Namibia: Good Practices and Lessons Learned for Gender and Communal Land
In the decade following independence, the government of Namibia undertook developing a series of policies and laws to address inherited and emerging land issues. The reform program concentrated on equitable redistribution of commercial land and tenure security in communal areas. The Agricultural (Commercial) Land Reform Act, 1995 addresses redistribution of freehold land, and the Community Land Reform Act (CLRA) focuses on tenure reform in communal areas.
This paper focuses on communal land. While it is not a comparative study per se, it attempts to better understand the inter- section of gender, communal land, and land reform in Namibia. The paper concentrates on two regions that adopted different approaches to communal land governance. The Oshana region leads the implementation of the nationwide Communal Land Reform Act, 2002 that introduced the registration of customary land rights in communal areas, while the Kavango region declined to participate in the registration process and instead continues to independently administer customary land rights in accordance with its established customary system.
The case study uses a gender lens to systematically examine these two situations. Specifically, it assesses the different approaches taken by these communities to illustrate good or emerging practices and draw lessons learned from measures that have sought both to protect community rights to land and also protect the rights of women and men in those communities. The paper evaluates these measures in light of the primary objective, selected strategies, and outcome.
Ultimately, the case study attempts to illustrate what measures can be implemented in different political, legal, and cultural contexts to enable communities facing similar situations to benefit from the experiences of others. Both promising practices and challenges faced offer insights.
It is clear from this case study that promoting women’s rights while also protecting customary land tenure systems through registration of rights is a complex and multifaceted process that touches on law, culture, economics, politics, and administra- tive capacity. Although every effort should be made to under- stand how such rights and values can be protected, it would be unrealistic to expect all eventualities to be accounted for from the onset. The Namibia experience offers both promising prac- tices and constructive lessons about the process and content of promoting women’s land rights while protecting customary land tenure systems. The following promising practices and lessons learned primarily focus on approach, substantive and procedural safeguards, data collection, and communication.