Zambia: New Human Rights Watch report critical of commercial farming activities; says villagers displaced from their land without compensation

A new Human Rights Watch report found that some commercial farmers in Serenje District, in Zambia’s fertile Central Province, have acquired thousands of hectares of land while ignoring laws meant to prevent forced evictions and ensure that rural residents are compensated if their land is taken. While some farms have started operations without evicting residents, others have fired up their bulldozers and forcibly evicted residents whose families had farmed the land for generations. Human Rights Watch investigated six commercial farms in Serenje district, ranging in size from 150 hectares to more than 5,000 hectares of land. Five of the farms are within Luombwa farm block and one is in the Nansanga farm block. These farms cover a broad spectrum from a corporate investor (Silverlands Zambia Limited) to family-run farms, registered as companies with the government, whose owners live on the farm and directly participate in the work. Several commercial farmers told Human Rights Watch they had expected the government to remove people living on the farm plots they acquired. Instead, they said they had to decide how to deal with the families they found on the land, whom they regarded as “squatters” with no legitimate rights to the land, even those whose families had been there for generations. Several government officials acknowledged problems with regulation of commercial agriculture and the existence of abuses, but did not take any responsibility for preventing or addressing them. Most officials pointed fingers at other agencies, sending the message that they didn’t consider protection of rural residents to be their job. 

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Article
27 November 2017

New report by Human Rights Watch exposes "how commercial farms are ripping Zambian communities"

Author: Juliana Nnoko-Mewanu, Reuters

"How commercial farms are ripping apart Zambian communities", 15 Nov 2017

A new Human Rights Watch report found that some commercial farmers in Serenje District, in Zambia’s fertile Central Province, have acquired thousands of hectares of land while ignoring laws meant to prevent forced evictions and ensure that rural residents are compensated if their land is taken. While some farms have started operations without evicting residents, others have fired up their bulldozers and forcibly evicted residents whose families had farmed the land for generations...[R]esearch found that hundreds of people have already been forced out of their homes and off their land by commercial farming in the area, with several thousand more at risk of eviction without a cent of compensation. This is devastating for the whole community, but particularly hard on women, who described their enormous struggles to sustain their families after losing fertile land for growing food, providing drinking water, and to use for hunting or foraging...Government officials say the land in Serenje district was long ago converted from customary status (where it is managed by traditional authorities) to state control, but this is news to locals, who say they did not know about the change and were definitely not consulted on it. Officials we spoke to also had no records to prove this claim.  

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Article
27 November 2017

President Lungu says commercial farmers should compensate communities they displace in the process of establishing their operations

Author: James Kunda & Chusa Sichone, Times of Zambia (Zambia)

"Zambia: Compensate Them - Lungu", 2 Nov 2017

President Edgar Lungu has said that the Government expects investors to make adequate compensation to indigenous persons displaced from their land to make way for business ventures such as large-scale farming. Mr Lungu said investors had an obligation to both the law and the settlers to abide by the national land policy, through ensuring that settlers displaced from land for business activities are adequately compensated...Mr Lungu said this to journalists in Lusaka on Tuesday, in reaction to reports that investors in some parts of the country were shilly-shallying in compensating settlers displaced from domestic land they had occupied for generations...This follows a research conducted by the HRW between June 2016 and August 2017 culminating into a 101-page report dubbed 'Forced to Leave: Commercial Farming and Displacement in Zambia launched in Lusaka recently...In its report, the Human Rights Watch (HRW) appealed to the Government to intervene in the displacement of villagers by commercial farmers in Central Province's Serenje District...

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Report
22 November 2017

Human Rights Watch releases report on commercial farming and displacement in Zambia

Author: Human Rights Watch (UK)

Rural people suffer when governments fail to properly regulate land deals, large or small, and the operation of commercial farms. That is precisely what is happening in some rural communities in Zambia...Human Rights Watch examined the impact of six commercial farms on local communities in Serenje district. Four of these farms were fully operational, had cleared land of trees and most settlements, were in the process of clearing more land, and were cultivating. The other two commercial farms planned to start clearing fields as soon as they could get residents off the land...This report examines the human rights impacts of the activities of commercial farms on residents, including the distinctive impacts on women as a result of their social roles and status...The report documents the displacement of long-term residents who lived and farmed land that has been leased to commercial farmers, and the negative impact of their displacement on their health, housing, livelihoods, food and water security, and children’s education...Serenje district has five major farm blocks: Nansanga, Luombwa, Munte, Kasanka, and Ssasa. Other commercial farms in the district also benefit from the government’s infrastructure investments, but are outside the bounds of the farm blocks.

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