Land and natural resources are an important source of livelihoods for many Zambians and a factor of production across various sectors. Access and control of land and natural resources is a common source of news within the Zambian media, frequently highlighting disagreements or conflicts, butoccasionally also celebrating achievements promoting secure tenure. In 2020, several high profile projects focused on the improvement of tenure security and protection of natural resources were advanced, aimed at securing land rights and protecting forests and natural resources. Yet activities such as poaching, illegal mining, tree-cutting for charcoal production, and encroachments, continue to threaten the adequate protection these resources. This report presents an analysis of land and natural resource activities in Zambia in 2020 by tracking newspaper articles in four leading daily newspaper: The Daily Mail, Daily Nation, the Mast, and The Times of Zambia. The report organizes news articles around key themes under broad classifications of land governance, administration, conflict, and natural resource management, covering both state and customary institutions, as well as urban, peri-urban, and rural issues. This report also summarizes issues related to gender and women’s economic empowerment, as well as traditional leadership, as these topics have a large role in land tenure outcomes across the country. A total of 265 news articles were analyzed for 2020, significantly lower than the over 700 articles reviewed in 2019. This may be partially due to the prevalence of news related to Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) during 2020.
The analysis shows that one of the most debated topics, the draft land policy, reached an apex when it was approved by the House of Chiefs, a significant success given the decades of impasse between actors in the policy process. Consensus was reached that chiefs would be responsible for the administration of customary land and not “traditional rulers” as the term was considered vague. However, the leasing of land to non-Zambians, which has also received considerable debate, remained unchanged as non-Zambians are eligible for 99-year leases. The Housing Policy and Implementation Plan was also launched in 2020, as were numerous projects focused on forest and wildlife protection. Key to highlight are the government’s vision to construct 220,000 housing units annually to provide affordable and decent housing for all by 2030, the Ministry of Gender’s Strategic Plan and Balanced Scorecard, the launch of the National Land Titling Programme, and memoranda of understanding with the governments of the United Kingdom and the United States on skills and infrastructure development in forest and wildlife protection.
Corruption and illegal land allocations were highly prevalent in 2020, and this led to the suspension of the Kitwe City Council and the Lusaka City Council. Although the investigations exposed the local authority officials involved in these activities, the vulnerability of institutional and policy processes to the personalization of land allocation reveals the need for strengthening capacities in land administration. The final approval of the land policy and its subsequent implementation provides an opportunity for these processes to be strengthened through provisions that place authority in the local authority and remove the pervasion of political control in state institutions.