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Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA)

Land policy options for development and poverty reduction

Civil society views for pro-poor land policies and laws in Zambia

Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA)

January 2008

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Press statement for immediate release
7 February 2008

Zambia Land Alliance (ZLA) working together with forty different Civil Society Organizations recently released a Land Policy Options Paper, to provide Government and the public with civil society’s model for a just land policy and basis for moving forward to make a land policy which promotes poverty reduction and development.

"The reason we came up with this paper for revising the current draft Land Policy of October 2006 is due to the challenges that continue to affect land administration and management in Zambia. It has been a long thought-out process,” said Henry Machina, Executive Director, ZLA speaking on behalf of civil society. “We considered it important in this paper to highlight the challenges of the poor and marginalised in order to assess how adequately these are addressed in the draft Land Policy currently under debate."

Though there are many reasons for enhancing the current draft Land Policy, specifically various gender disparities, the lack of fairness in land distribution, and the lack of participation and transparency in land administration, Civil Society believes the process and this document can still be salvaged. The ZLA Policy Options Paper provides Government and civil society a way to move that process forward.

The Policy Options Paper is divided into several main parts: a context setting which identifies what is happening at a continental and international level in terms of land policy formulation, policy options proposed by civil society in Zambia and suggests an implementation strategy for the land policy.

The ZLA policy options paper cites best practices on land policy formulation from international bodies such as the African Union, European Union, and the International Land Coalition. In addition, ZLA outlines key values that should drive the land policy formulation process including transparency, cost-effectiveness and accountability. Machina argues that Zambia should take the lessons learnt from all of these different sources, and take the time needed to make the first ever Zambian Land Policy the best that it can be.


Customary land is a source of identity, pride and social cohesion in Zambia. It is therefore vital that while improving its management the draft Land Policy strengthens and protects customary land. Machina said separate legislation needs to be developed and that the rights of customary land holders must be respected. He said the Government must also promote customary land dispute resolution initiatives and that leasehold land should be able to be converted back into customary land once its use/lease period has expired. In addition, customary land allocations should not disadvantage women from enjoying land ownership.

Machina emphasised that land in Zambia is a very important, scarce and finite resource. Thus in order to improve leasehold tenure as outlined in the draft Land Policy, land alienation should be transparent, accountable and timely and decentralized to the district level. In addition, size limits on landholding, a crackdown on discrimination in land administration, and lease term limits of 50 years for Zambians should be enacted.

He further pointed out that vulnerable groups, such as those with disabilities, women and youths, need extra attention in land administration. Most crucially the paper suggests that appropriate legislation is put in place to ensure 30% provision of all land allocations in state land goes to women. Also there is need for continued sensitization and awareness raising campaigns as well as encouragement of joint registration of land rights for married couples.

To protect youths ZLA agrees with Government’s proposal to lower the contractual age at which an individual qualifies to hold land to 18 years. Furthermore, Government should also create and enforce a strict inheritance system to ensure the administrator of the estate does not deprive the children or surviving spouse of their inheritance in land.

The Civil Society Policy Options Paper also suggests that non-Zambians requiring land for investment purposes should access land through a partnership with a Zambian and on acceptance of a business plan, including an impact assessment. This lease period should not exceed 30 years; however, it would be renewable depending on land utilization over the lease period. Machina said that non-Zambian investment should be structured so that Zambians participate in wealth creation and development of the country.

Land use planning is also a key function missing from the current draft Land Policy. The paper suggests that an appropriate strategy for sustainably managing population growth and development of land use plans in urban and peri-urban growth be developed so that current unplanned/squatter settlements are addressed in a humane and forward moving manner.

Machina said that the need for conflict resolution in land is paramount to tenure security. Therefore, viable alternative dispute resolution mechanisms beside the formal courts of law need be promoted. Also, the Lands Tribunal needs to revise its operations to allow for it to decide state land cases, not just involving a Person in Authority. Finally Government should recognize and strengthen local dispute resolution mechanisms that are easily accessible for the majority of Zambians.


In terms of implementation, Civil Society suggests that government should:
  • Create a Land Reform Unit to develop an implementation plan for the land policy
  • Create a Land Commission which will be a transparent, accountable and independent land allocation institution in state land
  • Recognize minimum standards and strengthen the capacity of traditional leaders in customary land administration
  • Recognize the role of civil society and international institutions as a cooperating partners in land reform and land policy implementation
Machina said there are well-tested alternative methods of dealing with the challenges currently facing land administration and management in Zambia and urged Government not to ‘close the door’ to further consultations on the land policy.

ZLA, is a network of civil society organisations working with rural and urban poor communities to ensure that land policies, laws and land administration procedures take their interests into account.

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