This paper analyses the Zambian land governance system, the actors and institutions shaping it and its reaction to the new interest in farmland. We draw theories from New Institutional Economics and base our empirical analyses on expert interviews and focus group discussions conducted in Zambia.
We find that the land governance system has serious shortcomings: Firstly, there is a lack of checks and balances, and secondly, command over land is concentrated with certain actors. This constellation seems to attract investors who are keen on not complying with local regulations. Moreover, the arrival of foreign investors has altered the balance of power in rural communities. In particular traditional chiefs find themselves in the position of having control over an extremely valuable asset, land. However, according to customs and the Lands Act 1995, they are obliged to consult the local community about any land alienation. In case the local community does not consent, land alienations are illegal.
The Zambian case illustrates that land governance systems undergo evolutionary processes. In this particular case, an important formal but initially ineffective change, the Lands At 1995, has set the stage for real change that started with the new actor investor entering the scene.
Authors and Publishers
The GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies is an independent social science research institute based in Hamburg, Germany. Our mission is to analyse political, social, and economic developments in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, as well as global issues. As a member of the Leibniz Association, we are committed to the Leibniz principle of “theoria cum praxi”: science for the benefit of society.