NKOLE NKOLE, Lusaka
LAND has always been a contentious issue with respect to how it is administered and acquired in Zambia, more so among vulnerable groups such as women.The Non-Governmental Organisations Coordinating Council (NGOCC), notes that women in the developing world, including in Zambia, are constrained in their ability to own, access and control land.
Two years ago the NGOCC in collaboration with Transparency International Zambia (TIZ), launched the first phase of a project called the Transparency, Equality and Equity in Land Administration (TEELA). This was done with the support of TIZ and Irish Aid.
As a continuation of the project, the NGOCC and TIZ recently held a workshop in Lusaka bringing together various NGOs under the TEELA II project, which is advocating the improvement in access to land by women with a particular focus on customary land.
The project also highlights the need for women to have direct control or make decisions about their land.
“We do recognise as NGOCC that land is such a critical productive resource and it is a means of production and we recognise that given the gender inequalities where most women are simply given user rights, they are simply providing labour on a number of land portions,” NGOCC executive director Engwase Mwale shared.
Research has proved that when women are provided opportunities to own land in their own right, their productivity goes up.
The TEELA II project aims at reaching out to more women using various tools of engagement so that they can become active players in understanding the procedures of accessing land.
It further aims to give women an appreciation of what else they can do to be productive citizens that contribute to alleviating poverty by improving the standard of living within their households and at community level.
The project is seeking to employ a number of strategies to try and enhance the levels of transparency, accountability and integrity in the way land is being administered.
At the moment the project is only operating in seven districts where both NGOCC and TIZ hope to make a difference.
These districts are Livingstone, Choma, Kabwe, Kapiri Mposhi, Solwezi, Kasempa and Kasama.
TIZ executive director Wesley Chibamba said his organisation attaches great importance to governance issues, including land governance.
“Land governance has been a thorny issue around the topic of governance in the country. People, especially vulnerable groups such as women have lost land and become disempowered in the process,” Mr Chibamba said.
There are some guidelines for statutory land that he acknowledges but these are circumvented in certain instances such that the distribution of land is not done transparently or in an accountable manner or in a way showing integrity to the whole process.
Therefore, TIZ is trying to enhance transparency and accountability in the way both customary and statutory land is administered.
When it comes to customary land, it is more problematic because there is no established guideline explaining how it should be administered.
Traditional land is often vested in chiefs, holding it in trust for their subjects and occasionally there is abuse of authority by chiefs.
Some of the issues TIZ and NGOCC are trying to look at concern security of tenure of land, and access to and control of land, especially for marginalised groups such as women and youth.
TIZ believes Zambia’s current draft land policy has a lot of progressive provisions and is an important document to inform the amendments that will go into the Lands Act.
From the policy, there are certain provisions that will be included in the Lands Act; however, the policy has been in draft form since 2006.
“Without the draft policy, we cannot amend the Lands Act, so our position is that it is a very progressive piece in terms of policy,” Mr Chibamba said, adding that there are genuine concerns by some traditional leaders that need to be addressed as they are key stakeholders in the process and over 70 percent of land is held under customary land tenure.
According to a 2018 position paper by the NGOCC on the draft land policy, the vision of the National Land Policy, which is ‘Equitable access to secure land ownership by all the people of Zambia for sustainable development of the country’, focuses on land ownership only.
The NGOCC states that the vision should be the ultimate outcome of the policy and should include access and control to land and ensure inclusiveness.
Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA) executive director, Nsama Chikolwa said the ZLA is encouraging transparency in the way land is administered by ensuring there are clear procedures and that people avoid corruption.
She said inequality in the administration of land can be in different forms and one common form is where one gender is getting more land than the other.
“We have a history where land has been in the hands of men more than women,” she explained. “It’s not that it’s been done purposely but may be a carry-on in the way we have lived life and it’s always been common.”
The ZLA is advocating opportunities that enable both genders to get land and also to ensure that it is not only the rich getting land.
The TEELA II project is also important because it will be a way of encouraging accountability towards citizens by land administrators.
The issue of gender, Ms Chikolwa said, has been misunderstood by many and has continued to be misunderstood because of the initial engagement people had with gender.
There is, however, a mind change going on as people begin to realise the importance of women acquiring land, although this change of attitude still needs to permeate in many rural areas.
“I think we have to cross the line and realise that widows have a right to own land. There are a lot of these gender norms and stereotypes that we’ve kept in our heads but some of these actually continue to perpetuate the problems that are experienced by women,” she said.
The ZLA feels the draft land policy is needed for the sake of Country making progress in the management of both customary and statutory land.
The alliance further believes that both Government and traditional leaders need to reach a consensus on how different issues will be dealt with.
NKOLE NKOLE, Lusaka