An inquiry into cost and benefits of adjusting subdivisions laws by Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation services in Botswana
Botswana, an independent country since September 1966 is dominantly a mining and tourism driven country. Batswana also have undying passion for agriculture. Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) is a major producer of beef in the Country. BMC is also earning the country foreign currency. World Bank estimated that Botswana has a population of 2.292 million as at 2017. Geographically, Botswana is landlocked and its landscape is defined by the Kalahari Desert and the Okavango Delta. With such a population, and its size, clearly land is not expected to be a challenge in Botswana. BOPA Daily News on 10 October 2016 published an article titled ‘Maele to tackle land, water issues’ by Kgotsofalang Botsang in which the then Minister of Land Management, Water and Sanitation Services, Mr. Prince Maele indicated he was looking forward to tackling land and water issues in Botswana. He indicated the ministry had intolerable long waiting lists for plot allocation, appeals resolutions, resolution of tribunal cases, pool housing, unaffordable housing rentals, poor service delivery, poor turnaround times and corruption. He also indicated that service delivery had been improved, boards no longer meet quarterly, but monthly, board committees had been established to deal with service delivery issue, decentralized common law leases, borehole applications and physical planning functions and offices across the country were open to the public over lunch hour. It can be argued that permitting all big farms to be sub dividable was also his initiative. The current minister Mr. Kefentse Mzwinila seems to be supporting the initiative by his predecessor. This article inquires the costs and benefits of adjusting subdivisions laws by Ministry of Land Management, Water and Sanitation services in Botswana.
Burkina Faso is a success story of land subdivisions which allowed the citizens to easily access land. Under Captain Thomas Sankara, this country redistributed land from the feudal landlords to the peasants. Wheat production increased from 1,700 kilograms per hectare (1,500 lb/acre) to 3,800 kilograms per hectare (3,400 lb/acre), making the country food self-sufficient. “Our country produces enough to feed us all. Alas, for lack of organization, we are forced to beg for food aid. It’s this aid that instills in our spirits the attitude of beggars” Sankara explained. Immediately after Sankara took office, he suppressed most of the powers held by tribal chiefs in Burkina Faso. These feudal landlords were stripped of their rights to tribute payments and forced labor as well as having their land distributed amongst the peasantry. This served the dual purpose of creating a higher standard of living for the average Burkinabé as well as creating an optimal situation to induce Burkina Faso into food self-sufficiency.
Within four years, Burkina Faso reached food sufficiency due in large part to feudal land redistribution and series of irrigation and fertilization programs instituted by the government. During this time, production of cotton and wheat increased dramatically. While the average wheat production for the Sahel region was 1,700 kilograms per hectare (1,500 lb/acre) in 1986, Burkina Faso was producing 3,900 kilograms per hectare (3,500 lb/acre) of wheat the same year. This success meant Sankara had not only shifted his country into food self-sufficiency, but had in turn created a food surplus. Sankara also emphasized the production of cotton and the need to transform the cotton produced in Burkina Faso into clothing for the people.
While Burkina Faso succeeded under Thomas Sankara, Botswana adopted what is arguably a similar arrangement which will see many Batswana subdividing their existing larger farms into much smaller portions. The approved bill awaiting signing by the President will enable a farm holder to subdivide 50 percent of his farm and sale or share with others. The new plot holders will then choose whether to farm on the newly acquired properties or to convert use to something else. Remaining with 50 percent of farm can enable one to optimally use the land hence reach efficiency. This bill is associated with its own impacts. The positive impacts and negative impacts are explained below:
- Large clientele base for financial institutions
Banks normally prefer to issue out loans basing on the bankability of a client. It is easy to issue a loan for any purpose to someone with real assets in form of land. When ordinary Batswana are bankable, banks are likely to enjoy from the large pool of customer base. This will likely increase economic activities and improve the livelihood of Batswana.
- Rise of Speculation
Holding land for speculation is a cancer in real estate development. Some scrupulous elements may acquire the subdivided portions and hold them so that they can sale for profit in the future. Speculation will reduce productivity since the people who would have acquired will not have an interest of utilizing the piece of land.
- Pressure of servitudes
To be habitable, a new development will attract servitudes like electricity, water, sewer, roads and internet cables. If the majority of land owners choose to subdivide their land to smaller residential stands, this will give pressure on the available servitudes. This will also bring in stiff competition on the existing freehold residential stands that are on sale. The pressure to put servitudes lies upon the landlord. Service providers will also have a challenge to meet the demand. It is highly likely that the development will not be proportionate with rising population and hence will cause the prices of property in general to fall hence being a disadvantage to property companies.
- Time taken in planning subdivisions
A considerable amount of time is taken when planning a new development. Resources are sunk when engaging the services of a town planner, settlement engineers and other professionals involved. It should be noted that if the bill is signed into law, households will take time to initiate the actual process hence it is not automatic that citizens will quickly access the subdivided land.
- Costs when amalgamating the previously subdivided land
In cases when one feels that they need to make the previously subdivided land a single unit again, they will need to get rid of built up infrastructure, so there is potentially money wasted. Cost of carrying on the subdivisions is relatively high. It can be argued that since subdivisions are a topical issue, some Batswana will quickly subdivide their plots without a full understanding of the decision and will later want to reverse the process. Reversing the process will also attract an outflow of cash resources hence being a stumbling block for the overall success of a household.
Effective implementation of land expropriations can lead to improved food security and enhanced economic growth (Mutambara, 2019). Although Botswana will not be expropriating any land, such policy can also yield similar results. Adapting from the lessons of Burkina Faso under Thomas Sankara, it can be clearly noted that with effective administration, and a hardworking populace, Botswana stand to benefit. Real estate companies affected by the law would have to devise survival strategies to sail through the unfavorable operating conditions posed by the policy change. The government would also have to consider incentivizing real estate companies to cushion them in operations since business will likely be affected by the posture taken by government.