Sunday, 22 July 2007

The Royal Empowerment Foundation of Zambia sets out its constitution...

In Zambia like in most sub-Saharan countries in Africa, a dichotomous economic structure is what is at play. This where traditional subsistence sector (small scale farming), dominated by agriculture and animal husbandry, engages the majority of the population in rural areas. A more modern market oriented sector, employing a smaller percentage of the population, generates most of the tax revenue and foreign exchange

Land on the other hand since time in memorial has been held under customary tenure, while the coming of European settlers saw the introduction of freehold and leasehold tenure systems. Under the current system of tenure, customary land is estimated to be 94 percent and state land is estimated at 6 percent of the total land area of the country whose area is 752,614 square kilometres. Under these two (2) categories there is reserve land which is allocated to nature, forest and wildlife sanctuaries. The Land under forest account 9 percent of the total landmass of the country approximately 67,680 square kilometres, while land for National Parks accounts for 8 percent approximately 60,160 square kilometres and Game Management Areas about 22 percent approximately 165, 440 square kilometres.

This system of tenure over time has had a negative impact on the development of rural Zambia simply because there has been no serious attempt to change the economic paradigm set by the colonisers because Zambia has just inherited the colonial economic paradigm without a proper analysis of why these paradigms were set this way by the coloniser instead Zambia continued with these economic paradigms the change today is in the names of these classes of land only; for example, “historically what is today referred to as state land today is the land that was designated for European settlement and was referred to as Crown Land while customary land was the Native Reserves and Trust Lands and was designated for native settlement pre – independence. In this arrangement, production and marketing infrastructure were established on Crown Land where Europeans were settled while the Native Reserves were neglected”.

This was an economic strategy on the part of the coloniser because exclusion from markets effectively devalued African produce in preference to labour (subsistence) as before rather than as producers of surplus products for the emerging colonial market. The persistence of subsistence production is for that reason tied to the policy of land reservation, which concentrated development on land under statutory tenure, ignoring customary areas. Native Reserves and Trust Lands were left in hands of the traditional chiefs and were located far from the markets in places badly served by communications and transport. In this way, Zambia’s colonial legacy created the conditions for persistence of subsistence production and poverty in rural areas of Zambia and sadly this legacy has continued post independence to this current day.

Notwithstanding the fact that today, all land is vested in the President for and on behalf of the people of Zambia. The Commissioner of Lands administers the state land as farms and agricultural holdings, as stands for buildings and other uses. Chiefs on the other hand, administer land in customary areas which are normally used as village settlements and subsistence agricultural production but the Commissioner of Lands may allocate land under customary tenure provided that it is vacant and the Chief does not object and once land is converted from customary tenure to leasehold tenure it becomes state land. State land attracts levies and tax. The structural defect is that there is no provision for compensation or evidence of the presence of an opportunity sharing structure between the state and the Chiefdom from where land is being converted from customary tenure to state land. What is evident is that resources are being shifted from the 94% (land under customary tenure) to finance the 6% (land under statutory tenure) because once land becomes state land it starts attracting government levies and tax through the Rural District Councils yet, there is no equitable distribution of the resources collected between government and the Chiefdoms that allow for conversion of customary tenure into leasehold tenure. These resources will end up servicing land under statutory tenure where development has been concentrated since colonisation, ignoring customary areas that are still far from the markets in places badly served by communications and transport. To date rural Zambia is faced with very harsh conditions, although in principle all Zambians are free and equal and should all have access to available resources. In practice, rural duellers neither have the knowledge, economic influence nor the organisational framework to lobby for better livelihoods.

As a result rural Zambia whose main pre-occupation is small scale farming has lagged behind other regions in Africa, in terms of real development as a result. Developments have further been constrained by the absence of sufficient speculation by potential Investors in rural Zambia and the slow pace of investment in extension services and the lack of marketing activities have further compounded the many hardships that a small-scale farmer faces today. Though, recently Zambia has been recording some positive investment growth in other areas, it still has yet to attract some meaningful investments into rural Zambia and rural agriculture in particular.

This failure by entrepreneurs and other stakeholders within the target area to place visionary, value added, and internationally credible projects capable of mobilising the necessary risk capital and development fund to match that vision and strategy has caused the paucity of investment speculation and capital expenditures in rural Zambia. This under-performance of the Zambian rural areas and the express need to reverse this trend is the back drop and the central issue to the creation of this Royal Empowerment Foundation (REF).

In this initiative, the Royal Empowerment Foundation (REF) aims to create Land Banks of 10,000 hectares in each member Chiefdom to be used as economic growth zones for the member Chiefdom within the target area at the same time create a voice for rural Zambia. The Land Banks will be registered under leasehold tenure in name of the member Chiefdom in each area. The Royal Empowerment Foundation (REF) the aim is to focus on its Primary Vision; that of locking on to initiatives that will trigger the majority of its membership into positive tools of development. The strategy is prudent as it will explore avenues on how to organise its communities, while at the same time engage the government, business operators together with co-operating partners alike, on equal basis, to address these most profound and fundamental issues, with a view of establishing and placing sustainable, credible and profitable partnerships within the target area.

The Initiative aims to target traditional organisational structures of development oriented, progressive chiefdoms which are economically revived and strengthened and have the potential to provide the institutional basis for powerful smallholder Foundation s and business undertakings as business partners of private sector operators in the various sectors of the Zambian economy.

The Land Banks will provide readily available land for the various economic activities and will be designed as eco friendly community social and economic commercial and industrial growth zones. The guiding principle is the placement and development of vibrant community designed, community grown and community driven economic growth clusters within the target area. In order to strategically position itself for community driven development and raise the necessary risk capital to match that vision of development, a more appropriate special purpose vehicle in Royal Harvest Plc (RH Plc), a public Limited Company will be further created and placed as the commercial wing of REF within the target area to take charge of commercial aspect of REF’s development agenda.

The Plc will provide the Foundation with the uplink to commercial players who would be interested in working within the Foundation’s catchment’s area. The Plc will ensure that these incoming commercial players are committed to a fair business practices approach that would allow the individual communities in the catchment’s area participate in the economic benefits of their resources by buying stock in the Royal Harvest Plc. This strategy is prudent as it allows for transparency and wider participation through the share floatation in the Capital Market

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