FAO Study Suggests Buying Unsuitable Land for Resettlement

GOVERNMENT should consider purchasing unsuitable land for resettlement purposes to induce sales from neighbouring owners whose farms may be better or more suitable for resettlement.

This is one of the recommendations made by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) in its latest Agricultural land price study shared during a stakeholders’ consultative workshop organised by the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement in Windhoek on Tuesday.

“The government can consider purchasing unsuitable land strategically. This is because the study has found that in many cases when a farm is bought by government or an Affirmative Action Loan Scheme (AALS) buyer, some neighbouring land owners decide to sell theirs too as the location may no longer be favourable to them with the new neighbours on board,” said FAO consultant Fleefort Muzyamba.

The study showed that 40% of farms offered to government were waived for various reasons, such as not meeting the suitability criteria, failure by government to accept offers within the stipulated time frame and recently, running out of funds to buy more farms.

It further indicated that more than 400 farms of more than 3 000 hectares in size have been waived since 1996. The rate at which farms are waived would make it significantly harder to achieve the targeted 15 million hectares of land to be acquired by Government by the year 2020, said Muzyamba.

To date, government has redistributed 2.4 million hectares of land in its resettlement programme.

Land owned by foreigners amounts to almost 1.3 million hectares and currently, the rate of land tax is higher for foreigners.

He suggested that this should possibly be reviewed to determine how the tax is assisting in making absentee foreign owners release land into the markets.

However, caution should be taken that this measure does not negatively affect land owners who are using their land productively, Muzyamba said.

“Further, the dangers of low farm productivity resulting from widespread expropriations should be taken into account. It has been observed that despite its shortcomings, the market-based land redistribution model often dubbed ‘willing buyer willing seller’ approach is still the best tool for land redistribution,” he added.

In continuation of the long-term cooperation between the FAO and the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement, the FAO received a request in November 2010 for assistance in the investigation of agricultural land prices in Namibia. The request for the study was based upon a general perception of rapidly increasing property prices in Namibia, particularly in the context of commercial agricultural land. – Nampa

Source : The Namibian