The Zambian government’s large-scale agricultural investment is causing displacement of the rural poor. This agricultural investment is encouraging large commercial farms to lease large areas of land to produce crops for export. This will cause devastation for rural residential land, resulting in forced evictions.
The minimal government oversight of the commercial exploitation had forced many families to move to areas with low-quality soil, which was insufficient to grow food. Felicia Kasenga and her family were forced to evict her home by a commercial farmer. She said, “no one mentioned any conversion of land from customary to state land that could be rented out. No one offered compensation or resettlement.”
Many of the commercial farmers have not complied with governmental regulations. They have displaced residents and began to clear the land without conducting an environmental and social impact assessment or obtaining official authorization. With the minimal governmental oversight, residents were often left homeless and lacked sufficient resources to make their lives elsewhere. This is an issue that the government could fix by adopting a stricter enforcement policy and compensation guidelines.
The agricultural investment initiative aims to intensify economic growth and combat poverty by modernizing rural areas with commercial development. Al Jazeera reports that Zambia’s environment monitoring agency lacks the resources and ability to monitor many of the illegal developments. Local authorities also do not take part in mediating displacement disputes. Zambia does have a National Resettlement Policy, established in 2015, that outlined compensation guidelines for displaced people, but not many local authorities or commercial investors comply or are even aware of these policies.
Commercial farmers and the Zambian government should be responsible for the impact of rural development. Enforcement policies must be upheld if this agricultural investment initiative is to be carried on to avoid contribution to more human rights violations.
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