11 July 2012

Namibia: Illegal Settlement Rampant in Hardap

Mariental — Compared to the Karas Region, the resettlement programme in the Hardap Region seems to be plagued by illegal settling and occupation of farms.

It also seems as if Hardap has more group settlements or perhaps New Era was only able to meet more of the individual beneficiaries in the Karas compared to Hardap.

And as usual, water was the main problem experienced by beneficiaries in Hardap.

Farmers complained about a severe shortage of water and broken or dilapidated water infrastructure.

Perhaps illegal farm settlements are rampant in Hardap because it is more habitable than the drier Karas, where even beneficiaries abandon their units they have received for free, because of the harsh conditions.

Some beneficiaries of group resettlements in the region did not even apply for the units that they occupy today, but just occupied the land without permission, shortly after independence.

These people stayed on the land until government was forced to formalise their stay, so that their names today appear on the registry of land reform beneficiaries.

Another trend that was observed is that some beneficiaries who occupied land without permission had now been legally resettled on other farms but have to date not relinquished the other farm for the legal one.

Some claim that they can only move when there is water on their legal allotment or simply promise to move shortly, although they had been allocated the farm even a year ago.

On farms in the Rehoboth vicinity, people simply ask permission from the legal beneficiaries and move in on those farms.

Others bring in their relatives, thus there is a lot of illegal farm occupation happening in the Hardap Region.

On farm Haribes, some members of the group resettled did not even have the means to transport their animals or building material to the units allocated to them, although it's almost more than a year ago that they have been resettled.

Most of the group resettlement beneficiaries are from â-¡Nawaseb, a village in Hardap.

Beneficiaries were temporarily offloaded at the main farmstead where the main dwellings of the farm are and were supposed to move to their individual allotments or group allotments as soon as they could build their dwellings.

But of course the people, most of them elderly beneficiaries, do not have the means to transport their building material to their units and are still stuck at the main farmstead.

Shortly after independence, the government embarked on the current land reform programme to resettle previously disadvantaged Namibians.

The programme consists of two different strategies, which are resettlement and the transfer of commercially viable agricultural land.

Resettlement is aimed at improving the lives of displaced or dispossessed previously disadvantaged individuals. Farms obtained by government for resettlement purposes are usually demarcated into several units and dozens of families are resettled on what had previously been one farm.

Government does not directly transfer commercial agricultural land - instead would-be farmers with a previously disadvantaged background obtain farms privately or through affirmative action loans.

In both cases, the "willing buyer, willing seller" principle applies. Poor farmers, who do not really have an additional income, simply stay without water or depend on the mercy of their neighbours who might have the means to fix their water infrastructure themselves.

After a farm has been acquired, it sometimes lies idle for at least a year or more, due to bureaucratic processes which results in farms being looted, mostly of its water infrastructure and fencing materials.

Upon resettlement, new farmers have to struggle to fix the water infrastructure themselves, while waiting and hoping for government assistance.

A New Era team visited over 40 farms, both AALS (Affirmative Action Loan Scheme) and resettlement farms, in the Karas and Hardap regions recently to talk to Namibia's land reform beneficiaries.

In a follow-up the paper will feature stories from the Hardap region's land reform beneficaries.

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