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November 27, 2011

Water woes, legal issues leave 20 Namibia farms unoccupied

by Irene !Hoaës
The Ministry of Lands and Resettlement has confirmed that up to 20 farms (translating into 37 farming units), lie unoccupied after they were allocated to their intended beneficiaries since 2005. Most of the farms were allocated between 2005 and 2010.

The majority are in the Karasburg district of the Karas Region, while a few are in the Lüderitz, Bethanie and Keetmanshoop districts.

According to the Acting Permanent Secretary of the ministry, Dr Nashilongo Shivute, many of these units are unoccupied due to lack of functional water infrastructure, while three units are unoccupied due to a pending legal matter.

Shivute said the problem is prevalent all over the country, although this happens mostly in the Karas Region, where the ministry acquired 71 farms.

Shivute said more than 90 percent of the farm beneficiaries are from Karas, Hardap and Omaheke regions, while a few are from Khomas, Otjozondjupa and the Northern Communal Areas (NCA).

She admitted that the problem is due to bureaucratic procedures, whereby farms remain unoccupied for a long period of time, and hence they risk vandalism. In addition, Shivute said, farms are demarcated into a number of farming units, thus, some farming units may not have functional water infrastructure, by resettlement or allocation. She said that her ministry was attending to the problem and has been implementing a major water infrastructure rehabilitation programme since 2007.

At least 20 percent of the N$50 million annually allocated for land acquisition is used for infrastructure development.

A total of 141 farms are currently being rehabilitated under Phase 1 of the project and an amount of more than N$40 million has been spent on water infrastructure rehabilitation programme over the past four years, Shivute said.

According to her, the number of unoccupied farming units could have been more than 60 if the major water infrastructure development programme had not have been implemented.

Many critics of Namibia’s land reform programme blame the dilapidation of farming infrastructure on the lengthy process involved in buying, demarcating, and allocating farming units to beneficiaries.

Namibia has inherited a skewed pattern of land distribution. Thus it is trying to address this pattern through its land reform programme, which is viewed by many Namibians as very slow and frustrating.

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