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Land evictions up for debate
Chizilo citizens in Chipata District in Zambia are currently in a dilemma. They have been living and farming their area for a long time, but are now at the centre of an eviction notice. Through efforts of the local District Farmer's Association, their case is now being revised.
14. December 2008
In August, Chizilo citizens visited MS partner Chipata District Farmers Association (CDFA) to seek advice on evictions taking place in their area. As a result, CDFA arranged a community meeting in Chizilo where residents turned out in large numbers to explain their woes to the Association. Chizilo residents complained that they have been farming on the area for a long time but are now being evicted by the Forestry department who claim that the area is a protected area, which should not be cultivated or have the trees cut. It appears that the residents have settled on customary land, where they have their houses, but they cross over to the state land where they do the farming activities. The residents allege that the borders for state land and customary land are not well defined and hence people do not know where they fall.
Most small-scale farmers in Zambia live on customary land, but it is not always obvious to see where the borders to state administred land are drawn.
CDFA took advantage of the large numbers at the community meeting to sensitize the residents on Land Rights. Virgil Malambo, District Coordinator of CDFA, explained that it is everybody’s right to have access and control to land and therefore encouraged the residents to advocate for security of land through communal title deeds. CDFA also promised to follow up the issues with the Forestry department to find out the validity of the eviction order but in the meantime encouraged the residents to stay calm.
While the issue has not yet been resolved, the case encouraged CDFA to produce a series of radio programmes on Land Rights, which aired in Chipata in September and October. As a result, CDFA has now been approached by several other citizens with similar complaints. ”There are many such cases out there,” explains Virgil Malambo, ”but many did not know where to take their complaints before. It is essential for the rights of people in rural areas to be able voice their complaints. How else are they going to be able to influence the development in their own areas!”