27 June 2012

Namibia: Forum Gets Off Ground to Accelerate Land Reform

LONG after it was first conceived in 2003, the National Land Reform Forum (NLRF) was established with 29 members from the public, public and civil society sectors to accelerate land reform.

The resuscitation of the idea and eventual formation of the forum was prompted by an insufficient transfer of land to previously disadvantaged Namibians.

Until November 2009, 1305 farms of six million hectares have changed ownership primarily through the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS), but also through resettlement and farms bought with private financing.

The lands ministry has set itself the target to acquire 534 000 hectares annually for the 2009/10 to 2011/12 financial years. In 2004, Government attempted to acquire land through expropriation, but found that it was time consuming and expensive.

Since 2010, the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement set up a negotiated forum for land acquisition that allows for Government and farmers to negotiate farm prices which are generally considered as exorbitant. Nonetheless, through this process, said Klaus Schade, the ministry acquired about 70 000 hectares of farm land within a few months.

The Minister of Lands and Resettlement, Alpheus !Naruseb, said the NLRF provides the opportunity for the nation to jointly assess the reform process and steer the direction into which it should head.

Permanent Secretary Lidwina Shapwa, commented that the Namibian land transformation is not doing too badly if compared to the rest of Africa and other parts of the world, and hoped that the forum would position Namibia within a short space of time as the champion of land reform.

It is believed that the NLRF will affect a bigger buy-in from stakeholders, decrease uncertainty, and assist with the identification of clusters of farms being offered, and ultimately improve investor confidence over the long term.

Director of Land Reform Knox Imbuwa said the NLRF will exchange information concerning Government targets, plans and resources for land reform, and articulate and discuss views of stakeholders about the current and complementary approaches to land reform, develop new ideas and reach consensus on the way forward.

Contrary to the Land Reform Advisory Commission which advises the minister with commissioners appointed by the minister, the NLRF consists of a broad range of stakeholders.

The stakeholders are Government ministries, including the National Planning Commission and Agribank, and farmers' and farm associations, academic institutions and development partners. It includes statutory boards like the Karakul Board of Namibia, Meat Board, and the Namibian Agronomic Board.

The private sector will be represented by the Abattoir Association, Agra, the Bankers' Association of Namibia, the Chamber of Agriculture of Namibia, Feedmaster and the Meat Corporation of Namibia.

Non-governmental organisations are represented by the Council of Churches, Nangof and women's organisations. A chairperson and deputy chairperson are still to be elected. These two positions will be elected every two years. The forum's secretarial functions will be outsourced to an independent secretariat.

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