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Setting up the Overall Framework for Land Reform1

Sam Moyo

African Institute for Agrarian Studies

Paper presented at - "Land Redistribution: Towards a Common Vision, Regional Course, Southern Africa, 9-13 July 2007"

SARPN acknowledges the World Bank as a source of this paper:
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Introductory Remarks

Land redistribution policy formulation hinges upon defining a clear strategy and effective goals and procedures to guide the acquisition of land to be redistributed, determining who gets the land, enabling beneficiaries to retain secure land rights (tenure) and providing appropriate support for beneficiaries to resettle and commence productive use of land. Policies of postsettlement support to beneficiaries in the form of infrastructure, technical and social services are not unique to land redistribution policy as these services are commonly provided in communal areas. The importance of such support lies in establishing settlers on virgin or un-serviced lands and the sharing of resources with other farmers.

In order to guide the discussion on establishing an “overall framework” for land reform, l have posited, as a heuristic devise, a proto-type outline of a land reform policy framework based on a hybrid of the various policy experiences for/in key countries (see Box 1). The paper does not provide a thorough comparison of the countries because of various constraints, rather selects examples from the countries where their experience can elucidate the theme under discussion.

Land reforms had been initiated in southern Africa during the late 1960’s and 1970s, and then returned to the development agenda in Zimbabwe in 1980, to South Africa and Namibia in the 1990’s and in Malawi in the early 2000s. ‘Access to land’ was recognized as an important ‘poverty alleviation’ issue, rightly so since access to land for the rural poor, and especially women, is a crucial means of improving the social reproduction of the household. But the significance of land reform lies not in ‘poverty alleviation’ only, but more fundamentally in its larger political-economic objectives. Current initiatives have sought to obtain land redistribution within the given national political structures, which are not only hostile to reform but also tend to be committed to ‘accumulation from above’. The later experience of Zimbabwean deviated from this.

The importance of land reform lies beyond the short-term reprieve that it offers to the rural poor but in its potential to re-organise the political structures that impede development, including in defining the fate of the peasantry or small farmers.

To examine the issues and processes which are critical in establishing an overall framework for land and agrarian reform, we examine the various strategies and objectives of land reform in the SADC region so as to define the framework agenda setting is negotiated (see section 2.0). In this section we also provide a stylised overview of land reform approaches followed in southern Africa, focusing on our case countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and Malawi. The key processes and mechanisms (and their principles) for executing land redistribution are then discussed in section 3.0, including: land acquisition, beneficiaries, planning, tenure and settler support. The legal framework required is then surmised (section 4.0), while implementation strategy and institutional arrangements are discussed in section 5.0. Finally, the review and adjustment of policy based on effective monitoring and evaluation is discussed in section 6.0. We then conclude with a few remarks.

  1. This paper has been prepared for the workshop “Land Redistribution in Africa: Towards a common vision.” The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank and its affiliated organizations, or those of the Executive Directors of The World Bank or the governments they represent.

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