UN counsels Zambia on land rights

The United Nations’ (UN) special rapporteur on the right to food, Hilai Ever has called on the Zambian government to give equal rights to customary and state landowners.

Ever recently said the current dual land tenure system led to a situation where customary landowners were essentially regarded as occupants who had no property rights.

“Giving equal land rights to customary and state land owners will ensure effective land administration and foster an inclusive land policy that upholds human rights principles,” she said.

The 1995 Lands Act puts all land in the hands of the president, for and on behalf of the Zambian people. It provides for administration under two tenure systems: statutory and customary tenure. Statutory land is administered in accordance with written laws by government officials, while customary land is administered by traditional authorities using unwritten and local customary laws. However, the land acquired under customary law is unsecured for long-term investment and owners have no title to it.

Ever said the right to food is directly linked to access to land and rights to ownership, especially for those living in rural areas.

According to her, land acquisition bureaucracy and related prohibitive costs remain a huge barrier for rural populations to enjoy the right to food.

The right to food is not enshrined in Zambia’s constitution, leaving people with no redress.

“Without its explicit inclusion in the constitution, the right to food cannot be adjudicated by the courts,” she said.

share this