Rural Life and Agriculture Tour - Kasame [ Biz/ed Virtual Developing Country ]

Small Farm 2 - Kasame

Government Policy on Land Tenure

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Since coming to power in 1991 the government of President Chiluba has introduced a number of land reforms as part of major changes in agriculture policy in line with the measures required by the Structural Adjustment Programmes (SAPs) of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

  1. the 100 year leaseholds were transformed to renewable 99 year leases
  2. Customary law and usufruct were continued, however, individuals who wanted to convert their customary land (where their farms or animals were located) could apply for 14 year leases
Zambian Roads
Dust Tracks

These land reforms, aimed at extending private property rights to farmers, were very much in line with the supply side policies adopted in many other sectors of the economy.

The intention of these reforms is to provide incentives for small-scale farmers to increase production levels under the premise that farmers working their own land where they have property rights will use land more efficiently. So what will be the impact of these reforms? As is the case of most reform, there are arguments in favour and against.

Arguments in favour of extending private property rights

  • Customary tenure does not tend to create the same wage and job opportunities that commercial production associated with private ownership.
  • It is thought that granting farmers long-term leaseholds will provide incentives to become more productive and commercially viable encouraging longer-term investment that will lead to increased income levels. Increased income levels will break the family free of the cycle of poverty.
  • Introducing private land ownership allows the market for land to develop. This will enable farmers to sell their land and earn money and resulting in the transfer of land from inefficient to efficient farmers.
  • Giving people the opportunity to acquire leases for private land will provide the incentive for small-scale farmers to continue farming and prevent rural urban migration and its associated problems of unemployment and crime.

Arguments in favour of customary law

  • It is seen as a way of life providing labour for the family and the maintenance of communities and the welfare functions that communities provide such as taking care of the elderly.
  • There is a well founded fear that once leases are available in the market place then "outsiders" will be able to buy up the leases. Communal land will no longer be owned and worked by the community. People working on communal land have a security that they can use the land without worrying that they may be dispossessed. It is this knowledge that they cannot be removed from the communal land that gives the rural poor an essential safety net. Privatisation of communal land removes this.

As you can see there are strong arguments in favour of both. Which do you consider stronger? What is the responsibility of government to those people who are unable to benefit directly from land privatisation?

Next issue - Government Intervention in the Maize Market >>

Related Glossary Items:
Land Tenure
Customary Law
Property Rights
Structural Adjustment Programmes
Supply Side Policies

Related Theories:
Poverty and the Cycles of Poverty

Related Issues:
The Structural Adjustment Policies of the IMF