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LAC Analyzes the Namibian Commercial Agricultural Land Reform Process
Contact: Shadrack Tjiramba, Researcher - Land, Environment & Development (LEAD)
Phone: 061-223-356 Email: stjiramba@lac.org.na

Release date: 22 September 2005

The Legal Assistance Centre has completed a study funded by the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Namibia on the commercial agricultural land reform process in Namibia.

The report – “An Analysis of the Namibian Commercial Agricultural Land Reform Process” – addresses topics such as the introduction of land tax on commercial agricultural land, expropriation of commercial agricultural land, the Affirmative Action Loan Scheme, the Resettlement Programme, the Emerging Commercial Farmers Support Programme and foreign donor support on the land reform process.

With independence, Namibia inherited two agricultural sub-sectors from the colonial era, communal and commercial agriculture. These parallel agricultural systems not only divided Namibia almost equally in terms of land utilization, but also reflect the racial division in the country at the time of independence.

The majority of white Namibians, and a small, but growing black middle class, enjoy one of the world’s highest standards of living, while the majority of black Namibians live in abject poverty, making Namibia one of the most unequal societies in the world.

It has been argued that this inequality is rooted in the fact that the majority of Namibia’s black population lacks secure tenure to land.

The instruments adopted in addressing commercial land reform, are government purchases of commercial farms for the purpose of resettling landless communities, and Affirmative Action Loans for the purchase of commercial farms by previously disadvantaged individuals.

In February 2004, the Namibian government announced plans to implement the option of expropriating commercial agricultural land in order to speed up its land reform and resettlement programme after increased criticism of the “willing buyer-willing seller” principle.

While the process of expropriation is supported by adequate legislation, the expropriation criteria used by the government to identify suitable land, appear to be ill-defined.

The report recommends that such criteria should be incorporated in policy documents of the government.

In addition, the report argues that the need for land reform and land redistribution not only arises against Namibia’s political and colonial past. The Namibian land reform experience also shows the importance of striking a balance between improving agricultural productivity and preserving the natural resource base.

Viewed against the background of 15 years of land reform in Namibia, the report provides an analysis of the successes and failures of land reform in Namibia, while considering options through which the shortcomings of the land reform programme could be addressed.

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