From an economic perspective,
the main goals for land reform in southern Africa are to achieve more equitable
land ownership among blacks and whites, balance the unequal wealth distribution
and, in doing so, boost the economic health and productivity of participating
land resettlement should represent one part of a broader economic plan designed
to reduce poverty, promote rural development and expand access to world agricultural
markets, according to a panel of land experts who met in South Africa in March
gross racial imbalances in land ownership and access is one thing; recreating
sustainable livelihoods on the land is infinitely more difficult," the 14-member
think-tank said, following a conference organized by the United Nations' Food
and Agricultural Organization and the Southern African Regional Poverty Network.
Impediments to land reform include a range of factors, such as weather and climate,
the volatility of global agricultural markets and prices, and the rising costs
of farm production against the prices of food products on world markets.
greatest obstacle, however, appears to be a lack of funding and effective policies
to execute land reform goals.
"have failed to allocate the financial and human resources needed to address
the land issue," concluded the group, assembled to analyze challenges to
sustainable land reform in southern Africa.
challenge facing the governments, the group noted, is the apprehension of potential
foreign donors to assist in land reform initiatives in southern Africa without
effective policies or a strong legal framework already in place.
have found it increasingly difficult to justify the allocation of aid resources
to land reform in the region. This reluctance is due to the lack of viable policies
and programs, and is also a response to policy trends -- in practice if not in
rhetorical terms -- away from the pro-poor agenda that donors feel should be the
focus of land reform policies," it noted in a statement.
the U.N.-commissioned group underscored the importance of land reallocation, cautioning
that Zimbabwe represented a "worst case scenario" in the land reform
land experts and governments like Namibia and South Africa pursuing a redistribution
agenda study Zimbabwe's disastrous case to avoid similar pitfalls.
'worst case scenario' in Zimbabwe
In 2002, the Zimbabwean government implemented "fast track" land
reform, a program with the stated purpose of redistributing land owned by white
commercial farmers to poor and middle-class
non-land-owning black Zimbabweans.
the program favored President Robert Mugabe's political supporters and war veterans,
several hundred thousand farm workers have been excluded from reaping the benefits
of fast track reform. As a result, many laborers lost their jobs, driven from
the commercial farms where they worked due to violent conflict over the land seizures,
or were laid off due to a collapse in commercial agricultural production.
the aggressive land redistribution, the productivity of commercial farms virtually
collapsed and agricultural exports, the backbone of Zimbabwe's economy, dried
Mugabe attributes the present economic crisis to the region's worst drought in
the past 50 years and economic sanctions imposed by western capitalist nations.
get (smooth) progress because there are always handicaps and things might not
move as planned. There were shortages of resources, funding and in our particular
case now, the (economic) sanctions that have visited us, compounded by two years
of successive droughts increased our suffering," Mugabe said in an April
2003 interview with Africa's Mail & Guardian newspaper.
the disruption of "fast track" land reform had a chilling effect on
agricultural output. Once known as the "breadbasket of Africa" for its
bountiful production of wheat and corn, Zimbabwe's large arable farms have gone
idle as violent conflicts over land ownership erupted. Cereal production has fallen
by two-thirds since 2000, turning Zimbabwe from a provider of corn, a staple food
for the region, into a nation facing food shortages and starvation, according
to the United Nations' World Food Program.
agriculture in 2000 accounted for 17 percent of the country's gross domestic product,
with tobacco and cotton its largest exports, Zimbabwe has lost an important source
of government revenue due to the production shortfalls.
farming also suffered because of Mugabe's land reform initiative. The country's
chaotic and arbitrary land reform has scared off and even alienated potential
international donors, plunging the country into an economic and humanitarian crisis.
is going to talk to us [in Zimbabwe] while we have Mugabe in charge, but we need
help desperately," John Robertson, an independent economist in the capital,
Harare, told The Sydney Morning Herald. "We are in the position of a country
that has been at war with a very fierce enemy for a long time."
the ongoing crisis, the country's steps toward land redistribution renewed other
southern African nations' interest in pursuing land reform programs of their own.
effect of land reform on Namibia
Namibia's economy is based on capital-intensive industry and farming, but its
earnings remain heavily dependent on a few commodity exports, such as minerals,
livestock and fish products.
the bulk of its $2.8 billion gross domestic product (GDP) is made up of exports
from the foreign-run mining industry, agriculture -- largely beef and beef goods
-- represented about 4 percent of its GDP, or roughly $112 million in 2002.
year, Namibia exported $1.3 billion worth of goods, consisting primarily of diamonds,
copper, lead, uranium, beef and meat products and fish.
Namibia moves forward with plans to redistribute many of those large farms, its
closest trading partners -- South Africa, England, Germany, the United States,
Angola and Botswana -- are watching to see if the country can enact a smooth and
successful land reform process.
despite its mineral and agricultural exports, Namibia's economy continues to grow
slowly. According to studies by the U.S. Agency for International Development,
the slow economic growth will persist until the country redresses socioeconomic
disparities from the colonial era.
redistribution appears key to improving the country's internal economy, as 70
percent of Namibians engage in subsistence agricultural farming and herding.
land to small-scale farmers can do much to reduce their poverty," according
to John Madeley, author of "Food for All: The Need for a New Agriculture,"
who specializes in economic and agricultural issues. "When rural families
have land and secure control over that land, they are likely to grow more food
and see their incomes rise."
Namibian government has said it expects the country's economy may slow down further
as a result of an aggressive land reform program, but is taking measures to prepare
for it by asking financial institutions to offer economic support to new landowners.
is reassuring to note that the Agricultural Bank of Namibia has agreed in principle
to advance loans to the beneficiaries of resettlement. It is my wish that other
financial institutions should consider following the example of the AgriBank of
Namibia. The availability of finance and the prudent selection of beneficiaries
of the resettlement program will ensure that the accelerated land acquisition
process will not disrupt the agricultural sector," said Hifikepunye Pohamba,
the minister of Lands, Resettlement and Rehabilitation on Expropriation of Agricultural
Land, on March 2, 2004.
date, Namibia has allocated $50 million for its land reform programs. International
donors have also provided financial support. Germany's GTZ, an agency involved
in international sustainable development projects, directed a total of $7 million
in 2002 for a variety projects, including land reform, in Namibia. The European
Union and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization also provide financial and
Namibia struggles with its land reform program and braces for what it hopes will
be a smooth economic transition, South Africa's main challenge has been to appease
the white elite while redressing the socioeconomic disparities created by apartheid.
the country's notable economic growth, South African wealth remains unequally
distributed along racial lines. A small number of whites still control the economy,
though nonwhites, many of whom work as subsistence farmers, comprise 75 percent
of the labor force.
the 1990s, South Africa's services sector contributed 66 percent to its gross
domestic product (GDP), while industry contributed roughly 24 percent, agriculture
-- 4 percent and mining nearly 6 percent to the GDP, estimated at $126 billion
world's largest producer and exporter of platinum, gold and coal, South Africa's
exports in 2001 represented 29 percent of its GDP. The country's exceptional natural
resources attract wealthy international investors and companies. Its largest trade
partners include the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Japan, Italy,
East Asia, Namibia and other African nations.
an effort to facilitate its reform process, the U.S. Agency for International
Development, the European Union and Belgium have provided financial and technical
support to the South African government.
government itself has allocated $119.9 million for the program for the 2003-2004
financial year, according to a Reuters report. The South African government also
announced it will move its attention back to settling rural claims despite difficulty
getting adequate documentation of land claims and holdings.
cases where farmers are not willing to leave a claimed property, officials from
land claims offices say the government is willing to work with them to train workers
and prepare them to run the farm after a settlement. USAID is also involved in
similar projects to link white commercial farmers and new black farmers. These
projects could alleviate experts' concerns that emerging black landowners would
lack adequate training and knowledge to run a farm and meet production levels.
We don't want to see the economy plunging down," said Rupert Ramaselela,
claim chairman of the Bakgaga Bamuapa community in the northern Limpopo province.
"We want to make sure people have food security and financial security."
By Liz Harper, Online NewsHour