‘Involve locals in land allocation’

A ZAMBIAN environmental specialist says approaches to large-scale land acquisition and investments in Zambia need to be participatory to ensure agreement on precautions, mitigation, fair compensation and equitable distribution of benefits that potentially accrue from such investments.
Land acquisition for food security, biofuels and financial investments have attracted a lot of attention in African and Zambia in particular.
“One of the reasons is that communities are not fully involved in the negotiations and implementation of such as investments, hence the name ‘land grab,’ said Andrew Chilombo, works for the Global Environmental Facility at the World Bank Group in Washington DC, USA.
Mr Chilombo said stakeholders need to be part of consultative processes that lead to land tenure conversions to pave way for investments.
In his presentation on large-scale land investments on customary land: a Case of Nansanga farm block in Zambia at the on-going Land Policy Initiative Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Mr Chilombo said on Wednesday that community information sessions are sometimes done though potential benefits are oversold and adverse socio-economic and environmental impacts downplayed.
Mr Chilombo said meaningful participation and consultation ensure that interests of relevant primary and secondary stakeholders are safe-guarded in development programmes.
He said participation by communities is usually limited to information meetings.
“This is partly due to their lack of knowledge about their land rights and their cultural regard for authority that they hardly dare question. To ensure meaningful participation and free prior informed consent, it is a matter of necessity that communities are informed and educated about their land rights,” Mr Chilombo said, adding that Government needs to play this role.
He said if the manner of policy implementation of Nansanga farm block is maintained, agricultural land in the area will potentially be commercialised and the economy diversified without necessarily enhancing food security, and reducing poverty and rural-urban migration of rural communities.
“If communities made informed decisions about investments, it would lessen conflicts as the investor would get the social licence of acceptability,” he says.
“Hitherto, investors have not moved in to develop the area, and no land forfeitures have been done, contrary to the investment implementation regulations. To increase chances of success of farm block programme, and improve land management in Zambia for the current and future generations,” he said.
Mr Chilombo recommended that some policy and administrative gaps need to be urgently filled. He recommended that an appropriate level of policy mix be ensured so that commercialisation of farm land does not render resource limited farmers more vulnerable.
“The government needs to update land records so that investment promotions refer to true figures of both customary and state land. There is need to create a platform that will ensure consistence and coherence in the dispensation of roles, responsibilities and mandates of Government ministries and quasi-government agencies related to land management to strengthen administrative and management follow ups, avoid duplication of efforts and working in silos,“ Mr Chilombo said.
He added that given the limited capacities, Government needs to meaningfully engage with other stakeholders involved in land, housing and agricultural issues such as civil society organisations that may have presence where farm blocks have been planned, or have capacities to complement the Government’s efforts.

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