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- Nyasha Francis Nyaungwa
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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia has joined the bandwagon of critics of the country’s land reform programme charging that the current pace of land reform was slow and engulfed by “serious weaknesses.”
Speaking at a media conference to announce the programme of a four-day land reform and resettlement workshop currently underway in the capital, Uhuru Dempers from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Namibia’s desk for social development, blamed the country’s escalating inequalities on the slow progress in implementing land reform.
Dempers also blasted that the resettlement programme, in its current format, was putting more emphasis on the quantity of people resettled as opposed to improving the quality of lives of the resettled.
He said: “It is a matter of historical record that colonial dispossession of land has robbed black Namibians of the only livelihood they had resulting in massive poverty. Despite many attempts by government and other stakeholders, twenty one years after independence, the situation has not improved much.
“Inequality is on the increase and the country has failed to make a dent on poverty levels and unemployment because of massive job losses in the agricultural sector.
“The high income inequalities existing in different Namibian communities are partly rooted in the fact that the majority of Namibia’s black population does not have access to land as a resource to earn a living.
“Although land reform alone cannot solve all the challenges of poverty, it can certainly provide a livelihood to Namibians especially in the rural areas and can prevent urban migration and the rampant increase in informal settlements in most towns.
“Critical assessments of the resettlement programme reveals that current reports by government put emphasis on quantity of people resettled as opposed to whether people’s livelihoods have improved as a result of access to land. Therefore the lack of post resettlement support has made some beneficiaries to become poorer after resettlement,” he charged.
Dempers said the workshop, which started on Thursday, will seek to review the current status and explore policies and practices through which poor Namibians can access land and be supported to use it productively to improve their lives.
“The workshop will critically assess the commercial land reform process, especially the government purchases of commercial farms for the purpose of resettling landless communities and the affirmative action loans for the purchase of commercial farms by previously disadvantaged individuals,” he said, adding that whereas the willing buyer, willing seller concept remains problematic, his organisation was worried about reports that the government is not buying most of the land that is being offered.
“Therefore there is a need to drastically increase the budget for land reform,” he said.
He raised concern that while the resettlement programme was intended for poor and low income individuals and communities, recent beneficiaries have however included high income earners and high ranking public officials. Dempers added that there is need to clarify the criteria for resettlement.
The workshop which is being hosted under the theme:“Towards an accelerated, sustainable and just land reform program for poverty alleviation through sustainable livelihoods and job creation.” will consider the role of land reform (both in commercial and communal areas) in poverty alleviation, job creation and sustainable livelihoods
It is expected to come up with recommendations to improve current resettlement policy and programme and to develop a plan of action to strengthen the current policy and legal framework and implementation processes.
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