ATC110216: Report Study Tour to Republic of Malawi on 18 - 22 October 2010, dated 16 February 2011

Rural Development and Land Reform

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform on the study tour to the Republic of Malawi on 18 - 22 October 2010, dated 16 February 2011


The Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform, having conducted a study tour on rural development in the Republic of Malawi from the 18th to the 22nd October 2010, reports as follows:


1.       Introduction


A programme of rural development that is linked to land reform and food security is one of the priorities of the government of South Africa. The programme was identified alongside other priorities; namely, creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods, education, health as well as the fight against crime and corruption. The Department of Rural Development and Land Reform (DRDLR) developed the Comprehensive Rural Development Programme (CRDP) and is piloting it in eight provinces of South Africa. The initiative has wider implications for the existing policies on land and rural development. Approximately 18 months after the launch of the CRDP pilot project at Muyexe, the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform had built enough understanding of the direction of rural development in South Africa and considered it an opportune time for exposure to a variety of models for rural development in the region, hence the study tour in Malawi.


The study tour took place from the 18th to the 22nd of October 2010 and focussed on rural development initiatives and land resettlement. This report highlights observations of the Committee with regard to rural development, land resettlement, and overall growth and development of Malawi. A central issue for development in Malawi is a government-wide development strategy known as the Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS). Among the main priorities for the strategy are agriculture and food security, irrigation and water development, infrastructure development, and integrated rural development. The report concludes with lessons for rural development and land reform inSouth Africa as well as implications for the work of the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform.


1.1 The delegation


The delegation comprised the following members of the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform: Hon Sizani, Mr PS, Chairperson and the leader of the delegation (ANC); Hon Ngwenya Mabila, Ms P (ANC); HonSteyn, Ms A (DA); Hon Ntapane, Mr S (UDM); Hon Mandela; Inkosi ZMD (ANC); Hon Cebekhulu, Mr R (IFP) and Hon Xaba, Ms PP (ANC).

In addition, the following parliamentary officials accompanied the delegation: Ms P Nyamza, Committee Secretary; Mr T Manenzhe, Content Adviser; Ms R Mathabathe, Legal Advisor; Ms T Siyo-Pepeteka, Committee Researcher; and Ms B Cele, Translator.


1.2 Terms of Reference for the Study Tour


The initial proposition for the study tour sought to conduct the study tour in Malawi and Botswana. However, the Committee was constrained due to a one week approval for the tour. Therefore, the proposal and terms of reference were re-adjusted to focus the study tour on Malawi. The original two-fold objective of the study tour was: firstly, to obtain insights with regard to land administration in the communal areas in a way that contributes to good governance and economic growth; secondly, to understand the design of rural development programmes that ensure sustainable livelihoods for rural people, with a particular interest in youth development programmes.


The revised overall objective was to understand the design of the rural development programme of Malawi, with special focus on youth development initiatives and to draw lessons for the CRDP.


The specific objectives for the study tour were:

·         To investigate different approaches adopted for integrated rural development by Malawi;

·         To understand the pilot of Community Based Rural Land Development Programme (CBRLDP) and challenges facing Malawi with regard to the scaling up of land redistribution;

·         To understand government’s strategies for intervention in poverty alleviation and curbing food insecurity, and agricultural input support programme; and

·         To explore a range of initiatives and programmes for youth development.


The delegation met with a range of institutions in order to further the aim and objectives of the study tour. The following list is a representation of meetings held by the delegation during its stay in Malawi:

·         The South African High Commissioner for Malawi

·         Hon Speaker of the Parliament of Malawi

·         Three Chairpersons of the Portfolio Committees on Health, Budget and Finance, Agriculture and Natural Resources

·         The Portfolio Committee on Social and Community Affairs

·         Senior Deputy Secretary for the Ministry of Lands, Housing and Urban Development

·         One-Village-One-Product in the Ministry of Industry and Trade

·         National Local Government Finance Committee

·         The District Commissioner for Salima District Council


2.       Overview of crucial issues for rural development and land reform in Malawi


On 18 October 2010, the delegation was hosted by the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Parliament of Malawi for a session to set the tone for the study tour as well as briefing the delegation on some of the crucial issues for rural development and land reform. The issues raised by the Speaker could be summed up into two broad themes; namely, land ownership and management as well as land development and production.


2.1 Land ownership and management


Malawi has a total of 11.8 million hectares of land of which 9.4 is land and the remainder is taken up by water – Lake Malawi. Of the 9.4 million hectares of total land area, 7.7 million hectares is available for agriculture and is held under customary tenure arrangements and leasehold.

·         Customary tenure arrangements are mainly managed by the traditional leaders and mostly under subsistence farming and residential land.

·         Leasehold arrangements are mainly relevant to the large agricultural estates that occupy 1.2 million hectares and are under commercial production.


Since independence, Malawi has operated without a comprehensive land policy. Land was administered in terms of the Land Act of 1965, which no longer reflected the realities of land management in Malawi. Some of the challenges relating to lack of clear land policy were:


·         Tenure insecurity, especially relating to land owned under customary tenure.

·         Fraudulent disposal of customary land by some headpersons and chiefs. Oftentimes, those who desperately needed access to land are found without it.

·         The customary sector has been weakened in favour of the estate sector, hence shortage of arable land in some regions.

·         Uncontrolled allocation of lakeshore land, especially that which is under the jurisdiction of traditional authorities. Until recently, there had been increased demand for access to such land and construction of hotels and private lodges by foreign nationals mostly. Such developments affected access to such land by the local communities.


However, there has been evolution in terms of practice and policy with regard to land allocation and usage. Devolvement of powers to the districts is one notable intervention. It required constant integration of decision making from districts, regions and ministries in the allocation of leases. The districts are a local level of government where all ministries are represented and the process of securing leasehold tenure on communal land starts at district level, moving to regional level and then to the Ministry for approval and goes back in the same manner.


2.2 Land development and agricultural production


Land is the most critical productive resource and is the main basis for the livelihoods of the majority of the rural poor people. Malawi is agro-based and agriculture is a key sector of the economy. Agricultural production on customary land is mainly for household food security and is based on subsistence methods. Commercial production is mostly associated with the freehold and leasehold land that is privately owned. Most of the freehold land is agricultural estates.


The land question remains high on the agenda of the government of Malawi. However, it has not been given the required attention since independence in 1964. Land remains far from being equitably distributed. It is estimated that 84% of Malawians secure their livelihoods directly out of agriculture which contributes over 90% to the country’s export earnings, about 39% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and accounts for 85% of total employment. Therefore access to land is a key to sustainable livelihoods in Malawi.


Post 1994, the society began questioning some of the developments with regard to implementation of land policies in Malawi. For example, some of the multinational companies involved in commercial production failed to involve the local communities, and did not have any social investment programmes in Malawi. But through engagement between government and some of those companies there has been a shift with regard to agricultural production and development. For example, some of the multinational companies in the sugar industry began purchasing sugar cane from local farmers. Over the years, there has been an increase in private sector involvement in agricultural production and development.


3.       Rural Development and Land Reform: Perspectives from Parliamentary Portfolio Committees


This section draws on a meeting of the 18th October 2010 between the delegation and Chairpersons of the three Portfolio Committees of the Parliament of Malawi. Those committees were the Portfolio Committees on Health, on Budget and Finance, and on Agriculture and Natural Resources. The meeting raised a number of important strategies for the integrated rural development implemented by the Republic of Malawi, especially since the mid 1990s. In the 1990s there was a proliferation of poverty reduction strategies in Malawi. Those strategies included the Poverty Alleviation Programme, the vision 2020, Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper, One-Village-One-Product, and Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS). Post 1994, during the multiparty democracy, initiatives included the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper of 2001 (MPRS) and MGDS.


The Chairpersons highlighted a variety of programmes that were linked to the growth and development strategy of Malawi; for example, the Rural Growth Centre Development Programme, Malawi Rural Electrification Programme, Social Cash Transfer System, Youth Enterprise Development Fund, and the programmes for land, agriculture, water and environment.


·         Rural Growth Centre Development Programme: The programme deals with the development of all notable trading centres. The development growth centres entail a comprehensive provision of utilities such as electricity, water, schools and clinics. It formalizes existing market places by transforming them into centres for development.


·         Malawi Rural Electrification Programme: Many areas in Malawi were still not electrified and the programme, therefore, targeted those areas that needed electricity. It was also coordinated in a manner that complemented the Rural Growth Centre Development Programme.


·         Social Cash Transfer System: The programme targets the ultra-poor rural people, especially women and children who need some form of grant support to assist them meet their day to day basic needs. Traditional leaders and chiefs play a significant role in the identification of beneficiaries through the Council of Chiefs. The programme was piloted in 8 districts which successfully implemented a cash transfer system for the poor. Theprogramme would be rolled out across the country.


·         Youth enterprise Development Fund (YEDF): The programme targeted individuals between 18 and 35 years of age. Through the 193 constituencies of Malawi, youth are able to access this fund. They are organized through the District Councils and youth offices help to mobilize and organize the youth within the different constituencies in groups of 10. A similar programme known as Malawi Rural Development Fund (MARDF) existed but its focus was broader than the YEDF.


·         Land and agriculture: Like most of the sub-Saharan Africa, Malawi’s land reform programme has been supported by the Wold Bank. Through donor funding, the government purchases land for resettlement and livelihoods support for the poor people but is not a large scale programme for land redistribution. With regards to agriculture, the country witnessed greater successes with regard to agricultural production by the smallholder sector farming in communal areas under customary tenure. The government of Malawi assisted farmers with the supply of inputs such as fertilizers and improved seeds. It also provided subsidies to the farmers. The impact of that intervention was that Malawi had 180,000 tons of Maize which it is not able to sell. It implies that the country had more than enough production of the staple food viz, maize.


·         Malawi Rural Livelihoods Programme: This programme is facilitated through donor funding and entails providing soft loans for crops and livestock production to farmers.


·         Capacity for rural health and development: The government of Malawi focussed on the development of rural health infrastructure in the form of health centres and the upgrading of some of the health centres servicing a larger number of populations into hospitals. Government also trained cadres (foot soldiers) to provide home based care. In addition, they developed hardship allowance for those in the health care and education services and as a result, rural areas were able to attract good qualified nurses and teachers.


4.       Government and stakeholders’ perspectives on rural development and land reform


4.1 Ministry of land, housing and urban development


Malawi has a five-year Malawi Growth and Development Strategy (MGDS) which is an overarching strategy for development (the period for the MGDS is 2006/07 – 2010/11). The strategy is also seen as an overarching operational medium-term strategy for Malawi to attain its vision 2020 and is therefore a single reference document for policy makers in government, private sector, civil society, donors and other partners and stakeholders. One of the key successes for Malawi is that the executive has managed to get a wide range of stakeholders to buy in and support this strategy, thus creating a coherent vision for development in Malawi.


One of the issues of interest to the delegation was an understanding of the land reform programme of Malawi. Since the attainment of independence in 1964, the question of land reform has been high on the government agenda. However, the post colonial government did very little to transform the land tenure patterns and ownership but implemented the reforms that solidified the colonial framework governing land tenure patterns and ownership.


In 1994 when Malawi reinstated multiparty democracy, the country recognized a need to review its land policy and the legal framework that was borrowed from the British system. The process was kick-started with the Presidential Commission of Inquiry on Land Reform in 1996 leading to the approval of the land policy by the Cabinet and Parliament in 2002. The delegation was informed that Malawi had not progressed in terms of implementation of its land policy pending a review of the legal framework for implementation of the policy. It therefore offers little opportunity for South Africa to learn from Malawi on land reform.


One of the crucial recommendations of the Presidential Commission related to improvement of tenure security. Malawi has three categories of land, namely:

·         Customary land vested in the President but under the administration of traditional leaders and occupied under customary law. Access and usage of land is authorised by the Chiefs. But such land is not registered. This type of land comprises 80% of the total land area of Malawi.

·         Public land is defined as land used or acquired by government and any other land that is not private or customary.

·         Private land is defined as all land that is owned, held or occupied under leasehold, freehold or a certificate of claim arrangements.


A significant improvement in the implementation of the land policy for Malawi is the decentralization for land administration. Increasingly, decisions around land access and land use have now been devolved to the lowest form of government, which is the District Council. However, for the use, access and ownership of customary land in a leasehold arrangement, traditional leaders still play a critical role as the first step in the application process.


Government, with the support of the World Bank, started to pilot a land reform programme known as the Community Based Rural Land Development Programme (CBRLDP) in the Southern part of Malawi – Thyolo and Mulanje as well as Machinga and Mangochi. The CBRLDP involves purchasing and redistributing land to the land hungry rural poor and farmers on a willing-buyer willing-seller basis, with initial focus on idle estates as well as those properties that have come onto the market through a willing seller. It was envisaged that the pilot will assist government to scale up the implementation of wide ranging land redistribution across the country by early 2009. The pace of land redistribution has not been as fast as envisaged, especially due to the absence of a clear legal framework, as well as lack of clarity in terms of the land policy. However, one of the achievements of the CBRLDP is that landless households in participating districts were assisted to acquire land for productive purposes. Some of the challenges confronting beneficiaries of land reform are lack of markets for their produce and access to affordable inputs.

4.2 One Village One Product of Malawi


One Village One Product (OVOP) Programme is a community centred and demand driven regional economic development approach. It was officially launched in 2003 and draws mainly on Japan’s model of OVOP. The approach seeks to achieve economic development through value adding to locally available resources, through processing, quality control, packaging design and marketing promotion. The programme is located within the Ministry of Industry and Trade and is facilitated by the OVOP National Secretariat, being championed by the Head of State. OVOP Malawi is affiliated to the International OVOP Association with other countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan,China, Japan and Indonesia.


Since its launch in 2003, OVOP has funded 109 projects comprising 21,310 groups/beneficiaries across Malawi. Some of the OVOP projects that the delegation was briefed on are Palm Oil Soap, Cassava Flour, Mitundu Agro-processing, Mkondezi Wine Processing, and Honey Processing.

4.3 Local Government and Finance Committee


The Committee is a constitutional body that works closely with various sector departments across different spheres to ensure that the functions devolved to them are accompanied by resources. It examines and supervises resources that are allocated to District Councils. The Committee is independent; it has its own Board and the Secretariat that runs the day to day affairs of the Committee. The Board comprises a member of the Society of Accountants, Secretary of Treasury, Accountant General, Public Service Commission and Malawi Association of Government Association. This committee’s significance to the programme of rural development is with regard to the oversight on financial aspects of development, particularly at the District Level where there is lack of capacity around generating revenue, auditing and risk control. For example, in the District Council of Salima where there are some rural development projects, it is this Committee that assists the Districts in financial matters.


4.4 Salima District Council


The delegation visited one of the districts where a comprehensive rural development program was under implementation. The Committee was informed that one of the major projects under implementation in Salima is Youth Enterprise Development Programme. The government sources funds to hand out as loans to targeted young entrepreneurs who have been trained in small-scale entrepreneurship.


The District also reported that they were running a Rural Livelihoods and Agriculture Development Project. The projects are aimed at food security for the rural population. The District is assisting with the provision of farm inputs. This project has assisted the communities to increase yields in maize.


The District has also helped in the development of model villages. Those were the kinds of centres that were already developing and government intervention was around the provision of certain basic facilities in order to upgrade the standards in those centres. Infrastructure development included upgrade of roads, electrification, and provision of water. These villages became the Rural Growth Centres. At the time of the visit, the delegation was informed that there were five centres across the Salima District.





5.       Key lessons on rural development and land reform for South Africa


·         The MGDS provides a basis for all development in Malawi. The success of Malawi with regard to some of their infrastructure development programme which the delegation witnessed, usage of available land – even in the communal land under customary tenure arrangements, can arguably be said to resemble the commitment to the strategy across the nation. For a meaningful rural development in South Africa, there is a need to develop a shared vision and strategy for rural development. That vision needs to be shared by government in its entirety as well as by a range of non government stakeholders.

·         Access to land and security of tenure for landholders under customary tenure arrangements is a crucial matter that affects development and usage of land as a source of livelihoods. The responsibility of the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform is to ensure that the executive gives realization to the constitutional imperative of tenure security for all South Africans. Government needs to explore which arrangements are suitable and relevant to the context of land administration in the former Homelands and ensure provision of tenure that is legally secure.

·         The stance of Malawi on the protection of its lakeshore land from ownership by foreign nationals and alienation from the local communities is an important issue. Even though Malawi has not made considerable progress to develop a legal framework around the land question, government remains concerned about the increased sales of land to local elites and foreigners, thus barring access to land by local communities. The experience ofMalawi on the question of ownership of land by foreign nationals does not provide much learn from because of absence of policy in this regard. However, the ongoing debate about the issue is significant for policy development.

·         The model of village industries under the OVOP approach is an extremely important initiative in enterprise development and local production. The delegation was extremely impressed with the production and processing of some of the commodities produced locally. In terms of Phase 2 of the CRDP, government should consider drawing lessons on the establishment of village industries.

·         High usage of available land in the communal areas is one of the success stories for Malawi. This is associated with the government’s programme of rural livelihoods support where government is providing subsidies for farm inputs such as fertilisers and improved seeds. It is undoubtedly the reason why there had been an increase in yields and quality of produce, especially maize which is a staple food.

·         The significance of partnerships with the private sector in supporting enterprise development and investment in land and agricultural development cannot be underestimated.

·         Crucial elements in the rural development programmes of Malawi are that they are community driven (bottom up approach) and decentralized. One of the key lessons is with regard to the youth enterprise development where youth are grouped and assisted with loans to start some enterprises at a small-scale.

·         The increased role of the state in initiating development, especially through farmer inputs support, seeds improvement and provision of water for irrigation improved the ability of the many small-scale subsistence producers to increase their yields.


6.       Implications for the work of the Portfolio Committee on Rural Development and Land Reform


6.1 The committee wishes to strengthen its oversight function, especially with regard to the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform’s support to self-sufficiency in food production for the rural households who dwell on communal lands under customary tenure arrangements. This initiative could be linked with the ongoing work on monitoring and overseeing implementation of the CRDP pilot projects across the country.

6.2. The OVOP approach seems to be an example of local development initiatives around village factories and enterprise development. The Malawian experience on OVOP raised an interest with regard to further investigation of this approach. The committee is considering a further international study tour with a focus on some of the member countries of the International OVOP association, especially Japan, China or Malaysia.

6.3 The question of land administration in the communal areas in the former homelands (especially those under customary tenure) has not yet been resolved. The Committee should consider the implications of the Constitutional Court judgement on the Communal Land Rights Act, 2004 and its impact on the provision of tenure security for rural dwellers.

6.4 Rural development is integrally part of other line functions of government departments, for example, health, education, water, agriculture, labour, social development, and trade and industry and other sectors. The committee seeks to further develop mechanisms to oversee the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform with regard to its strategy to act as a catalyst for rural development.

6.5 Continued monitoring of the implementation of the programmes of restitution and land redistribution to ensure that government fulfils its promises for redistribution of agricultural land to the previously disadvantaged communities and individuals so that sustainable rural livelihoods and continued social and economic advancement for all South Africans is attained.


Report to be considered.


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