Country context

Zambia is a land locked country in southern Africa and land is a subject of widespread interest in the country due to competing needs for housing, investment, mining, forests and agriculture.  The country has large copper deposits in the Copperbelt and North-western Provinces, making it the second leading copper producing nation in Africa and contributing approximately 70% of the country’s exports in 2019.

All land in Zambia is vested in the President as provided for by the Constitution. Zambia has a dual land tenure system, namely customary and leasehold, with legal provisions in the 1995 Land Act. According to statistics available at independence, customary tenure covered about 94 per cent of land in Zambia, while approximately 6 per cent of the land was state land under leasehold tenure. The law also provides for conversion of customary land to state land. Over the last few years, the Government has been engaged in programmes, such as the National Land Audit Programme, aimed at establishing the current prevailing land situation.

Customary land is administered by the Chiefs using the customary laws and norms applicable to different jurisdictions and subject to Zambian laws and natural justice.  The Urban and Regional Planning Act, enacted in 2015, provides for development, physical planning and administration and is applicable in both state and customary land.  Rural areas have vast natural resources, which results in competing interests over land between incoming investors and the rural communities.  The Government recognizes the need for a robust and responsive legal regime to enhance land rights, stimulate investment and curb some of the excesses and difficulties experienced in land management.

GLTN in Zambia

Through UN-Habitat engagement, the overall objective of GLTN in Zambia is twofold: i) to support land reform initiatives, with a focus on the development of the National Land Policy which is to provide a comprehensive guidance to land administration and management; and ii) to document land rights on customary land and informal settlements on state land to improve security of tenure for all.

The Government of Zambia is committed to the land reform with objectives to promote security of tenure for all, including on customary land; to prevent displacement of local communities by the urban elite or foreign investors in rural areas; to promote good governance, decentralization and transparency in land administration; to eradicate inequalities among interested groups in accessing land; to establish a land audit commission to undertake a land audit countrywide in order to plan for sustainable use of land resources; and to regularize informal settlements in urban areas, and recognize them as ‘Improvement Areas’ for settlement upgrading (under the Urban and Regional Planning Act No. 3 of 2015).

Policy level

Since 2014, UN-Habitat/GLTN has been working with the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources (MLNR) and other partners to support the development of the national land policy, under the leadership of African Land Policy Initiative (LPI), now African Land Policy Centre (ALPC). The main support to the Ministry of Lands is provided to ensure broad-based consultations on the draft national land policy with various stakeholders including the Ministry of Chiefs and Traditional Affairs, under which all Chiefs in Zambia ascribe. The multi-stakeholder interactions have also facilitated information sharing and improved coordination and cooperation among stakeholders working with the Ministry on the land issues. The Ministry is also reviewing several existing legislations including that on customary land to address challenges to customary land administration in the country. UN-Habitat/GLTN has supported the establishment of a multi-stakeholder platform comprised of key bilateral and multi-lateral development partners working in the land sector. The group is functional and has been sharing information about current land sector issues, discussing the draft national policy document and submitting their views to the Ministry. The draft national land policy is now at the consultative stage and the validation of the document is expected in the second quarter of 2020.

Customary land

A priority area of the land reforms focuses on customary land where there is urgent requirement for legal framework, operational procedures and issuance of land rights documents. Rural communities, who depend on agriculture on customary lands, are threatened by increased demands for land from urban elite and local and foreign investors, among others. The un-coded or unwritten customary land system creates uncertainty for communities living on customary land regarding the extent of their land rights. Women are the most affected due to gender disparities and complexities surrounding the administration of land in customary areas.

In 2015, UN-Habitat/GLTN partnered with People’s Process on Housing and Poverty in Zambia (PPHPZ) and Zambia Homeless and Poor People’s Federation (ZHPPF) to support customary land certification in Mungule and Chamuka Chiefdoms in Central Zambia, using innovative tools and approaches. In Mungule, community information was collected in seven villages and validated by the community and respective headpersons through a series of community dialogue sessions. Thereafter, a database built on the Social Tenure Domain Model (STDM) was established, with information for approximately 308 village residents. In Chamuka, community information, both spatial and attribute data, has been collected and analyzed using participatory enumerations and STDM, covering eleven villages with a population of around 3,584 people. In addition, 530 customary land certificates have been issued. The second phase of the project is ongoing, targeting fifteen additional villages within Chamuka chiefdom.

Urban informal settlements

UN-Habitat/GLTN has also been supporting the documentation of land rights in peri-urban settlements of Lusaka city, Zambia’s capital. Peri-urban land administration in Zambia is often constrained by the dynamics of statutory-customary tenure interface and faces fierce competition from a range of residential, commercial and industrial demands because of its high value. UN-Habitat/GLTN intervention is in line with the government’s policy on the upgrading of selected informal settlements which are recognized, regularized and declared as “Improvement Areas”, under the Urban and Regional Planning Act No. 3 of 2015. Upgrading of informal settlement involves legalization of land tenure in squatter areas and provision of primary services, such as running water, sewage disposal, roads and other facilities. Lusaka City Council (LCC) is taking comprehensive steps to address challenges faced by slums and informal settlements citywide and has regularized about 37 informal settlements, recognising them as ‘Improvement Areas’. Kanyama is the largest informal settlement in Lusaka and it is one of the prioritized settlements for upgrading under the Citywide Slum Upgrading and Prevention Strategy. One of the interventions is enumeration, mapping and documentation of land tenure rights of current inhabitants to capture relevant data of the current inhabitants.

Since 2017, UN-Habitat/GLTN has been providing technical support to LCC in the mapping and enumeration of Kanyama ward 10, in order to accelerate the process of issuance of occupancy licenses with the aim of improving tenure security of the residents. Although the occupancy licence does not confer title to land, it grants occupancy rights to a dwelling or a house on a piece of land for a 30-year period, renewable. The registration of occupancy licences in Kanyama settlement is meant to decentralize land administration to enable efficient and practical mechanism for land provision to residents of unplanned settlements.

Lusaka city operates a property tax system and rate slum properties to generate revenues for operations and maintenance, hence LCC aims to document the mapped properties and raise income through orderly generated ground rent bills from the regularized informal settlements. Around 18,400 households had been mapped and enumerated by December 2019. A database has been established and can be accessed by four departments within Lusaka City Council directly involved in the occupancy license issuance process, i.e.  Housing, Planning, Legal and Finance. In addition, 33 occupancy licenses were issued by the Mayor of Lusaka City to the communities in Kanyama Ward 10 in 2018.

The second phase of the project is ongoing and is meant to scale up the intervention to other recognized informal settlements in Lusaka city. Technical support is also provided to other councils including Livingstone, Chipata, Ndola and Kabwe, to implement similar programmes in their jurisdiction. They have expressed the interest after interacting with the LCC in different learning events including country learning exchanges. Through these events,  different land actors and change agents in Zambia strengthened their capacity to develop, adapt and enhance land governance systems

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