Land reform in Namibia
Land reform is an important political and economic topic in Namibia. It consists of two different strategies: resettlement, and transfer of commercially viable agricultural land. Resettlement is aimed at improving the lives of displaced or dispossessed previously disadvantaged Namibians. Farms obtained by government for resettlement purposes are usually split into several sections, and dozens of families are being resettled on what had previously been one farm. Transfer of commercial agricultural land is not directly conducted by government. Would-be farmers with a previously disadvantaged background obtain farms privately or through affirmative action loans. In both cases, the "Willing buyer, willing seller" principle applies.
Namibia contains about 4,000 commercial farms. Almost 1000 of them have been obtained by previously disadvantaged Namibians since independence, some by means of private transactions, and some through government-facilitated loans. Until 2020, a further 15 Mio hectares of commercial agricultural land are to be transferred to blacks, a third of this area for resettlement purposes, two thirds for agriculture.
Dispossession of land by European settlers from Africans began in the nineteenth century with the coming of German colonists and traders as the area was incorporated as German South West Africa. Namibia gained independence in March 1990. Upon independence, the country inherited a colonial division of land in which 3,500 farmers, who were almost entirely White, owned approximately 50% of the country's agricultural land. These farmers constituted about 0.2% of the total national population. Land reform was one of the biggest reasons for many who participated in Namibia's liberation struggle.
Namibia's land reform process is based on three strategies, outlined by the Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act of 1995:
- The Namibian government buys farms from commercial farmers on the "willing buyer, willing seller" principle and allocates them to previously disadvantaged people. Any farm that is to be sold on the free market must first be offered to government.
- AgriBank, a state-owned bank, grants loans with interests below market level to the previously disadvantaged population.
- Communal land, which all belongs to the state, is parcelled into small units and distributed by traditional leaders.
From 1990 to 2007, an independent report said that the government had resettled approximately 800 Black farmers on land bought for redistribution. It was approximately 12% of commercial farmland in the country, or less than 1% per year.
In 2005, government began expropriating commercial farms. Although only five farms had been expropriated in 2008, and a further 30 farm owners had received letters asking them to sell to government, this move has instilled fears in the white farming community and discouraged further investment.
- Namibia Agricultural Union, which represents Namibia's commercial farmers
- Weidlich, Brigitte (5 Aug 2010). "Land ministry tests new farm acquisition model". The Namibian.
- Land reform in Namibia: Why not? by Chris Tapscott, Southern Africa Report, January 1994
- Weidlich, Brigitte (12 November 2008). "Land Reform Reaping Fruits Despite Problems". Inter Press Service (IPS).
- Land reform reproducing poverty IRIN News, 15 November 2007
- Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act of 1995
- Communal Land Reform Act (Act No. 5 Of 2002)