Securing Land Rights. Communal land reform in Namibia

Securing Land Rights - Communal land reform in Namibia: This study achieved financial support by the German Research Foundation (DFG) through the collaborative research center 'Future Rural Africa'.
Nghitevelekwa, Romie Vonkie
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Title: Securing Land Rights
Subtitle: Communal land reform in Namibia
Author: Romie Vonkie Nghitevelekwa
Publisher: University of Namibia Press
Namibia, Windhoek 2020
ISBN 9789991642628 / ISBN 978-99916-42-62-8
Softcover, 17 x 24 cm, 164 pages, several b/w and colour photographs and tables

About: Securing Land Rights. Communal land reform in Namibia

For the last 30 years, Namibia has been implementing a land reform programme. In the freehold sector, it seeks to address historical injustices by improving access to agricultural land for "previously disadvantaged" Namibians. In the non-freehold or communal areas, land reform aims to remove uncertainties about legitimate access and rights to land by introducing the registration of customary land rights in regional land registers. Despite about 50 per cent of Namibia's population still regarding access to communal land as being important, not enough research has been carried out in the various regions of Namibia to understand how local customary tenure systems for land and natural resources operate. Romie Nghitevelekwas book, Securing Land Rights: Communal land reform in Namibia, is a welcome contribution to our understanding of customary tenure to individualised and communal rights. Based on extensive field research, the book introduces the reader to the complex nature of accessing land held under customary tenure and the nature of such rights.

The discussion of various aspects of customary tenure takes place against the background of Namibia's land reform programme and, in particular, how the policy and legal framework impact social equity and tenure security. Informing her approach is the conviction that customary tenure does not represent a second-class tenure, as is often averred. Instead of recommending that customary tenure is abolished in favour of formal and freehold land title, she argues that its recognition in law is fundamental to promoting equity. In this context, she also dismisses popular claims that customary tenure is not secure enough to encourage investment. The book presents a much more nuanced discussion of how people obtain access to land than is normally assumed, by differentiating between landholders whose rights are registered and land users who derive secondary tenure rights from landholders, often through kinship networks.

This underlines the point that in customary tenure systems, different people have different rights over the same land parcel. Such secondary tenure rights are not protected by current legislation - a situation that has the potential to increase the vulnerability of those who depend on them, particularly women. The individualisation of customary land rights, through a process of registration, is likely to impact negatively on a system that, through its flexibility, facilitates the sharing of benefits arising from accessing land more widely. Importantly, Securing Land Rights: Communal land reform in Namibia also shows that customary tenure systems are constantly adapting to new socio-economic realities. One such transformation involves the individualisation of communal pastures, and represents a response by the state to the demand by an elite group who wish to possess their own farms.

To facilitate this desire, the Communal Land Reform Act (2002) introduced a new form of tenure, namely, long-term leasehold. The other, less well-known change that the author discusses is the gradual commoditisation of customary land rights. Although it operates illegally, an emerging land market in non-freehold areas opens new ways of accessing land through money transfers. This practice is currently happening, particularly in villages adjacent to local authority areas with a high demand for residential land, and raises the important policy question: how should the state deal with this illegal trading of customary land rights? This book is indispensable reading for scholars and land activists alike, in particular at this specific juncture, where the country is reforming its land policy and legal framework. It draws attention to important questions relating to land governance in non-freehold areas that need further discussion and consideration in a new land policy and law.

Content: Securing Land Rights. Communal land reform in Namibia

List of Figures
List of Tables
List of Colour Photographs
Setting the Scene
Trajectory of land tenure reform in Africa
Genesis of a land reform agenda for Namibia
New standpoints on a land reform model for Namibia
Independence and development of the land reform programme in Namibia
Enactment of a law for communal land in Namibia
North-Central Namibia's Ethnographic Setting
Demographical and physical setting
Political setting
Socio-economic setting
Territorial restructuring
Economic restructuring
Customary Land Tenure System in Practice
Settling in the area
Allocating, sharing, and distributing the land
Relating to the land, transferring land, and inheriting land
Dividing landholdings, multiple landholdings, banking the land
Working the land
Farming in ofuka areas
When not tilling the land
Emerging Land Markets
Nature, extent, and hotspots of land markets in communal areas
Urban and rural land questions: two sides of one coin
The disguised nature of land markets in communal areas
Polarised views on land markets in communal areas
Institutions and Processes in Tenure Reform
Communal land boards
Traditional authorities
Land rights application
Land rights ratification
Status of land rights registration
Dealing with land disputes and conflicts
Registration of Customary Land Rights
Issuing customary land rights certificates
Surety for life and lifetime security
Gender equity
Land rights registration amidst diverse mechanisms of access to land
Excluding other customary uses of land
Registration of Rights of Leasehold
Rights of leasehold for general business enterprises
Rights of leasehold for agricultural purposes