Geoist Viewpoints Ignored
Land Crisis in Malawi
by Hazwell KanjayeLand shortage is looming in Malawi where population growth, one of the highest in the world, is outstripping the growing demand for land in the tiny southern African country.
"We are sitting on a time bomb as a nation. Our population is growing everyday, yet there is no equitable distribution of land," says Medson Kamlanje, a farmer in the capital Lilongwe. ''We have to resolve these issues now.''
By 2020, Malawi's population, which currently stands at 11 million, is expected to rise to a staggering 20.8 million, and the overall population density will rise to 220 persons per square kilometre of arable land, from the current average of 171 persons per square kilometre of arable land, which is far above the Africa average of 87 persons per square kilometer of arable land.
The land shortage is already being felt by peasants living in the south, home to Malawi's coffee and tea estates, mostly owned by White settlers, where population density varies from 230-460 persons per square kilometre of arable land.
A Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Land Policy Reform in Malawi has recommended, in a recent report, that government restore all idle land and give it to the landless.
"Where applicable land markets should be encouraged to improve accessibility especially in lands that are underutilised," , according to the Situation Analysis of Poverty in Malawi, a joint report compiled by the UN and the government of Malawi.
Set up in 1996 with a 1.58 million US Dollar funding from the UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Bank and the Government of Denmark, the Commission was required to find ways of improving land administration and to promote equitable access to land and security of title deed.
Being a predominantly agricultural country -- with the sector contributing nearly 40 percent of the gross domestic product (gdp), 90 percent of export earnings and a source of income for 85 percent of a population of 10 million -- land and its use lie at the centre of Malawi's economy, and livelihood and aspirations of its people.
Malawi's smallholder sector, which is fighting for the land, is primarily subsistence-oriented, providing the bulk of food production, almost 80 percent. It involves some 1.6 million families while estate owners number about 14,700.
The Commission report shows that 56 percent of the small holder farmers cultivate on less than 0.5 hectares, inadequate to meet the annual food requirements of an average household of five members using rudimentary tools.
''These small holdings have further diminished in size because of escalating population growth currently estimated at around 3.2 percent per annum, and one of the highest in the world,'' according to the report.
But, as the smallholders fight for land, huge tracts lay idle or underused.
"This is why we have recommended that parliament should debate the issue because there is a lot of land lying idle out there," says a member of the commission. "People are encroaching."
The report, which would soon be presented for debate in parliament, is likely to spark mixed feelings.
This report was ditributed by the IGC News Desk.
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