Sunday 16 May 2021
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Ombudsman proposes urban resettlement

The Ombudsman has called on government to buy urban land to resettle those who do not want to farm, while at the same time cautioning it to stop buying farms without water and infrastructure.
This, the Ombudsman John Walters shared as recommendations in a lengthy report on the Land Reform and Resettlement Programme in Namibia.
Collected from public hearings and written submissions, Walters said the lack of available land especially urban land, adding to the inflated high prices are key issues for consideration.  At the same time resettled farmers, particularly small scale farmers call for the government to support them since many of them are dumped in farms not fit for farming.
Other submissions enlisted in the report include ideas that farms should be subdivided into more units so that more people can be resettled. There are also calls for the resettlement of persons above the age of 80 to stop.
“The current Resettlement Program forces us to share land with people who have never lost land.  The return of ancestral land must be part of the policy and such a policy should not prioritize the number of livestock but rather restitution,” reads another submission.
The Ombudsman also criticized the Land Reform Act, saying the primary objectives of the national resettlement policy have thus far been achieved but only in part.
According to the report, recent research conducted has revealed that since the inception of the resettlement programme, the set objective of attaining self-sufficiency by means of ‘creating employment through full-time farming and bringing smallholder farmers into the mainstream of the Namibian economy by producing for the market’ has not been accomplished.
“The San in all the areas visited, except Tsumkwe, reported a lack of access to the wildlife and forest fruits they were used to. They also complained about their inability to do large-scale commercial farming due to a lack of resources and also due to lack of training. Most of them depend almost entirely on government food aid, which is very irregular.’
The process of applying for resettlement also often bypasses the San, one reason being that most San people in Namibia live in remote areas and are not made aware of resettlement projects planned in their areas until it is too late to apply.
Another reason is that many are illiterate and unable to submit a written application, the report further highlights.
The Ombudsman also encourages the state party to implement its policies on land reform in such a way to ensure the equal exercise by the different ethnic communities of the rights enshrined in the Convention within the framework of a democratic system.
Without prejudice to the overall objective of the land reforms and the “willing seller – willing buyer” approach, the Ombudsman is concerned that the land reform programme of the State party has not addressed poverty or that security of tenure remains an enduring challenge, as a large number of individual and communal land owners are without title.
The Ombudsman is also concerned that many resettled farmers have not been able to restore their livelihoods and earn an adequate standard of living, even when support has been provided. Moreover, the Committee is concerned that the Communal Land Reform Act of 2002 has had little effect on women’s access to land.
In this regard, the Ombudsman expressed its concern at women’s limited access to land and the lack of information on rural women’s access to microfinance and microcredit schemes.
“We are particularly concerned at reports of land grabbing by relatives of deceased spouses and the impact on women in rural areas. We call upon Namibia to adopt specific measures aimed at facilitating women’s access to land, in particular in rural areas and to intensify efforts aimed at curbing land grabbing, especially as regards women in rural areas, which affects the full enjoyment of the right to property by women.”
He further stressed the need for clarity about resettlement while pointing out the inconsistencies in application of selection criteria for resettlement as well as inadequate selection criteria.
The non-productive use of resettlement farms by beneficiaries, affordability of farm land for resettlement purposes and inadequate support for resettled farmers and groups also comes out as a matter of concern.
“While we intended to submit our report to the Land Reform minister before the start of the Second National Land Conference, it turned out not to be possible for various reasons, among others, the extend of the research, the inordinate delay by the ministry to provide the Ombudsman with the full list of beneficiaries, the proofreading and printing of the report,” said Walters.

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