Review of land reforms in Southern Africa
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Land, and access to land, is one of the most important assets for the poor in southern Africa, both rural and urban, and probably contributes more than any other factor to their economic survival and the quality of their lives. The countries of southern Africa share similar histories of colonialisation and dispossession, histories that continue to shape current patterns of land tenure and administration. Most of the countries in the region have been through a phase of liberalisation and market reforms, or market-related land redistribution programmes, and since the 1990s new land laws have been passed in several countries, which tend to have been relatively weakly implemented and enforced. While land issues in the region have been shaped by history, access to land in the subregion is currently characterised by: scarcity of arable land; increasing commercialisation of land; new land-use patterns; the expansion of agro-fuel plantations; gender inequalities; and land ownership being concentrated in the hands of an indigenous elite while labour tenants and farm workers are subject to evictions, displacement and deepening poverty.