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6. Conclusion

Contributors to this workshop illustrated various aspects of the relationship between agricultural and land policy. In most eastern and southern African countries, agriculture remains a mainstay of the economy: generating foreign exchange (e.g. Malawi), supplying inputs for food processing industries (e.g. Swaziland) and, in many countries acting as a major source of rural employment and subsistence. This situation is likely to persist for a number of reasons. Populations are growing rapidly. In many countries, the annual rate of population increase exceeds 3 per cent (e.g. Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Botswana). Moreover, the absorption capacity of the non-agricultural sector is limited, and its growth is slow (with the exception of occasional booms in the mining sector, as in Botswana). Furthermore, and related to the previous factors, most governments aim at curbing the influx of people from the rural to the urban areas by improving income opportunities in the rural areas, which means primarily in the agricultural sector. Given the obviously key role of land as a factor in agricultural production, land policy will in these circumstances continue to determine economic opportunities for a large proportion of the population.

As various contributors have shown, actual land use is determined by a variety of factors. Environmental characteristics such as rainfall and soil determine the suitability of land for various uses. Planners often use the concept of agro-ecological zones (Mupawose and Chengu, this volume) to indicate the suitability of areas for agricultural purposes (e.g. cropping or livestock production, intensive or extensive use). Although environmental constraints may sometimes be overcome, for example by the use of irrigation or fertilizers, the cost of such strategies is often too high for most farmers and may render subsistence food production uneconomic. Indeed, all the resources of the land user are important in determining actual land use. Large discrepancies have been revealed between the commercial, large-scale agricultural sector and the subsistence, small-holder sector, ranging from direct or indirect access to the factors of production (land, labour, and capital ( land access to the necessary infrastructure (e.g. transport and marketing). Insufficient access to the means of agricultural production may seriously impair productivity and cause underutilization or even non-use of land. In some cases, it may lead to the spatial integration of traditionally separated household activities, as with crop and livestock production in Botswana (Arntzen and Opschoor, this volume). Given appropriate environmental conditions and access to the factors of production, farmers must have adequate incentives to engage in agriculture. Farmers' perceptions of the socio-economic incentives for production and of the appropriate allocation of scarce resources do not necessarily correspond with those of governments, as expressed in land, marketing, credit, and pricing policies. In this way, governments' attempts to influence the pattern of land use may not always achieve the desired results.

The papers presented in this volume reveal a number of similarities and differences in the agricultural development and land policies of the nations of eastern and southern Africa. Major similarities include the following.

  1. All countries have a colonial history. Although the impact of this history varied, it usually implied the partition of the land into zones with different tenure regimes (such as freehold and State land); the adaptation, rather than destruction, of pre-colonial land allocation and management systems in tribal areas (West, this volume); the introduction of taxes, and the at least partial transformation of rural economies through the introduction of cash crops. In most countries, independence did not bring any immediate or drastic change in land policy. National economies were by then firmly incorporated in the world system, usually in a dependent position (Musisi, this volume). Furthermore, among the various interest groups in the newly independent countries, there were those whose concerns largely coincided with those of the previous colonial regimes. All these considerations were influential in the subsequent course of land policy and agricultural change.
  2. Most countries in the region have developed some form of dualism in their agricultural sector. Communal use under collective tenure, consisting mainly of small holders aiming at subsistence and constrained by numerous factors to low productivity coexists with a private sector comprising a relatively small number of enterprises aiming at producing surpluses of cash crops.
  3. Most countries have experienced rapid urbanization. Development has been fastest in the urban areas and disparities between towns and the rural areas have consequently grown. Links of ownership and investment have sometimes complicated the pattern of use of rural land, as urban dwellers retained or established rural rights and either drained rural areas of their resources or redirected urban earnings to agricultural or nonagricultural land uses in these areas.
  4. The rapid population growth in the region has commonly outstripped the increase, if any, in agricultural production, causing a decrease in the level of self-sufficiency in food. (Malawi is at present a fortunate exception.)

Some important differences between the countries in the region also emerge, as exemplified in the contributions to the workshop.

  1. There is great variety in environmental conditions, notably rainfall and soils. These are a primary influence on the suitability of land for agricultural production.
  2. The location of the country in relation to African and overseas markets is a key variant. In southern Africa, the influence of the powerful neighbouring economy of the Republic of South Africa is critical.
  3. The nature of population pressure on agricultural resources varies considerably. Such pressure is determined not only by population numbers but also by the ability of land resources to sustain intensive production. In semi-arid countries, for instance, even relatively small populations and growth rates can start to cause pressure upon and degradation of resources, especially where landextensive production systems have traditionally been employed. In some circumstances population pressure leads to uneconomic fragmentation (as in Lesotho and Malawi).
  4. Some countries depend upon their agricultural sectors more heavily than others in the region. The economic development of countries like Uganda, Malawi, and Tanzania depends largely upon agriculture and the various internal and external factors which influence it. Other nations have more diversified economies, which incorporate mineral production (e.g. Kenya and Zimbabwe). The varying importance of agriculture naturally influences the design of agricultural development and land policies.
  5. The political objectives of the various independent governments have differed widely. This has had a profound influence on land policy, since the latter concerns one of the most fundamental rights whose distribution contrasting political dispositions seek to control.

The various trends in the land policies of the countries of eastern and southern Africa are thus determined by the interplay of a wide range of factors whose significance and impact differ considerably, despite certain common experiences. Land policy is in turn shown by various contributors to have a functional relationship with rural development planning. Land and hence land policy are critical to the achievement of many of the objectives of rural development policy. West (this volume) points out that land policy has three aspects. All are germane to rural development policy as a whole. Apart from its spatial aspect, as expressed in land-use planning, land policy has environmental and tenurial aspects. The former is meant to safeguard the sustained productive capacity of the land; the latter aims to regulate access to and utilization of land by a set of rules resulting from the social, economic, and political relationships prevalent in the country.

Given the continuing importance of agriculture as a source of national subsistence, the role of land policy in controlling access to the principal means of agricultural production is crucial. For the rapidly increasing populations of eastern and southern Africa, such access is commonly feasible only in (tribal) areas of communal tenure. Pressure upon land resources has therefore increased most rapidly in these areas, whose income-generating capacity is consequently threatened in many countries. On the other hand, freehold and leasehold areas may in some cases be underutilized, perhaps because they are used for speculative reasons or owned by absentees. One policy option for governments in these circumstances is to expand the communal areas with their easier access structure. This may be achieved by opening up tribal land not hitherto used for agriculture; but more and more the conversion of freehold or leasehold land to some form of communal tenure may be the only feasible solution. The latter may lead to a dilemma as production levels consequently drop (e.g.. in Zimbabwe). This problem may be overcome by another policy option, namely the intensification of agricultural production in communal areas. Several contributors (e.g. Nothale and Magagula) have stressed the need for upgraded farming practices to increase agricultural production and farmers' economic incentives, while decreasing the area of land required per unit of subsistence.

The experiences of the different countries in the region are instructive in various ways. First, and perhaps most important, is the general conclusion that individualization of tenure does not automatically lead to production increases. This is demonstrated by the Kenyan experience (OkothOgendo, this volume) and preliminary findings for Botswana's livestock industry (Hitchcock and Nkwe, this volume). The merits and deficiencies of traditional systems of collective tenure have been reviewed: for example, the lack of security of title, the arbitrary control of traditional authorities, the supposed ease of access to land for all who need it. The choice of individual or collective tenure in a given country or sector seems to relate to political ideas and objectives rather than to any broader comparison of the systems. Given the prevailing form of collective tenure in tribal lands, West calls for tenure conversion, that is, the adaptation of existing arrangements to promote modern production requirements, rather than total transformation or so-called tenure reform. This view is endorsed by, for instance, Magagula in the case of Swaziland.

Tenure is not, therefore, the key variable for increasing agricultural production. Creditworthiness and facilities, education and extension efforts, infrastructure, marketing facilities, and price structures should also be considered in a package of policy instruments aimed at achieving such increases. Many of these factors are still major constraints in areas under collective tenure and can be influenced without a change in tenurial arrangement.

A further conclusion is that environmental factors be explicitly considered in land policy. If they are ignored or neglected, the future productive capacity of the land may be affected. This is one of the ways in which land policy must be considered within the broader context of rural development. In fact, the objectives of land policy are not always clearly formulated, within or outside this broader context. There is a need for these objectives to be made more explicit and for their respective priorities to be indicated in conjunction with the specification of evaluation criteria which will permit subsequent review and, if necessary, adjustment of policy. Land policy should thus be incorporated in a coherent and dynamic process of planning.

It also became clear at the workshop that agricultural development and land policies sometimes appear to fail because of the lack of popular comprehension or cooperation. Sometimes, this is because of poor communication; sometimes, policies are genuinely rejected. Such problems can be reduced by the adequate involvement of the population in the early stages of policy formulation. This may also help alleviate the lack of resources and personnel which, it was concluded, are often responsible for the poor implementation of land policy. For example, registration of titles in tribal land has been almost impossible to achieve even though its importance is usually recognized. No land policy should be launched without careful consideration of the institutions and personnel required for its implementation (and evaluation), and, where necessary, the preparation of the appropriate structures. Machacha (this volume) pays explicit attention to the practical constraints and implementation problems affecting the working of Botswana's Tribal Land Act. Similar problems undoubtedly exist in other countries in the region.

Governments are involved to some extent in every aspect of land tenure and use. As Dickson (this volume) points out, even individual freehold tenure, often considered as absolute control by the owner, is usually subject to certain State rights and regulations. Governments have a major responsibility in areas of communal tenure, particularly as they begin to substitute modern land institutions for the traditional administration of chiefs and other community authorities. The role of governments in State land is even more direct. Another important way in which land policy should be integrated, therefore, is across the different forms of tenure existing in a country.

Only in this way can the danger of conflict between developments in the different tenure zones be averted and the option of controlling land allocation between zones be effectively used. The land policy of governments must therefore consider and provide for all types of tenure within one integrated whole.

A final conclusion is that land policy is unlikely to succeed if it is founded on inadequate information. Too often policy is based upon inaccurate assumptions about actual rural, agricultural, and tenurial conditions (see, for example, Hitchcock and Nkwe, this volume). Adequate research prior to policy formulation is necessary, and research should be maintained at the implementation and evaluation stages to permit proper monitoring of progress. There is a dual challenge: for researchers to provide the relevant information and analysis, and for policymakers to take account of research findings in the design and implementation of strategies for land use and agricultural development.

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