Strict stance on subdivision of farms
30 April 2018 | Agriculture
The agriculture ministry last week introduced the outline of a future national policy aimed at protecting the important resource of agricultural land.
“The philosophy behind the national policy on subdivision and consolidation of agricultural land is aiming at redressing, in the spirit of national reconciliation and nation building, the challenge of subdivision and consolidation of agricultural land in order to promote sustainable economic development,” former agriculture minister John Mutorwa wrote in the foreword to the policy.
The policy, which addresses the lack of a “coherent policy and legal instruments to reliably and objectively direct the subdivision of agricultural land”, is aimed at freehold, or commercial, farming areas.
Land in communal areas, as well as resettlement farms, belongs to the State and is not covered under this policy, the ministry said.
The aim of the policy is to prevent unrestricted subdivision of farms that leads to “small, ecologically and economically non-viable farming units, which undermine the capacity of agricultural land users to sustainably derive decent living standards from agricultural land”.
Agriculture permanent secretary Percy Misika wrote in the executive summary of the new policy that the subdivision of agricultural land into units that are too small to be economically viable, “be it as a means of bequeathing inheritance among named beneficiaries in testamentary disposition, intestate succession, diving shares among shareholders or claimants, will not be permitted unless written consent has been obtained from the minister responsible for agriculture.”
During his official statement last week, newly appointed agriculture minister Alpheus !Naruseb said the new policy would guard against the subdivision of farmland into uneconomic units, as well as against speculation with agricultural land which inevitably results in inflated prices.
He added that given Namibia's different ecological zones and climatic conditions, the policy sets parameters used to determine viable agricultural economic unit sizes in specific areas.
!Naruseb said in an effort to address the high demand for land, landowners often opted to subdivide their farms into small portions.
“Unplanned or uncontrolled land subdivision into smaller units can easily lead to over-exploitation of resources, bush encroachment and permanent loss of the most fertile soils through erosion,” he pointed out.
He added that small, non-economical land units were likely to pose a threat to food security at national level.
“The high demand has resulted in the current situation where farms are sold at prices which by far exceed their real productive values,” he said.
Mutorwa emphasised that nearly 70% of Namibians depend on agriculture for their food, income and employment.
Yet Namibia's colonial history “facilitated the concentration of large tracts of fertile land in the hands of a small section of the population.”
Further, after independence, the price of land increased tremendously due to a very high demand and limited supply of available land.
“It is an undisputable fact that productive capacity of agrarian land in Namibia has been severely diminished as a result of land degradation to which bush encroachment and small land use are the major contributors,” Misika wrote.
Misika emphasised that post-independence policies and laws were aimed at advancing prosperity, dignity and improved human living standards while protecting vital natural ecosystems and resources through sustainable utilisation.
The permanent secretary explained that livestock production was the most appropriate land use type for Namibia's climate.
For that reason, farm unit sizes will be based on livestock production and the carrying capacity of the specific area.