Tackling ‘Severe Land Hunger’

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK In order to tackle the “severe land hunger” in the country, government will need a total of N$4,5 billion to speed up the land reform process during the next 15 years. The Permanent Technical Team (PTT) on Land Reform revealed this in a new report launched officially by the Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Jerry Ekandjo, in Windhoek yesterday. The report consists of two documents titled: ‘The Background Research Work and Findings’ and ‘The Strategic Options and Action Plan on Land Reform’. Addressing close to 60 delegates, ambassadors and various interested stakeholders in the agricultural sector, Ekandjo said the country’s current land reform process is slow and needs to be sped up to address, in his words, the ” … severe land hunger in the country”. In view of this, the PTT Report on Land Reform recommends the revision and increase of the land acquisition targets from 9,5 million to 15 million hectares by the year 2020. “This would ensure that government will continue to respond to the increased pressure and demand for agricultural land,” explained Ekandjo, adding that the process had been “too slow, cumbersome, costly and unreliable”. Thus the pace of acquisition of land through the willing-seller, willing-buyer principle has been and is very slow. The minister said, as a result, there have been some drawbacks in the process of delivering land to previously disadvantaged Namibians. “Although funds to the tune of N$50 million are appropriated every year by parliament, the landowners do not respond,” added Ekandjo. However, despite these setbacks, the ministry has managed to acquire to date 197 commercial farms of 1 210 957 hectares and resettled 1 616 families. Furthermore, in an effort to speed up the land reform process, government embarked on compulsory land acquisition through expropriating land by legal, constitutional means and based on fair compensation. However, recommendations posed by the newly launched PPT Report on Land Reform, a more collaborative effort is needed from all stakeholders, including government, to continue addressing the unbalanced land ownership situation in the country from a political, social and economic perspective. The main thrust of the new PTT report centres on the productive and sustainable use of the land. Thus, State acquisition through the National Resettlement Programme and Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS) should be boosted to enable previously disadvantaged Namibians to make ” … maximum and productive use of the land allocated to them”, the report recommends. Ekandjo lamented the fact that beneficiaries need to be well equipped with the knowledge and skills for the improvement of production in order to ensure its long-term sustainability. Sixteen years ago, out of approximately 69,6million hectares of land available for agricultural purposes, 36,2million hectares (or 52%) were deemed freehold land or commercial farming land. Some 4 200, predominantly advantaged, white farmers occupied this land at the time. “Some 33,4million hectares (or 48%) could be described as communal or non-freehold land, supporting 70% of Namibians in the rural areas. Yet, in an effort to change the “skewed land ownership pattern”, government embarked on a land reform programme through the equitable distribution of farmland for sustainable economic growth and reduction of income inequalities. Since the land reform process is an enormous challenge, more capital is needed to carry it out in the period 2006 to 2020. Hence the need for N$4,5 billion for its success during the next 15 years. However, its success is dependent on the collaboration and co-ordination between the various stakeholders and line ministries in line with the country’s national development goals of Vision 2030 and the National Development Plans. Speaking at the same occasion, the ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Namibia, Freiherr von Kittlitz, said that the launching of the PTT report marks a significant step forward in the Namibian land reform process that other countries can emulate. The PTT Report was compiled from August 2003 to May 2004 with an extension period added by Cabinet until November the same year. It primarily focuses on reviewing the existing policy and legal framework, dealing with land reform in particular and natural resources management in general, economic and financial sustainability, institutional co-ordination and sustainability and environmental sustainability and other cross-cutting issues. Financial support for the report came from the Federal Republic of Germany through the Gesellschaft fÃÆ’Æ‘Æ‘ÃÆ”šÃ‚¼r Technische Zusammenarbeit (GTZ), the United Kingdom through the Department for International Development, and the US through the International Development Agency, which funded the Namibia Nature Foundation. It was further compiled with case study examples on land reform from five countries – South Africa, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Botswana and Mozambique.