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A review of DFID's engagement with land reform in Malawi

Martin Adams

Department for International Development (DFID)

21 December 2004

SARPN acknowledges the Department for International Development (DFID) as the source of this document.
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Summary of conclusions and recommendations

  1. In the context of land policy development in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Government of Malawi is making reasonable progress. Malawi has probably now passed the most critical stage, that is the achievement of a broad popular consensus and Cabinet endorsement of the policy. From hereon, numerous issues relating to the implementation of the land policy will have to be systematically addressed. A strong case can be made to DFID for development assistance which will help to move the process forward.

  2. DFID should continue to assist the land sector with strategic inputs of technical and financial support. It is in a good position to make a useful contribution, given its ten-year engagement (1995-2004) with the process, both in Malawi and in the region.

  3. A programme which protects the land rights of the rural poor would fall within DFID's definition of 'social protection' and would be in support of the MDGs of halving global poverty and hunger. However, for the time being, the majority of rural poor on customary land probably do not suffer insecurity of tenure. Further, land tenure reform, without changes to the agrarian structures and conditions under which production relations operate, would be unlikely to trigger much needed structural transformation.

  4. In the longer term, with the incorporation of rural areas into the market economy, policies which underwrite security of tenure and encourage investment will increase in importance, especially in peri-urban areas where land is at a premium. Urbanisation creates a demand for land and drives up land values. In these circumstances improvements in land administration and management will be needed to underwrite the security of tenure of poor people and to encourage investment in land improvements and contribute to economic growth. If development assistance is directed only to the social sectors (e.g. education and health), it will not be financially sustainable.

  5. Geographical targeting will be crucial if Government is to obtain early returns on investment in land administration and management. This applies to the collection of land information as a basis for property rates and taxes, physical planning, land development for affordable housing, land redistribution, etc.

  6. Because land reform is inevitably a long-term iterative process, DFID should have a clear view of how it intends to proceed, even if funding has to be programmed on a 'bridging' basis until it can be provided through general budget support.

  7. In consultation with the MLHS and other donors, a longer term plan for DFID support (i.e. a Project Memorandum) should draw together many of the components of the draft PM of August 2003 and the draft Project Concept Note (PCN) of September 2004 and lay out a strategy for, say, the next four years thus bringing some stability and continuity to DFID's involvement. The first year of the programme could constitute the bridging phase.

  8. An immediate and urgent task is the harmonisation of land laws in line with the MNLP. This should be incorporated within the bridging project and provide assistance in addition to that currently provided by the EU to the routine work of the Special Law Commission on Land Law Reform.

  9. Other assistance should contribute to the gathering of information necessary for the development of a coherent, cost-effective and responsive plan of implementation.

  10. DFID support for public information and awareness should continue. This should cover the MNLP and the draft land laws when they become available, followed up with capacity building of officials in decentralised land institutions.

  11. DFID should also consider providing assistance to the establishment and regular meetings of the National Land Reform Council to coordinate and guide implementation of the programme and give it political muscle.

  12. To lend coherence to the programme, DFID should continue to assist civil society organisations to engage in the land policy development and implementation process.

  13. There will be a continuing need for experienced technical assistance over the next couple or more years. The donors and the MLHS are likely to want ready access to independent ad hoc advice on numerous land issues, legal, social and technical. Serious questions must continue to be asked about the scope, content and priority of activities comprising the MLRPIS, including those funded by donors.

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