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Friday, 20 July 2007

ZIPPA on Land

The 3rd Quarter ZIPPA Journal is out focusing on Land. I have not read it in full but it looks good. Good to see ZIPPA tackling this important issue. Its not yet available on the ZIPPA website but you can download it here.


  1. Cho,

    Great post and info, as usual. :)

    The economic supply o fland expands according to five principal factors:

    They should have added a sixth (or first) factor - land ownership. The fact that land is in the hand of a tiny few people, and thereby not available to the majority of potential commercial farmers.

    A seventh element would be the fact that a lot of the resources of central government should be dedicated to agriculture.

    More interesting is the contribution from John Hudson, OBE.

    He lists the following obstacles to subsistence farmers becoming commercial farmers:

    1) Tenure is too insecure for long term investment

    2) Grazing land is communal, and can therefore not be improved on by individual farmers; fencing is thought of as anti-social; diseased stock cannot be kept separate from healthy stock; numbers of cattle cannot be limited, leading to erosion

    3) Without registered title, farmers cannot apply for loans using their land as collateral, leaving them witout long term loans or credit, and only having short term and seasonal credit available

    4) The difficulty of procuring State Title, which includes:

    1 - A letter of consent from the chief
    2 - Recommendation from the district council
    3 - Survey of the land concerned
    4 - issue of title by the Ministry of Lands

    This is what I mean with the benefits of decentralization. Let's leave it up to the council to issue title deed, or any other licenses. No ministry involvement. If a survey is necessary, let the council do one beforehand. Or have the provinces do largescale surveys.

    But the bottom line here is that long term ownership must be secure. There is no greater obstacle to investment, that if you build something up to where it is valuable, and someone being able to come along and say - that's nice, now hand it over to me. In a real sense, this is no different than under colonialism.

    Which also brings back an interesting fact - much of the constraints on development in Africa are legislative. No one has yet had an overhaul of all these laws and regulations, many of which are holdovers from colonialism.

    Maurice Mbolela (Kenya) adds:

    * Strategic Approach Local authorities should adopt a strategy of bringing on board all local stakeholders. This would enable them to develop an open relatioship with stakeholders and to receive feedback. It would also enable local stakeholders to contribute tothe vision and become involved in local authority development planning,

    Also interesting:

    How Roads Make Land Available

    India is a huge country. Travel by rail or air and you see miles and miles of land without a single house anywhere. The land bust be colonized for human habitation. And the way to colonize space is by transportational links, of which roads are the primary means. Connect Village X to Town Y through a road and immediately more land is made available for the citizens of the town. Land prices come down in the city-centre as more people stay a little distance away and commute to work.

    From 'Free Your Mind: A Beginner's Guide to Political Economy' by Sauvik Chakraverti

    Milton Mubaya adds:

    Customary land is abundant, in comparison to state land. Yet there are no clear structures for its management and delivery for development. The current procedure for administering customary land and converting it into state land is neither efffective nor efficient enough to meet the country's current developmental needs. Consequently, the demand for state land completely outstrips its supply.

    The chief, unaided by and without administrative resources such as land registers, survey diagrams and data to determine the ability of the applicant, is expected to deliver large parcels of land, while the role of the local council is usually that of just formalizing the decision. This situation makes chiefs vulnerable to all sorts of vices. These include corruption, which they tend to mistake for the 'gifts' which they are traditionally entitled to receive from their subject.

    If instead of gifts, they received a percentage of the shares of companies that do business in their area, you'd kill a lot of birds with one stone. Gift giving/tribute, incentives for attracting business to rural areas, the force of law behind giving tributes to the chief, possibly less corruption because how benefits are distributed is clear and legally stipulated, etc.

    Only state land offers some form of security for large scale investment and economic activities, yet it comprises just 6% of the country's total land area.

    I think the trend in the argument is clear.

    The insecurity of ownership undermines long term or large investment.

    The solution to that should be simple - give farmers some kind of permanent ownership. The permanent owners should also be able to rent out their land at a small percentage of the profits made. However, there must be effective, inbuilt safeguards against land speculation. For this, land ownership can be linked to use.

    Also, I would add that there has to be a democratic redistribution of land, so we don't start off with a situation where a tiny number of people own most of the land.

    The critical shortage of state land has been made severe by the mismanagement and poor supervisory role of the President's land agents, namely the ministry of lands, operating through the Commissioner of Lands, and the Ministry of Local Government, oparating through local councils.

    While there are adeaquate laws to manage state land, Commissioner of Lands officials and council officers have both miserably failed to implement them. They have allowed development of unplanned structures and large scale speculation, which has increased land values in urban areas to rise beyond reasonable levels.

    The current situation, which has no effective controls, is like putting a dog to guard a parcel of meat. Inevitably it has encouraged corruption and abuse of office on the part of supervisory officers.

  2. MrK,


    Finally got round to reading the new journal properly..and the Maurice Mbolela article was particularly good! - see the new blog
    Unpacking Zambia’s land related corruption….

    "They should have added a sixth (or first) factor - land ownership.....A seventh element would be the fact that a lot of the resources of central government should be dedicated to agriculture."

    Yes I thought the McPherson’s article was bit simplistic. I mean the conclusion we reached here was there's much Government can do to help in terms of funding as you have noted. Also redistribution of land has a dynamic effect on the long term, so it certainly does impact on the "economic” supply.

    In fact what disappointed me most about McPherson's article was the failure to link investment in education and general agricultural goals. This is key for me and one we have discussed here e.g. on the strange case of missing data.

    ”But the bottom line here is that long term ownership must be secure”

    I am not yet fully persuaded it’s the most critical factor. The ODI paper when reflecting on Smith (2001) says on para 58:

    Smith (2001) conducted a field study in Southern Province with the aim of answering the question whether different land tenure conditions affected the organization and performance of small farmers and whether customary land tenure must be converted to a statutory, individualized land tenure system as a pre-requisite for investment in farm improvements and obtaining credit. His interim findings are important to note and worth quoting:

    ‘With reference to …. tenure security’s positive effects on agriculture (incentive to improve land, access to credit, and efficient land markets), this study so far finds evidence only for the first. The apparent under-utilisation of farmland in even this highly productive and commercialised study area suggests that problems of input supply and animal traction are more urgent in the short term than access to land and tenure security.

    Nonetheless there is the example of Asian countries such as Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand that achieved significant agricultural and economic development after granting freehold to small farmers. These examples continue to resonate. Nor can the strongly expressed desire for titles found in this study be dismissed. The reasons for wanting title seem equally salient: secure possession and bequeathment, and protection of fixed investments. These suggest that many farmers don’t plan to use titles to lever themselves up to the level of ‘emergent’ or medium-sized farmers, but instead believe that they need them as a defensive measure, even on customary lands.

    Such perceived insecurity probably deserves to be remedied. But a system as wellevolved, egalitarian, and self-regulating as African customary land law should not be tinkered with lightly. Also, it should be remembered that titles and inheritance statutes are legal instruments that are only as good as their accessibility, predictability, and enforcement.’ (Smith 2001).

    So it is important but access to input supply and animal traction may be more crucial. Well I think that is what Smith seems to be suggesting :)

    By the way how do you read the new draft land policy ?

    Waiting for your assessment – as our resident expert in the field. Is it thumbs up or down? :)


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