WINDHOEK: Land should not only be valued as an economic asset, but as an integral part of the cultural and social fabric, said Minister of Lands and Resettlement Alpheus !Naruseb on Thursday.
Speaking during the official opening of the Bank of Namibia’s 14th Symposium, !Naruseb said that apart from economic value, land is an important factor in the formation of individual and collective identity, and in the day-to-day organisation of social, cultural and religious life.
“It is also an enormous political resource that defines power relations between and among individuals, families and communities.
Our reforms should not threaten tenure security but enhance it, neither should the tenure reform reduce food security and rural livelihood but promote it,” he advised.
In addition, !Naruseb indicated that exploitation of unequal power relationships within communities are said to result in some strong members fencing off portions of communal lands for their own exclusive use, thereby denying access to other members of the community to share grazing land.
This phenomena increase vulnerability, hunger and poverty, and can also lead to conflict and environmental degradation when competing users fight for control over land resources, he warned, adding that people also lost rights to land because existing land tenure rules were ignored.
“It is a wonderful thing to unlock the economic assets of communal land but we should be mindful of the consequences that may result from a poorly-designed ‘unlocking of dead capital’ of communal areas.
Let us have a demand-driven process and not an indiscriminatory supply of tradable tenure in the communal areas that may result in destitution of the majority of our people,” urged !Naruseb.
The Lands Minister noted that already there have been reactions from the public that Government should tread carefully with communal land, and should therefore not privatise it but rather increase tradability and ensure access to land as capital goods through leasehold rights.
“Many argue that if one of the motives for investment in agriculture is the appropriation of rights, it is then possible that indigenous tenure may provide incentives that are superior to freehold, and that the efficiency losses associated with communal land tenure have always been exaggerated,” he indicated.
!Naruseb said the Ministry of Lands and Resettlement believes that communal land is a public good that should benefit the less-privileged communities residing in communal areas.
Therefore, he said, strengthening the existing communal system is a better strategy towards uplifting the communities politically, economically and socially.
Landlessness is said to occur, for reasons other than insecure tenure, because the poor sell their land through distress sales or forced sales in order to survive in times of crises such as famine, sickness or other calamities.
Other reasons for selling land may include the need to meet social pressures such as driving expensive cars and living beyond one’s means, explained !Naruseb.