LAND Administration Authority (LAA) Director General and Chief Executive, Mahashe Chaka, has called for a review of land policies to ensure the development of a commercial farming system.
In an interview with the Lesotho Times this week, Mr Chaka said the registration of land for commercial agriculture remained a daunting challenge in Lesotho owing to resistance by land owners and the absence of “enabling” policies. The LAA was established in 2010 to modernise and improve land administration services and to reduce the time it takes to acquire or dispose of a leasehold title to land.
“We have noted that most of the arable land which could be used for commercial agriculture is owned by families,” he said.
“In most cases, these fields are left unregistered because they are collectively owned by families and not by a particular individual. If one member of the family takes the initiative to register the land, they are often challenged by other members who fear losing ownership of the land after its registration.”
Mr Chaka noted that the failure by many land owners to comply with land registration laws robbed them and the country of the economic opportunities that come with commercial agriculture.
“There are very few formally registered fields which can be used for commercial agriculture because our laws have not taken into account the prevailing situation that land is owned by families,” he said
“We need to engage the public extensively to raise awareness about the benefits of obtaining a land lease with regards to commercial agriculture.”
Mr Chaka said most landowners were unaware of the clause in the Land Regulations of 2011, as amended, which exempts them from paying ground rent for five years after obtaining a commercial agriculture lease.
Section 19(4) of the Land Regulations 2011 reads: “Unless the Minister after consultation with the Minister responsible for Agriculture directs otherwise, no ground rent will be assessed and payable for the first five years of the term of lease.”
The LAA boss further noted that a lease could also assist the owner to access financing through such facilities as bank loans.
“A lease serves many purposes. However, land owners hit a brick wall when applying for a loan and banks demand proof of tenure in the form of a registered agricultural lease,” he said.
On their part, Mr Chaka said the LAA had embarked on numerous initiatives to fast-track the registration processes.
“We recently finished installing seven cadastral survey beacons which will guide surveyors during the surveying process. A cadastral survey beacon enables a surveyor to digitally demarcate an area,” he said.
“Previously, there was only one cadastral survey beacon available in Maseru, but with the seven now available throughout the country, it will now be easier for surveyors and other trained personnel to be guided by the coordinates wherever they may be in the country.
“It is an exciting project which LAA conducted in conjunction with the Lesotho Millennium Development Agency (LMDA) which provided funding for the cadastral survey beacons around the country. The project will soon be commissioned by the minister of Local Government and Chieftainship Affairs (Pontšo Sekatle).”
Mr Chaka said there were only eight qualified land surveyors in the country.
“To ease their load, the LAA is equipping more personnel with the geographic information systems skills needed to operate a global positioning system (GPS) used in the process of executing the survey process,” he added.
“The advantage of GPS is that anyone surveying a particular piece of land can send the coordinates to the LAA headquarters digitally.
“This greatly reduces the chance of a piece of land being allocated twice to more than one person and, in turn, lowers incidents of land wrangles. It also prevents the loss of records.”