" title holders and the affected community for a lasting solution.

Other communities in the former Rehoboth gebiet facing eviction are in Stinkwater, รข‰Hatsamas and Tsumis Park, which lead ELCRN's Uhuru Dempers to suggest that the "crisis cases" of the gebiet be dealt with comprehensively, instead of in a piecemeal fashion.

The indaba bemoaned the fact that land reform is not reflected as a key strategy in Government's poverty reduction plan, or the third National Development Plan (NDP 3).

A task force was formed to coordinate and monitor the implementation of recommendations of the indaba.

This task force was also mandated to call for a consultative forum with local and regional authorities, including governors and the lands ministry officials, to discuss the plight of small-scale farmers in municipal or town lands.

The Namibian

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