26 March 2014

Zambia Is Making Progress Toward a New Land Policy - Minister

Zambia has nearly finished consultations on reforming its land laws and is close to crafting a new policy to ensure all Zambians have clear land rights.

Mwansa Kapeya, Zambia's Minister of Lands, Natural Resources and Environmental Protection, said in an exclusive interview, that his office has received funds from the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa to help develop the policy. He could not immediately provide figures on the amount of money that would be made available.

"All that remains is to consult our major stakeholders, who include chiefs, before the policy is formulated," he said.

Zambia has never had a single comprehensive and clearly defined land policy. It relied on a mix of government pronouncements and circulars which functioned in the place of an overall policy.

Attempts to formulate a policy have been going on since 1965, a year after the country gained independence from the United Kingdom.

Kapeya, who is attending the World Bank conference on Land and Poverty in Washington along with Zambia's acting Land Commissioner Mabuchi Chilembo, said the government will ensure that it involves stakeholders in the formulation of the policy. He declined to give a timeframe for when he expected to complete the new land policy.

Those stakeholders include traditional community leaders, who have three quarters of the land in the country under their care.

Kapeya said the government wants to ensure that traditional leaders are consulted so that they have an input in the policy. Non-governmental organisations such as the Land Alliance are also being consulted.

The government wants to empower chiefs to control and offer pieces of land to community residents, he said.

"We also want to empower rural dwellers by giving them title deeds to enable them to have access to mortgages.

Once people have title deeds, they will be compensated if they are asked to leave the land for development purposes. Currently, people are moved out without proper compensation because they have no title deeds," he said.

Currently, people are moved off lands to pave way for developmental projects in the mining and agricultural sectors.

The Minister said government wants to enhance the security of tenure for land under customary usage to increase agricultural and business productivity, including the ability to use land collateral for access to credit.

He also said the government launched the Zambia Integrated Land Management System aimed at digitalising the processing of title deeds and keeping land records.

Kapeya said once this system is fully operational, processing of title deeds will take a maximum of two weeks, compared with the current system which can take years and is rife with corruption.

This system will be decentralized in all the provinces.

Every year, the World Bank conference on land and poverty brings together representatives from government, civil society, academia and the private sector to discuss challenges faced.

This year's theme is Integrating Land Governance into the Post-2015 Agenda, Harnessing synergies for Implementation and Monitoring Impact.

The conference aims to foster dialogue and the sharing of best practices on the diversity of reforms, approaches and experiences that are being implemented in the Land Sector around the world.

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