Kavango East farmers refuse terms of new lease agreements

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John Muyamba

Rundu-About 32 farmers in Kavango East Region have refused to sign new lease agreements with the Ministry of Land Reform, because of the new terms and conditions contained in the new agreements.

The Land Reform Ministry says the new agreements, which give farmers a 99-year lease on communal land, would allow farmers to benefit from the donor funded boreholes that would be drilled on the farms.

However, the farmers say the new lease agreements take away the rights of family members and relatives to inherit the farms in case the leaseholder dies. The old lease agreements had offered such provisions for family members to take over the farm when the leaseholder dies.

The current agreement stipulates that in case of a death of a leaseholder, the farm would revert to the ministry for re-allocation to a new leaseholder.

“When the new condition of signing the notarial lease agreement as a condition came to the knowledge of our union, we convened a meeting on 21 November where the Ministry of Land Reform officials were invited to come clarify the content of this agreement, which says that upon death of the lessee the farm will be taken back by the ministry for re-allocation. And the section dealing with compensations and improvements also needed clarification,” said the Kavango East Farmers Union chairperson Adolf Muremi.

According to Muremi, the agreements with new terms and conditions are only being implemented in Kavango East, while in Ohangwena and Kavango West farmers continue to benefit from the old lease agreements that allow for family members to inherit the farm.

The two Kavango regions have about 500 communal farmers, who must now start paying rental fees on the farms they occupy, but some farmers insist that the land was allocated to them by traditional authorities and not by the government, hence the ministry cannot claim rental fees.

“That prompted us, as the union, to convene a meeting with our farmers in the region to collectively look into this agreement. There were also certain conditions and clauses within the agreement that didn’t make us happy.

“For instance, there is a clause that says that if the lessee dies the government will go and assess what has been done on the farm and after that compensate the family, and the government will then take back the farm from the family,” he said.

“A wife, husband, children and family [of the lessee] cannot inherit the farm and continue the lease on the farm should the lessee die. Also, if the lessee is critically ill, the agreement can be cancelled or if you have a mental problem whilst leasing the farm, it can also be cancelled. It is not a good agreement [for] our people,” he said.

Muremi further told New Era that despite the explanations from the Land Reform Ministry, the farmers are still unhappy with the terms and conditions.

The farmers insist that boreholes be drilled for the 32 beneficiaries without signing new lease agreements, as the farmers already have their old agreements that allow them to stay on those farms for 99 years – and the lease can be inherited by family. They resolved that no farmer should sign without the union’s input and it was also agreed that the minister and his advisors would be invited to meet with the farmers.

“We don’t want the ministry’s consultants or any staff, we want the minister to sit with the farmers and explain what is really happening and why,” he said.

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