Will There Be a Land Rush?
Zambia Offers Free Farm Land
What will be the likely result of this exciting new policy? Will agribusiness corporations simply gain new special privileges while the citizens of Zambia starve, or will the Zambian economy turn around and blossom thanks to the opening of natural opportunities?
by Shapi ShacindaZambia will offer thousands of hectares of free farmland in a bid to end persistent food shortages and encourage agricultural exports, finance ministry officials said.
A pilot project would start soon by offering 90 000 hectares of farmland in Serenje, central Zambia, and 100 000 hectares in Kaoma, southern Zambian, said Deputy Finance Minister Patrick Kalifungwa.
Agriculture ministry officials said Zambia was looking to initially parcel out 1,000 hectare plots to commercial farmers with capital to start work immediately - growing maize, as well as fresh vegetables, fruit, flowers, coffee and tobacco.
Only 2.7 million hectares of Zambia's 18.2 million hectares arable land is utilised.
With five rivers and a high water table, Zambia is a prime target for irrigation farming and the government is embarrassed that its people starve despite the huge farming potential.
Kalifungwa said it was envisaged that any commercial farmers who could support more than 1,000 hectares of land could get it as the country moved to diversify its economy away from copper and cobalt mining.
"If an investor wants 10,000 hectares and can show that they have the capacity to till it, we shall give it to them. The idea is to ensure that we start putting all our land to proper use," said Kalifungwa.
In his budget on Friday, Finance Minister Emmanuel Kasonde set aside $2.9 million for electricity and roads in Kaoma and Serenje districts.
Agricultural ministry officials said the government had targeted some of Zimbabwe's white farmers, whose former land was given to war veterans by the government.
More than 130 Zimbabwean white farmers have bought parcels of land in Zambia and they will be eligible to gain free land under the new programme.
"White farmers have shown their commitment to land in Zimbabwe and we feel that Zambia could gain from their professionalism," said a senior government official.
A vast majority of Zambia's 11 million population are urban dwellers who are unfamiliar with tilling land. The lack of a farming tradition is partly blamed for food shortages in Zambia.
Some 14.4 million people in six southern African countries -- Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland -- face critical food shortages because of a combination of drought and poor farm management.
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