Sakeus Iikela, The Namibian, September 14, 2018
White commercial farmers still own 70% of commercial farmland in Namibia, almost three decades after independence, the Namibia Statistics Agency revealed yesterday.
While whites, including foreigners, own 27 million hectares, black people own just 16% of the total 39 million hectares of the freehold agricultural land, and the government owns 14% or 5,4 million hectares.
These figures were released by the NSA’s Alex Mudabeti at the national land statistics symposium in Windhoek.
The event was targeted at harmonising various data sets on land ownership, use and planning in the country to inform debates at the second national land conference next month.
The land conference will discuss and review the resolutions of the first national land conference held in 1991 to try and find lasting solutions to the land question.
The issue of land ownership, complemented by factors such as ancestral land claims, expropriation, the willing-buyer, willing-seller model, and the national land reform programme, will feature prominently at the conference.
During the event, Mudabeti said Namibia’s total land mass was estimated at about 82 million hectares, of which 39 million hectares or 42% constitutes freehold agricultural land, with about 12 380 privately owned commercial farms — by individuals, companies, churches, trusts and foreigners.
The data shows that 7 839 farms are owned by individuals, over 2 800 farms were registered under companies, while the government owns 1 265 farms.
The figures also indicated that 172 commercial farms were tied up in estates, while trusts and churches owned 159 and 61 farms, respectively. A total of 34 farms are owned by Namibians and non-Namibians in joint ventures.
The statistics show that 250 farms, measuring about 1,2 million hectares, were owned by foreign nationals.
Most of these foreigners are German nationals who own a combined 640 000 hectares, South Africans with 353 800 hectares, and Americans with 82 000 hectares. People from Austria, Switzerland, The Netherlands, China, Italy and Canada also own farms in Namibia.
Mudabeti said there was also a female individual from the United Kingdom, who owns over 13 000 hectares of freehold agricultural land in Namibia.
The figures show that foreigners own 65 farms in the Otjozondjupa region, 52 in Erongo, 49 in //Karas, 25 in Hardap, 25 in Khomas, 10 in Omaheke, 20 in Kunene, and four in the Oshikoto region.
The figures released by the NSA contradicted those provided by the Namibia Agricultural Union (NAU), an entity which represents mainly white commercial farmers.
NAU executive manager Roelie Venter told The Namibian in July this year that the government, together with previously disadvantaged individuals, currently owned 60% of all areas under title deed in the country since 2016.
Venter yesterday maintained that previously disadvantaged Namibians and the government owned the majority of arable land in the country, saying that communal areas should also be classified as agricultural land.
His argument was, however, rejected by Mudabeti on the basis of the law describing communal land ownership.
Communal land is made up of 28 million hectares, or 35% of the total land mass of the country, while the state owns 23%, which is mainly made up of national parks, restricted areas and local authorities.
Despite accounting for the largest surface area, Mudabeti said freehold agricultural land was sparsely populated and carried few livestock, compared to the densely populated communal areas.
According to him, there were about 1,8 million head of cattle in communal areas of the northern parts of the country, compared to an estimated 300 000 on commercial farms south of the ‘red line’.
The demographics presented by another NSA executive, Israel Tjizake, at the same event shows that people south of the ‘red line’ were highly concentrated in urban areas.
On average, freehold agricultural land has about three people per square kilometre, compared to 20 people per square kilometre in communal areas.
The figures provided by the NSA also show that up to 2018, the government had bought 496 resettlement farms across the country, allocating them to over 5 300 beneficiaries.