Housing Development and Land Markets in Peri-Urban Areas and Implications for Future Planning: Case Studies in Northern Namibia

This project is an ILMI Seed Grant 2020 Awardee.


Communal land covers 35% of Namibia’s land area. This figure is decreasing yearly with the expansion of urban areas that result in alienation of communal land. With the increase in demand for land over the past 10 years, emerging land markets in Namibia’s communal areas have been documented. Communal areas in the four north-central regions of Ohangwena, Omusati, Oshana and Oshikoto have been identified as key hotspots for land markets. The current operations of land markets in communal areas still follows the colonial policies as described in an earlier publication by for rural land markets in Southern African countries.

All communal land is vested in the state for the benefit of the local people, and the sale of land or market- based transactions in terms of access to land in the communal areas is prohibited. According to the Communal Land Reform Act, 2002, landholders in the communal areas can engage in market based transactions mainly in regards the improvements made on the land, and this has to be followed by a notification to the Communal Land Board for the ratification of the transfer. Most of the market-based transactions observed to be taking place on communal land do not include the improvements, but rather the land itself, and therefore go unregistered. Because of its illegality as per the Communal Land Reform Act, there are no regulations to provide guidance, nor policy direction on land markets. While Namibia is currently undertaking registration of customary land rights on communal land to provide security of tenure, illegal land markets are due to undo this progress. Key hotspots of land markets are in villages adjacent to local authority areas, and it has been documented that, people in the areas engage in the land markets through sales of land particularly for housing. Housing in Namibia’s urban areas has been unaffordable, such that the situation has been described as “a crisis”. Challenges in access to housing in urban areas are some of the key factors fuelling land markets in the communal areas. Our proposed research is a six months study that will use a case study approach, focusing particularly on the villages surrounding Omuthiya local authority area to study the following:

•    Map the extent, nature and trend of housing development taking place in the surrounding villages
•    Analyse the link between increasing housing demand, housing development and land markets in the surrounding villages
•    Assess the implications of land markets for security of tenure in the communal areas
•    Assess the implications of unplanned housing developments for future planning and expansion of Omuthiya local authority area (including granting of compensation)
•    Assess the emerging social differentiation in the landscape, and amongst land holders with the increasing land markets and housing development.
•    Examine the implications of land markets on land governance.

The research is aiming for a conclusive policy brief on informal land markets in Namibia, plus a fact sheet that informs on the different land transactions, market participants, challenges, and opportunities for institutions involved in land governance. The sustainability of land for development is highlighted in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as land transactions, play a role in food security, equal access to land for all, and inclusive development. Moreover, it is expressed in the African Union Agenda 2063. The international and regional policy directives are covered in Namibia Fifth National Development plan (NDP5) and Harambee prosperity plan to support sustainable development. The knowledge, therefore, it is crucial to have clear information on what the current status is of land markets. The research will contribute to the agenda of the ILMI on themes of housing and land.

Project duration    September 2020 to January 20201

Principal investigator:    Dr Romie Nghitevelekwa, Sociology, University of Namibia; rnghitevelekwa@nust.na

Co-Investigators    Ms Royal Mabakeng, Land Administration, Namibia University of Science and Technology

General inquiries:     Ms Emorgen Jansen; ejansen@nust.na