Saturday, February 20, 2010

ZNFU resists proposed land rates

ZNFU resists proposed land rates
By Florence Bupe
Sat 20 Feb. 2010, 03:04 CAT

THE Zambia National Farmers Union (ZNFU) has resisted the proposal by the Ministry of Lands to increase ground rates.

Appearing before the parliamentary committee on agriculture and lands on Thursday, ZNFU president Jervis Zimba said the proposed increments, which are as high as 80 per cent, were unjustified and should not be allowed.

“Ground rates have gone up by about 80 per cent. For instance, one would pay K2 million for 250 hectares of land, but the rate has now gone up to K11 million for the same piece of land,” Zimba said.

He said the decision by the land ministry would disadvantage many small scale farmers as the cost of production would increase drastically.

Zimba disclosed that the union was currently engaged in discussions with ministry officials with the aim of reducing the rates payable on land.

“Many farmers will be discouraged by the high cost of production brought about by the increase in rates, and this will have a spiral effect on the production levels,” Zimba said. “Most farmers will give up and the pressure to go into communal land will be high.”

And ZNFU head of outreach, member services and administration Coillard Hamusimbi warned that land encroachments would persist as long as the government did not release part of the state owned land into customary tenure.

He observed that part of the land that had remained reserved would be more productive if used for farming activities.

“As a country, we have about 94 per cent of land under customary law, but 39 per cent of this land is under reserves,” Hamusimbi said. “The population is growing but we don’t have additional land being released for settlement. Some of the reserved land has been idle for too long, we could use this land for agricultural purposes.”

Hamusimbi also called for a land audit to take account of how much land is available and how much of it could be released and customary tenure or leasehold.

Committee chairperson Request Muntanga directed ZNFU to submit a report on the union’s specific land requirements by March 31, 2010 for presentation to Parliament.

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