STEVEN MVULA, Lusaka
UNITED Nations special rapporteur on the right to food Hilal Ever says customary land rights should be the same as state land to protect the rights of those living on customary land.
Ms Ever says the dual land tenure system has resulted in a situation where some land holders on State land enjoy full protection of their property rights, while those under customary tenure are essentially considered to be occupants without enjoying protection of their property.
Ms Ever was speaking at a press briefing on Friday where she announced her preliminary findings on the right to food.
“I strongly encourage Government to adopt a gender-sensitive, inclusive national land policy based on human rights principles. This shall ensure an effective land administration system and efficient enforcement of the existing laws and regulations concerning the allocation, sale, and transfer of land,” Ms Ever said.
Ms Ever also said challenges result from the highly bureaucratic nature of land administration system, leading to prohibitive high costs for land registration and conversion from one system to another.
She said the right to food is directly linked to access to land, especially for those living in rural areas.
“I am concerned that the proposed revision of the Bill of Rights, which would have led to the inclusion of economic, social, and cultural rights in the Zambian constitution, was not accepted in the referendum that took place last year. The right to food is hence not properly enshrined in Zambia’s constitution. Without its explicit inclusion in the Constitution, the right to food cannot be adjudicated by the courts,” she said.
Ms Ever is, however, happy with Government’s Farmer Input Support Programme (FISP), which receives over 52 percent of the ministry’s budget, providing assistance to at least 1.6 million small-scale farmers.
“If properly utilised, this programme could provide a real opportunity for the development of smallholder farmers and overall reduction of rural poverty rates,” Ms Ever said.
Ms Ever has been in Zambia since May 3, at the invitation of Government.
She visited Mkushi, Kasisi, Kaoma and Mumbwa, and interacted with government ministries, traditional leaders and a number of civil society organisations.