A critical reflection on the formalisation of communal land rights in Namibia : why local contexts matter for bridging the dichotomies of tenure rights

Matthaei, Elke Astrid (2018-11)

Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University 2018.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Struggles over access to, and control of, land have a long history in Sub-Saharan Africa. Since precolonial times, land has material and symbolic significance, with rights to land having been exchanged, negotiated and fought over in the course of political, demographic and economic change. Based on the belief that access to land and the registration thereof leads to prosperity, land reforms have gained prominence on national and international development agendas in recent decades. It is estimated that more than 428 million rural poor depend on access to customary land in Sub-Saharan Africa. Secure property rights, economists and policymakers hope, will increase access to credits and allow reinvestment and upkeep of resources. Several international conventions and declarations underscore the importance of land rights for sustainable rural and urban development. Similarly in Namibia, the Government’s rationale behind securing tenure in communal areas is to encourage investment in land, thus increasing agricultural productivity and ultimately reduce poverty through improved income and access to credit. After Namibia gained independence in 1990, a comprehensive land reform programme was initiated which also focussed on the formalisation of communal land rights. The Communal Land Reform Act (Act No. 5 of 2002) (CLRA) creates the specific legal framework regarding communal land. The CLRA aims to improve the sustainable allocation, development and management of natural resources in communal areas. Yet there is hesitance from communal farmers in some regions of Namibia to register their land parcels, whilst others have adopted this process without contestation. Land has always played a very significant role in the livelihoods and identities of especially Namibia’s rural inhabitants. Within culturally different landscapes, there will be differences in the ways people identify with, manage and use their land. Attempts to replace customary law with statutory law have proven to be expensive and divisive in many countries. Land reform programmes and research on land rights are still based on two typical ‘schools of thought’- one that argues for land policies to be rooted in theories of social capital, and the other that individualised tenure systems are more desirable. Being able to gain an insight into how rural populations regard the formalisation of their tenure is an important step towards challenging the way tenure security is understood through various ideologies of property ownership. Gathering more comprehensive information on land rights and uses of land is important to be able to contribute towards debates about land governance. In the context of the above discussion, this research was carried out in Namibia to gain a better understanding of how the ultimate beneficiaries of communal land rights registration, the farmers living on communal land, use their land. This has an impact on how they understand tenure security and what their needs are regarding forms of ownership. The dissertation will concentrate on findings based on research conducted in selected case study villages in four regions of Namibia. The case study villages are located in the Kavango East, Omusati, Hardap and Otjozondjupa regions, thereby enabling a comparative analysis of the formalisation of land rights within different cultural and geographical contexts. By using such a comparative analysis, the impacts of formalising communal land rights can be better understood, since land use and the significance people attribute to land for their livelihoods can vary greatly. As will be illustrated in the Namibian case, rural livelihood strategies and their relationships to land are diverse. It is argued that even though there are several commonalities between communal areas in Namibia, there are also significant differences in land uses and the role that land plays for livelihoods. Therefore, the formalisation of land rights, as is currently being pursued in Namibia, is unable to address all these different needs. Thus, a singular ‘one size fits all’ approach to formalising land is not feasible. Providing tenure security is undoubtedly important, as it does secure access and use of land. However, the current approach does not support the multiple communal land uses and needs within a broader territory. By looking at a specific area through the lens of a territory, one is also not merely inhibited by looking at the borders around the land, as these do not always consider the multiple functions of the space or area. By doing this, researchers and policy-makers alike will gain a better insight into the pluriactivities of local production systems and the multifunctionalities of land uses, expressed in both the management of and the various production systems on the land. This in turn influences their land tenure needs, if using the typology as represented by the ‘continuum of land rights’. Therefore, this research adds a further dimension to the concept of the continuum of land rights, by linking this to factors of production and farm management styles; highlighting how important different land uses are to determine tenure needs. Such research can thus lead to a better understanding of the policy requirements needed to enable land reform programmes to better contribute towards poverty reduction and economic development in Africa.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Stryd oor toegang tot, asook beheer oor, grond het 'n lang geskiedenis in Sub-Sahara Afrika. Reeds vanaf die voor-koloniale tydperk het Afrikane baie waarde, beide materieel en simbolies, aan die belangrikheid van grond geheg. Regte tot grond is verruil, onderhandel en het selfs gelei tot gevegte in periodes van politiese, religieuse, asook demografiese en ekonomiese veranderinge. Gebaseer op die feit dat geglo is dat toegang tot grond, asook die registrasie daarvan, tot voorspoed sou lei, het grondhervorming toenemend meer prominent geword op die agendas van nasionale en internasionale ontwikkelingsorganisasies in onlangse dekades. Daar word voorts geskat dat meer as 428 miljoen plattelandse behoeftige mense afhanklik is van toegang tot tradisionele grond in Sub-Sahara Afrika. Verskeie internasionale konvensies en verklarings onderstreep die belangrikheid van grondregte en grondbestuur vir volhoubare rurale en stedelike ontwikkeling. Insgelyks in Namibië, is die rasionaal van die regering om deur die sekuriteit van verblyfsreg in kommunale gebiede belegging in grond aan te moedig. Gevolglik is die denke dat landbouproduktiwiteit dus gestimuleer word, wat groei tot gevolg sal hê en uiteindelik sal lei tot die vermindering van armoede deur vergrote inkomste en toegang tot krediet. Nadat Namibië in 1990 onafhanklikheid verkry het, is 'n omvattende grondhervormingsprogram geïnisieer wat ook gefokus is op die formalisering van kommunale grondregte. Die Kommunale Grondhervormingswet (Wet Nr. 5 van 2002) skep die spesifieke wetlike raamwerk met betrekking tot kommunale grond. Die wet het ten doel om volhoubare toekenning van grond, ontwikkeling en bestuur van natuurlike hulpbronne in kommunale gebiede te stimuleer. Tog is daar 'n huiwering by kommunale boere in sommige streke in Namibië om hulle grond te registreer, terwyl ander die proses sonder teenstand aanvaar het. Grond het nog altyd 'n baie belangrike rol gespeel in die lewensonderhoud en identiteit van veral Namibië se rurale bewoners. In kultureel diverse landskappe, sal daar verskille wees in die wyses waarop mense identifiseer met hulle grond asook die manier waarop die grond bestuur en benut word. Grondhervormingsprogramme en navorsing oor grondregte word steeds gebaseer op twee tipiese denkrigtings – een rigting is ten gunste daarvan dat grondbeleid gebaseer moet wees op die teorieë van sosiale kapitaal, en die ander dat geïndividualiseerde verblyfsregsisteme meer wenslik is. Om in staat te wees om insig te kry in hoe die rurale bevolking die formalisering van hulle verblyfsreg beskou, is 'n belangrike stap om die manier te bevraagteken waarop verblyfsreg en sekuriteit verstaan word deur verskillende ideologieë oor eienaarskap van eiendom. In die lig van die voorafgaande diskussie, is ondersoek in Namibië uitgevoer om 'n beter begrip te verkry van hoe die uiteindelike begunstigdes van kommunale grondregregistrasie, die boere wat op kommunale grond woon, hulle grond benut. Dit het 'n impak op hoe hulle verblyfsreg beskou en wat hulle behoeftes met betrekking tot verskillende vorme van eienaarskap is. Die tesis sal fokus op bevindinge gebaseer op ondersoeke wat gedoen is in selektiewe gevallestudies wat in vier streke van Namibië uitgevoer is. Die gevallestudies is gedoen in dorpies in die Kavango Oos, Omusati, Hardap en Otjozondjupa streke, wat 'n vergelykende analise van die formalisering van grondregte in onderskeie kulturele en geografiese kontekste moontlik gemaak het. Deur gebruik te maak van so 'n vergelykende analise, kan die impak van die formalisering van kommunale grondregte beter begryp word, omdat grondbenutting en die waarde wat mense aan grond heg vir hulle lewensonderhou baie kan varieer. Soos aangetoon sal word in die geval van Namibië is die strategieë om in lewensonderhoud te voorsien en die verhoudinge tot grond baie divers. Daar word geargumenteer dat selfs al is daar heelwat ooreenkomste tussen kommunale gebiede in Namibië, daar ook beduidende verskille in die gebruik van grond is en die rol wat grond speel in lewensonderhoud. Daarom is die formalisering van grondregte, soos tans in Namibië nagestreef word, onvoldoende om die diverse behoeftes aan te spreek. Die voorsiening van verblyfsregsekuriteit is ongetwyfeld belangrik, maar die huidige benadering ondersteun egter nie die veelvoudige benutting van grond en die behoeftes binne 'n groter gebied. Deur na 'n bepaalde area deur 'n wyer territoriale bril te kyk, word mens nie beperk tot die grense van die gebied nie, aangesien sulke grense nie die veelvoudige funksies van die lewensruimte of area in ag neem nie. Deur hierdie breër insig sal beide navorsers en beleidsmakers 'n beter insig kry in die meervoudige aktiwiteite van lokale produksiesisteme en die multifunksionaliteit van grondbenutting. Dit, op sy beurt, beïnvloed die behoefte aan grondverblyfsreg, en die tipologie wat verteenwoordig word deur die 'kontinuum van grondregte'. Daarom dra hierdie navorsing by tot 'n verdere dimensie in die konsep van die kontinuum van grondregte, deur dit te koppel aan faktore soos produksie en boerderybestuurspraktyke; en deur te beklemtoon hoe belangrik diverse grondgebruik is in die behoefte aan verblyfsreg. Sodanige navorsing kan dus lei tot 'n beter begrip van die vereistes om beleid te bepaal om 'n meer sinvolle bydrae te lewer tot ekonomiese ontwikkeling en die vermindering van armoede.

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