LAA calls for re­view of land poli­cies

Lesotho Times - - Business - Retha­bile Pitso

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 fast­track the reg­is­tra­tion pro­cesses.

“We re­cently fin­ished in­stalling seven cadas­tral sur­vey bea­cons which will guide sur- vey­ors 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.”

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