Zambia’s launching of a National Lands Policy on 11 May 2021 represents an important achievement after almost two decades of periodic drafting, consultation and validation attempts. While Zambia has historically been blessed with a relatively small population, ample land and natural resources, peace and stability, over the years land issues have increasingly emerged related to urban growth, resource development and extraction, ambiguities in customary and statutory tenure systems, and large-scale land-based investments. Despite the emergence of these issues and even in the years of land market liberalization following single party rule in 1991, Zambia has never had a policy to guide the land sector. Since 2014, USAID, alongside other partners, has supported consultations and technical reviews at the request of the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources through the Tenure and Global Climate Change Program and the Integrated Land and Resource Governance Program.
The policy sets out a vision of a “transparent land administration and management system for inclusive sustainable development by the year 2035,” providing eight policy objectives and a series of non-controversial measures.
In her remarks at the virtual launch, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Hon. Jean Kapata, noted that “some of the challenges facing the sector include land encroachment, land displacements, oftentimes with little or no compensation, inadequate availability of serviced land in view of population growth, and land disputes.” She highlighted new solutions within the policy including: mass land titling; requirements to allocate land to women, youth and disabled individuals; reduction in the age for ownership of land; regulation of non-Zambian ownership of land; and strengthened monitoring to ensure adherence to the law.
This policy had long been in development, starting in 2014 through consultations across all the provinces of the country, and with key stakeholders including the private sector and the Chiefs who administer well over half of the country that sits within customary land. The process resulted in a 2017 draft that was rejected by Chiefs after a national validation. Stakeholders last saw a detailed draft in May of 2020, when a virtual validation process provided detailed suggestions to a draft policy. The final policy that emerged from the Ministry and Cabinet a year later in May 2021 was much condensed from previous versions to conform with government policy development guidance. As a result, the policy goes into less detail with fewer specific actions than had previously been expected, leaving these to be elaborated on in a forthcoming implementation plan.
Civil society congratulated government on the completion of the policy, but in a press statement, a coalition of CSOs have noted, “in the quest to reduce text…(the policy) lost progressive measures, which have been watered down.” CSOs highlighted a lack of clarity on the role of customary land certificates, as well a lack of adequate provisions around informed consent in the face of large-scale land-based investments. CSOs have expressed hope that the implementation framework will create clarity on these elements. Zambia’s customary chiefs have not publicly responded to the final policy, in contrast to previous attempts to finalize the policy. Given the high level of consultation, chiefs were reportedly content with the validated draft from 2020, and wait to see how the contents of the final policy will be implemented. Likewise, Zambia’s donor sector eagerly awaited the finalization of the policy, particularly to understand how issues of foreign investments in land, as well as urban and rural planning and tenure security issues would be dealt with. As with other stakeholder groups, the donor sector is anxious to understand how the policy vision will be carried out.
In her closing remarks, the Minister noted that the policy launch would be her final act as Minister, as Parliament was in the process of dissolving to prepare for Zambia’s 2021 elections in August.
- Minister’s Speech: https://www.mlnr.gov.zm/?wpfb_dl=124
- National Lands Policy: https://www.mlnr.gov.zm/?p=5962
- CSO Statement: https://www.facebook.com/ZambiaLandAlliance/posts/4029806703762155