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Sunday, 21 September 2008

Insights from Chiefs (Chieftainess Mwasephangwe)

"A lot of maize in my area has been smuggled into Malawi. I don't know how this can be stopped because the border is porous more especially at Kapasa and Tamanda turnoff. Vehicles are just passing with maize from Zambia more especially from our area in Mwasemphangwe. We normally advise people not to sell all their maize but it's difficult because people are doing this because of poverty

.....there are no feeder road projects. I have been talking to outgrower companies that are working in our area like those that sponsor cotton farmers but even on our own, we normally try to repair the road after rains....The transporters who ferry crops from Lundazi, even ambulances use the roads that are repaired by the people but they don't get involved in repairing the roads..." .

Chieftainess Mwasephangwe of the Chewa people in Lundazi touching on two key agriculture issues we have previously discussed on this blog - maize smuggling and transport as a key constraint to smallholder farming. Without good transport, access to markets is significant diminished.


  1. From Zambian Agriculture, income diversification & rural poverty:

    There is high variation within districts in terms of land-ownership, which is an important income-determining factor. In areas under traditional tenure (94% of the land), the chief decides on allocation of land. Everyone is supposed to have land according to capability, but this is of course a flexible concept; influence seems to matter a lot as well. Local allocation of land in fairer ways seems highly important. Insecurity of tenure may have substantial effects on the willingness of farmers to invest, and on their ability to use land as collateral for loans to finance investment. Since land-ownership is clearly related to income, it is also a problem that some cultivable Zambian land is not cultivated.

    It seems to me, that there should be:

    1) Security of tenure for farmers is essential to their ability to plan ahead, get loans, etc.

    2) Chiefs should have fewer powers in allocating land, but instead they should benefit from the actual use of the land.

    If they received a small percentage of the money earned off the land, they would be much more independent from the state; they would have a direct incentive in seeing to it that the land is productively used (by their own people).

    In other words, what I am suggesting is a system of title deeds for farmers, and paying a local tax to the chief, if that chief is also in charge of certain local goverment functions - such as the development of feeder roads.

    In other words, families would own land within a chief's area, with the chief collecting a legally prescribed maximum of taxes.

    Some of the chief's taxes could be paid into a general emergency fund, which could be accessed in case of emergencies.

    I think this setup would have several benefits. Farmers have security of tenure, which means they cannot be thrown off the land if some 'foreign investor' with money shows up. They can plan not only 1 year, but 10 years ahead or more, set up their families with businesses on their land (greenhouses, canning, etc.). Meanwhile, the chief is still in the loop, he receives money independently from government, and the more money his people make in his area, the better he is going to do himself.

  2. The transporters who ferry crops from Lundazi, even ambulances use the roads that are repaired by the people but they don't get involved in repairing the roads..."

    Sounds like the chieftainess could be helped out by a road tax.


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