Urgency Needed on Addressing Pace of Land Reform

Alina-Valentina Betuel

Land reform in Namibia has been a contentious and controversial topic since the country gained independence in 1990.

The government’s efforts to address historical land injustices have been slow despite attempts to redistribute land to previously disadvantaged communities.

Consequently, many Namibians still live in poverty and don’t own land.

The issue is rooted in our history of colonialism and apartheid, which resulted in the widespread dispossession of the land of indigenous communities.

The government has put in place several measures to address historical injustices, including the willing-buyer, willing-seller policy, which allows for the purchase of land from willing sellers and the resettlement of landless and marginalised communities.

According to the Namibia Statistics Agency, only 27% of communal land, which accounts for most of the country’s land, has been redistributed since independence.


The slow pace of land reform in Namibia can be attributed to several factors.

The high cost of land has made it difficult for the government to acquire land for redistribution.

This has been exacerbated by the fact that some commercial farmers are unwilling to sell their land to the government at a fair price because they believe the land is worth more.

Another challenge is a lack of adequate funding and resources.

In addition, allegations of corruption and mismanagement within the programme have eroded public trust and confidence in the government’s ability to implement land reform effectively. 

Furthermore, the process of identifying and verifying land claims is complex and time-consuming, resulting in a backlog of unresolved claims.


What can be done to expedite land reform?

One solution is to increase funding and resources allocated to the process.

This would allow the government to buy land, compensate previous owners, and develop infrastructure on redistributed land, thereby speeding up the process.

Another option is to create a more efficient and streamlined process for identifying and validating land claims.

This could be accomplished by investing in technology and data management systems to expedite the land claim verification process, thereby reducing the backlog of unresolved claims.

The government could also investigate alternative land redistribution models, such as land partnerships, leasehold systems, or community land trusts, to provide access to land without relying solely on government resources.

Further, to ensure that land reform is inclusive, transparent and participatory, the government must engage all those involved, including landless communities, commercial farmers, and civil society organisations.

Finally, addressing a lack of political will, increasing funding and resources, streamlining the land claim verification process and exploring alternative land redistribution models are among key steps that can be taken to accelerate the process and ensure that Namibians can enjoy their constitutional right to land.

  • Alina-Valentina Betuel is a passionate sustainable development and land administration enthusiast, has a degree in regional planning and is pursuing an honours degree in land administration, alinavalentineb@gmail.com

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