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Thursday, February 26, 2004

A bad idea catches on 

The government of Namibia apparently thinks that neighboring Zimbabwe has taken the right approach to land reform:

Namibia will start to forcibly take land from white farmers to give to landless blacks, the government says.

Prime minister Theo-Ben Gurirab said in a national address that land reform had to be speeded up but it would remain orderly and peaceful.
The government had been buying land from white farmers and then settling black citizens on the land, but apparently that wasn't going fast enough. So now Namibia is going to just take the land. Where did that idea come from?

Namibia's President Sam Nujoma, who is a close ally of Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe...
Say no more.

The United Nations has something to say, in a two part report on Namibia's land reform published last week, before today's announcement. And the land reform undertaken thus far has been about as successful as Zimbabwe's:

Researchers have suggested that many beneficiaries were unable to sustain themselves on their allocated land, which has led to calls on government to provide more long-term support to new small-scale farmers.
So let me get this straight... The government buys farm land at fair market price, resettles landless black citizens on it, and expects them to instantly become farmers. But they don't, because they don't have the capital to invest in equipment or any knowledge of farming. As a result the farms--which once fed a nation--fail so dramatically that they can't even feed their new owners:

A report by Namibia's Legal Assistance Centre (LAC), 'One Day We Will Be Equal ... A socio-legal perspective on Namibian Land Reform and Resettlement Process', said "the only reason that rampant starvation and malnutrition do not ravage the resettlement projects is because the government operates a food-for-work programme in virtually every resettlement project".

"Beneficiaries of resettlement projects are caught in a vicious [cycle] because of their poverty: they have to sell agricultural produce to obtain some cash, which in turn lands them in a food deficit situation."

It added that "one of the main criticisms against the resettlement programme has been that it does not provide sufficient training on how to effectively utilise land obtained from the government, nor does it provide access to modern farm equipment".
At even the slow pace of land reform thus far, Namibia is in a food crisis. But why stop there? Speed up land reform by seizing farms, and effectively stop useful agriculture on an even higher percentage of arable land.

Mindblowing, really. But to anyone who has paid attention to Zimbabwe's problems, it's not terribly surprising. The sad part of it all is that the Namibian people don't deserve to be starved in the name of hasty land reform, but that's exactly what's happening.

Samantha Power wrote an article for the December issue of The Atlantic Monthly, entitled "How To Kill A Country," subtitled "Turning a breadbasket into a basket case in ten easy steps—the Robert Mugabe way." Click on the link and you'll see that number one on her list is "Destroy the engine of productivity." It's no secret how horribly things have gone next door in Zimbabwe, and the government of Namibia should know better than to follow in Mugabe's footsteps.
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