Madonna’s Malawi charity says reports of land dispute ‘erroneous’
The director of Madonna’s Raising Malawi foundation is denying that there is a land dispute over the charity’s planned $15 million girls academy, calling reports that some villagers feel the project is displacing them “erroneous.”
The Associated Press has reported that the village headman took the villagers’ complaints to the local government, and that local officials have visited the area several times.
However, Phillip Van den Bosche, who runs the foundation, said late Saturday that media reports of friction were “not factual.”
He also said that the head of the village “made a very long speech about how grateful he was for this project” at a ceremony for the school.
Raising Malawi is building the school for girls on a 47-hectare plot of government land near the capital, Lilongwe. The land had been used by villagers for farming when it was not utilized by the government, but Malawi reclaimed the land when the educational project emerged.
It worked out a deal in which about 200 villagers would be paid 16 million kwacha (about $115,000) in total by Raising Malawi to compensate them for their houses — mostly mud-and-thatch structures — and improvements such as gardens and trees.
Van Den Bosche said the deal — which was worked out by the government but paid for by Raising Malawi — was more than generous.
“If you visited the land prior to this allocation, you would have found that there were at the most one or two small huts” on the land, he said. “The people who were on the land now have an equivalent plot of agricultural land where they can continue their farming ... The community will be enhanced by this.”
Last week, government officials met with villagers. One villager, Amos Mkuyu, said at the meeting: “My sisters and I inherited this land from our parents whose parents have been here for over a hundred years. How can I get only 200,000 kwacha?”
He received the 200,000 kwacha, or about $1,500, from Raising Malawi for mango trees and three homes on a threehectare plot. He seems to think the money was also for the land, but the government says the villagers did not have tenure and so are not owed anything for the land.