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Friday, 5 October 2007

Draft Land Policy, revisted....and now rejected...

The Draft Land Policy has been out for a while now. Actually, it was drafted in December 2006, but only became accessible once the Ministry of Land uploaded it on their new website in middle of the year. The Post (04/10/2007) reports that Zambia Land Alliance appears to have got round to dissecting, and have rejected it. I must say the reasons put forward by ZLA are well founded and it is most encouraging to see an organisation like ZLA 'think tanking' through the complex set of issues. The only downside is that having identified the flaws of the current framework and Government's proposed remedy, ZLA have yet to provide an alternative model on the way forward. Aside from that, their assessment is extremely sound. Here are couple of quotes from Henry Machina (Director, Zambia Land Alliance):

"First and foremost, civil society commends government in working toward providing Zambia with a long awaited and critically needed Land Policy. However, after due consideration and debate, civil society unanimously rejects the draft Land Policy as it now stands... The rejection of the second draft Land Policy is thus the mutual position of concerned citizens, who want to see a Land Policy which addresses the needs of all Zambians....."

"To this end, civil society is in agreement that the Land Policy must be authoritative and well-founded, providing clear guidance for land administration and a basis for developing legislation; a policy which is pro-poor and gender sensitive, and which provides for security of land tenure for all, including investors, and addresses areas of potential conflict.....This is evident as the second draft Land Policy does not provide for the needs of the citizens within the dual land tenure system in rural and urban areas.....The significant role of chiefs and councils in land administration is not addressed nor are there provisions for a democratically constituted and decentralised land boards......"

"The draft policy focuses on strengthening the role of the state in administration of land, ostensibly to reduce corruption and improve administration.......However, increasing the role of the state and reducing the role of citizens does not necessarily lead to improvements in land delivery and administration or reduction in corruption.Civil society would rather promote a policy, which strengthens the democratic right of citizens to participate in the governance of land and to monitor land adjudication processes.."

Update (7th October 2007) : The Post (07/10/2007) is reporting more backlash . This time from the Chiefs:

“Chiefs were expecting that government would call for a land conference with chiefs so that they express their opinions on the matter. But that did not happen. So, since you ignored our proposals, we are going to reject your land policy. We believe that government has some hidden agenda they want to include in the policy. ..We know that government is interested in money and your government seems too capitalistic. You have failed to take our opinions on board, so chiefs say no land conference, no land policy”

Chief Ntambu of Mwinilunga

“As you have already said, honourable Machila [Lands Minister], that a lot of investors have approached your ministry asking to buy pieces of land for their investments in Zambia. We are afraid about that. Already many indigenous Zambians have been displaced by the so called investors and it is clear from your statement that in the near future your government will sell all the land in our chiefdoms.. It is immoral to sell land and leave indigenous people suffering just for the love of money.”

Chief Imwiko of Lukulu

The Government position as stated by the Lands Minister:

“Currently, the government is using the 1958 map that is authentic. But we are still working on the issue to ensure that investors who come into the country for development do not displace citizens. Also, government does not have the legislation that authorises chiefs be given title deeds, But now that you have raised that issues, government will take into consideration to address the matter”.

Update (11th October): I P A Manning's Zambia Landsafe Investment blog carries an interesting ZLA publication on this important issue. You can access it here.


  1. However, increasing the role of the state and reducing the role of citizens does not necessarily lead to improvements in land delivery and administration or reduction in corruption.

    In the end, although land can be more efficiently allocated on a local level, it doesn't much matter to corruption whether it is done locally or centrally.

    There has to be a willingness to fight corruption, which means there has to be a willingness not to benefit from corruption.

  2. Isn't the point that increasing the role of the citizen ensures that the citizens can closely monitor whats going on. This is why local land boards are important. If these boards are more participatory and respond to the people's needs, they are a much better way than centrally distributed systems.

    Land is very much a local issue and should be decided at the local level.

  3. I think there can be (and is) local corruption, as well as central government corruption. What is essential, is the willingness to put in place procedures that are transparant and democratically accountable.

    As long as that is done, land should be allocated locally.

    Land is very much a local issue and should be decided at the local level.

    Would you have independent land boards, or have it done as a part of the council's duties?

  4. We just need land boards. I am unsure about the nature of 'independence' in this case. What we need are boards which reflect local circumstances. So in rural areas the Chief must be part of the land board along side local elected members.

    The Botswana model works okay.

  5. We need an holistic approach to the custodianship of land and natural resources in general. Apart from needing to revisit the Natural Resources Act of 1962, now buried and part repealed and forgotten, some essential principles should guide us:
    1. Zambia's customary land is sacrosanct and should not be sold to anyone, not foreigner, not Zambian.
    2. Chiefdom Development Trusts should be established in all chiefdoms so as to be the custodian of the land and natural resources, and to incorporate the villagers needs and aspirations, to be married with a simple landuse plan and the identification of investment projects. The Chief, CBOs, local councils and significant investors and NGOs would sit as trustees, being responsible for the management of a trust fund.
    3. Trusts, having identified investment projects, put them on the table for investor scrutiny as usufruct leases only. These leases to be registered with the Commissioner of Lands.
    4. Local villagers' agricultural lands to be recorded in a land registry book maintained by the chief. A form of title is therefore recognized, without any need to advance to leasehold and total alienation.

    In essence this is the Landsafe Investment Trust model for customary and protected land, which is able to deal with all development issue at a local level. But Government must allow this to happen in a rapid and orderly manner if we are not to suffer further the rampant depletion of our natural resources and the shameful deepening of villager poverty.

  6. I.P.A. MANNING,

    Interesting and thought provoking points.

    However, how do they address the central issue of the debate, which is the insecurity of tenure?

    I completely agree that land should really be owned by Zambians, and that it should be in use for it's assigned purpuse (whether that would be agriculture, settlement, industry, etc. - no to land speculation).

    This is the essence of the problem - if the land is not outright owned by the person who uses it, how can that person trust that it will not be taken away from him or her, as soon as they make improvements on it, or invest their capital in it? How can they be sure that the chief will be an honerable individual and not take the land for himself - citing whatever legitimate reason? And for the chief, fill in the state, or prestently, the president, who after all is the highest elected official in the land?

    I think that is at the basis of land tenure insecurity right now. As long as land is held for the user/owner by someone else, that someone else will be able to take that land away.

    How about outright ownership that is conditional? Conditional on use, environmental regulation, etc?

    Also, at one time, there will have to be a massive increase in roads, and even expansion of settlements. If all the land is individually owned, and the state cannot alienate small pieces of land, this process of development may never get off the ground.

    So any argument is going to be between the need of the land's owner/user to be secure in their investments, and the state's need for land for development.

  7. Cho,

    I would be intrested to know whether you have any thoughts about the links between Land and Poverty(if there is any at all!)Some developmental economists have advanced this theory and located Africa's poverty problems to the land issue(poor land laws,no respect for title etc, etc)What is your take? particulary in regard to Zambia.

  8. I.P.A

    I think the main problem with your model is that land is merely leased to the individual. The individual gets it for free and keeps it for a specified length. He or she cannot pass it onto someone else or sell it.

    This basically eliminates the possibility of land acting as collateral.

    I also have some concerns on how the interests of individuals and businesses would be reconciled. Just how would these land use plans emerge? How would they be reviewed? Would they add to greater immobility of assets. Land by nature is immobile, but with relaxed planning laws one is able to use land for multiple purposes. Creating land use plans could eliminate that flexibility.

  9. Pandwe,

    Thanks for your question!
    It is very broad though...

    The short answer is there are many links between land and poverty. But here are some quick links:

    For example, some studies have found a link between land equality (or equal access to land) and strong development of the financial system. The idea is that if everyone had access to land they could use that as collateral for credit. This in turn helps the financial system to grow. Greater development of the banking system has been known to be good thing for economic development e.g. credit is cheaper etc. See the blog here
    that makes the same point.

    But sometimes land inequality is not necessarily a bad thing. Some empirical work suggests that large and powerful landowners can act as bulwark against corrupt and opportunistic regimes. They keep these corrupt leaders in check and that in turn benefits everyone else. My favourite example was Zimbabwe with white farmers. See the blog here
    that makes the same point.

    The most obvious link to poverty of course is through lack housing. Lack of access to land for ordinary folks puts pressure on the housing system and this affects the poor more than the rich(shelter is crucial for tackling poverty). That in turn creates lots of problem like rural urban migration, urban slums and so forth. See the blog here that discusses Zambia’s current housing problems.

    We need to get land reform right because it is an important jigsaw piece for solving many of our problems. Access to land improves credit, develops the financial system, brings certainty to investors and crucially solves the current housing problems.

  10. Cho,

    Thank you for the links... there are very helpful and informative. Certainly broadened my perspective on Land and porverty issues. Thanks.

  11. Article: "In India, Old Land Records Go Digital"

  12. Kafue,

    Very interesting piece.

    This is similar to Mozambique's initiative.

    In Zambia such a move would actually reduce land disputes among chiedoms.

    I think the litigation argument for titling is fascinating. Certainly it reduces the costs to the justice system. However, I am
    skeptical on the extent to which titling actually significantly brings a windfall to the poor. We have debated this a couple of times.

  13. African land reform:


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