Namibia: The Land Is Ours!

Article excerpt

Uazuva Kaumbi, the chairman of the board of the Namibia broadcasting corporation, writes about the need for an equitable redistribution of land in Namibia, or Zimbabwe would look like a Sunday school picnic by comparison!

**********

The smouldering land question in Namibia will burst into a bonfire unless and until answers are provided to the satisfaction of the indigenous people who are historically the real owners of the land. Land is the most important means of production, and without an equitable restoration to its real owners, independence will remain a mere paper tiger.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Simple questions demand simple (not simplistic) answers, and to do that one needs a return to the basics. The question is: how do we reverse the anomaly where less than 10% of the people own more than 80% of the commercial farmland as a result of colonial theft?

A quantitative example will illustrate the effects of congestion in communal areas. The Otjohorongo communal area in the Daures constituency of the Erongo region was created as a "homeland" for some of the OvaHerero people when the colonial authorities purchased 55 farms of 5,000 hectares each (total area approximately 275,000 hectares) from white families.

Today, this area is inhabited by close to 10,000 people. Thus, the land on which there used to live only 220 white people (55 families of 4 people each) must now sustain 10,000 people. In other words, the number of people has increased 44 times on the same piece of land! Needless to say, this has had a tremendous negative impact on the natural environment.

In terms of livestock, Namibia's 2002 livestock census found that there are 11,769 cattle, 58,201 goats and sheep, and 2,420 horses and donkeys in the Otjohorongo communal area. Using a conversion of 5 small stock for one large stock, this communal area currently sustains the equivalent of 25,829 cattle.

Assuming an average carrying capacity of 20 hectares per cattle, then the sustainable size for this communal area should be at least 515,584 hectares. This implies the doubling of the communal area by purchasing approximately 48 farms of average size 5,000 hectares each at an approximate total cost of N$73m (assuming N$300 per hectare).

This type of calculation can be applied to other parts of the country, and the results will be equally mind-boggling. Applying a similar analysis, a case for redistribution of land in Namibia as a whole can also be quantified. The total commercial farmland amounts to approximately 36.3 million hectares. Since 1990, the government of President Sam Nujoma has acquired 717,975 hectares (or 0.72 million hectares) for resettlement.

The Agricultural Bank of Namibia (Agribank) has also facilitated the purchase of 530 farms (approximately 2.65 million hectares) through the affirmative action loan scheme. Assuming that another one million hectares were obtained by black Namibians through other means, then it is safe to say that only about 4.5 million hectares are in the hands of black Namibians. This represents approximately 12% of the total commercial farmland. Surely, this is not acceptable!

To redress this imbalance, there needs to be a policy decision that at least 60% of the remaining 31.8 million hectares currently in white hands must be returned to black people within the next 10 years. Therefore, 19.1 million hectares must be redistributed within 10 years, which means 1.9 million hectares per annum. Assuming an average farm size of 5,000 hectares, this translates to 382 farms per annum.

If the Agribank can be engaged to assist with the purchase of 70% of these farms (267 farms), then it will have to spend a conservative minimum of N$401m per annum for the next 10 years (assuming an average purchase price of N$300 per hectare).

For its part, the government will have to spend N$172m per annum to buy 115 farms every year for the next 10 years. …