The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Land Reform to Cost Billions

Windhoek — GOVERNMENT will have to shell out a staggering N$3,7 billion over the next 15 years to acquire a targeted 10,3 million hectares of commercial farm land to resettle 6 727 families by 2020, a new report reveals.

Another five million hectares of communal land will be portioned off into small farming units.

Support services for resettled beneficiaries will come to a further N$1,4 million for the same period, while N$ 53,3 million a year will be needed to develop communal land.

The Ministry of Lands and Resettlement finally made its long-awaited Land Reform Report and Strategic Action Plan public yesterday - it was compiled by a team of experts at the end of 2004.

Cabinet recently approved the recommendations made in the report, which was mainly financed by Germany, Britain and the US.

Developing the five million hectares of communal land for small-scale farming will require an additional N$ 53,3 million a year.

"Developing communal land is a crucial component to land reform," the report says.

It recommends the acquisition of 270 000 hectares of commercial farmland a year until 2020.

This translates into approximately 50 commercial farms a year, averaging 5 000 hectares.

Despite obstacles and drawbacks, Government had bought 197 commercial farms since the start of the land reform process 10 years ago, comprising 1,2 million hectares through the willing-seller, willing-buyer process, Minister Jerry Ekandjo said at the launch in Windhoek.

"We have resettled 1 616 families so far," he said.

"If the land issue is not resolved, it can have political, economic and social implications for Namibia's socio-economic development," Ekandjo emphasised.

"For the successful implementation of the land reform programme as outlined in the Strategic Action Plan, regional councils and local authorities have a crucial role to play.

Community involvement and mass participation in development efforts is recognised to be at the heart of the Government's land reform in order to promote a participatory approach, as there can be no effective development without community participation," Ekandjo said.

The Minister assured land owners and stakeholders that Government would continue implementing land reform in line with the relevant laws.

"I acknowledge the sensitivity and resistance that has been involved in this (expropriation) process, but I want to give the assurance that expropriation would be done within the context of the (land) policy and the legal framework, Ekandjo said yesterday.

"As land is compulsorily acquired, fair compensation is paid to those from whom the land is being acquired."

Oliver Horsthemke, who was a member of the Permanent Technical Team (PTT) which compiled the report, noted the recommendations included the design of better criteria for future resettlement beneficiaries with regard to skills and knowledge about agriculture.

Support packages and care programmes for beneficiaries would now be included in the land reform plan.

"Better co-ordination among ministries, increased capacity and more involvement of non-State actors are necessary to implement the plan until 2020," Horsthemke said.

"A good monitoring system for the land reform process should be established."

Another PTT member, Vehaka Tjimune, noted that the Lands Ministry would have to find resettlement areas around towns so that people could put up their houses, which would be unaffordable for them on town land, and to give them an opportunity for "very small-scale production".

The new German Ambassador to Namibia, Arne Freiherr von Kittlitz, said the 15-year land reform plan provided clear perspectives and transparency.

"Namibia's success in this endeavour will further contribute to her reputation as a paragon of stability and political far-sightedness and thus setting an example from which others can lean," the German Ambassador noted.

Namibia has about 69 million hectares of land that can be used for agriculture.

About half of that (36 million ha) is freehold land, owned by some 4 000 commercial farmers, with 800 of them already affirmative action farmers from a previously disadvantaged background.

Approximately 33 million ha are communal or non-freehold land.

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