Tuesday, July 29, 2014

(IPPG) Exploring the Politics of Land Reforms in Malawi: A Case Study of the Community Based Rural Land Development Programme (CBRLDP)
by Blessings Chinsinga
Discussion Paper Series
Number Twenty
September 2008

IPPG Programme Office, IDPM, School of Environment & Development
University of Manchester, Arthur Lewis Building, 2.023, Oxford Road
Manchester M13 9PL; Telephone 0161 306 6438; ippg@manchester.ac.uk

" The advocates of democracy attributed the crippling levels of poverty, inter alia, to the inequitable and unjust postcolonial patterns of land tenure that promoted excessive alienation of land from the smallholder farmers. It was therefore promised that land redistribution would be addressed as an integral part of the poverty reduction agenda should the advocates of democratisation be ushered into power. "

" The current patterns of land distribution can be attributed to the postcolonial land policies which instead of addressing the iniquities and injustices of the colonial era simply reinforced them; this was in sharp contrast to the rhetoric in the lead up to the attainment of independence in 1964 (N’gong’ola, 1982; Mkandawire, 1993). While some reforms were implemented, they did not ‘herald a transformation of Malawi’s political economy, but largely retained colonial land policies and laws’ (Kanyongolo, 2005:127). "

" These sectors differed in terms of landholding sizes and types of crops which they could grow. While those engaged in estate farming were at liberty to cultivate a variety of crops without limit, those within the smallholder sub-sector were legally prohibited from producing such cash crops as burley tobacco, sugar and tea to avoid providing competition. Lack of competition would enable the elites (politicians, senior civil servants, senior parastatal employees and chiefs) to reap substantial benefits from international trade for further reinvestment in the agricultural sector. This further helped to guarantee estates a readily available pool of cheap labour since keeping smallholder farmers out of the lucrative international markets ensured that the majority of them remained at subsistence level thereby keeping the option of working as tenants on the estates attractive (Harrigan, 2001 and Chinsinga, 2007). Perhaps more critically important is the fact that the land market that was created following the 1967 laws provided only for one-way transferability of land, land could only be transferred to the estate sector, and usually with only a modest compensation.
It is estimated that under the aegis of this particular policy, the number of estates increased from 1,200 in 1979 to 14,671 in 1989 covering one million of hectares of fertile arable land but with considerably sub-optimal productivity levels (Chirwa, 1998; Stambuli, 2002). The resultant skewed land distribution pattern is aptly captured by the World Bank (2003), which estimates that about 1.8 to 2 million smallholder farmers cultivate on average 1 hectare compared with 30, 000 estates cultivating 1.1 million hectares with an average landholding of between 10 to 500 hectares; the 2002 land policy estimates that about 28% of the country’s cultivable land, representing approximately 2.6 million hectares, lies idle in the rural areas and much of it falls under the freehold category (GoM, 2002). "

5 the politics oF lAnd reForm under the cbrldp in perspective

" There is no doubt that the project has enabled the landless or near landless from both Thyolo and within Machinga to acquire land at least adequate for cultivation of food to last the throughout the year and with considerable surplus for sale. This is widely acknowledged by the beneficiaries, some of who confessed that ‘they are no longer sleeping on empty stomachs because they are able to cultivate more than just enough for purposes of subsistence’.7 From trust to trust this story line was repeated almost word for word, underscoring the fact that access to land under the auspices of the CBRLDP had enhanced their productivity levels. Reported maize yields averaged between 30 and 50 bags per household across all the trusts covered in this study; according to Chirwa (2008), the average maize production among beneficiary households increased from 200kgs before resettlement to 1454kgs after the project in 2005/2006 and yields were significantly higher after the project (2269kgs per hectare) compared to 962kgs per hectare before the project. The CBRLDP has also had a positive impact on household incomes, increasing by about 40% after one year of relocation. "

Resistance to the CBRLDP Land Reform Programme

" Land invasion has a very long history in Malawi, as already indicated above. Kanyongolo (2005) argues that land invasions have occurred on both publicly and privately owned land: people have encroached into forestry reserves, national parks, land surrounding presidential palaces and private farms. For instance, up to 202 people occupied the Liwonde Forestry Reserve in Machinga, a district which is supposedly to have plentiful of land that can be shared to the land hungry from other parts of the country; in the land invasions, farms previously owned by Dr. Banda, the first head of state, are particularly targeted. Land disputes taking the form of encroachment reflects, inter alia, the marked divergence of the land reform discourse between the official policy and the popular view or conception at the grassroots level. The grassroots’ understanding of a fair and just land reform programme is that it should champion restitution instead of people from other districts being prioritised as beneficiaries of the initiative. This would only make sense if and only if the people in districts deemed as having excess land are satisfied with their landholding sizes. The encroachments and land invasions are justified as simply a means of getting back land that was unfairly expropriated from them under the aegis of the 1967 legislative instruments whereby vast tracks of customary land were transferred into the estate sub-sector with modest or no compensation at all (Chirwa [1998]; Chinsinga [2002]; Chirwa [2004]). In the tea and coffee growing districts of Thyolo and Mulanje the grassroots engaging in land encroachments and invasions claim ‘the land in question belong to them because it had belonged to them before it was stolen by colonial settlers’ (Kanyongolo, 2005:129). "


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