Access to and control of land is one of the challenges that young people face in Zambia. Land is a valued resource which youth are often expected to access through adults, or wait until they are adults to acquire.
According to the Policy Brief, State of the Youth in Zambia : Education, Unemployment, and Poverty Reduction published in 2018, Zambia has a young population, with 65% under the age of 35, and over half—52%–under the age of 18 meaning more than half of the entire population of Zambia are youths and yet most land is owned by people over the age of 40.
A major reason of exclusion of some groups in the land sector is the top-down policy processes. Improved land governance is critical to the achievement of a wide range of developmental outcomes. Mayor of Kabwe City, Price Chileshe, says despite a government policy by the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources allocating a 30% quoter of land to youths the numbers of youth land owners remains critically low. He explained that 30% of land is intended to be competed for amongst youth, men and women from the age of 17-35, however, very few youth claim this right.
This can be attributed to many factors including lack information on land related issues and the huge number of economically inactive, unemployed youth. Youth in Zambia are faced with an unemployment challenge. According to the labour force survey of 2014, the total number of Zambia’s labour force was 6.3 million, the majority of whom, 60.2%—or 3.8 million—are youth, yet most youth are unemployed and economically inactive. Unemployment was highest among the age groups 20 to 24, and 25 to 29—at 36.1%, and 17.9%, respectively (CSO 2016).
His worship Prince Chileshe, explained that youths get knocked out from the onset, application fees for land ranges from k500 for residential use and k1000 to k5000 for commercial use in Kabwe which many young people either can not afford or have a more immediate use for. The few that can afford the application fees have a difficult time producing bank statements to support a supposed steady financial status, which is a necessity for one to own land in Zambia.
In African society, specifically Zambia youth mostly access land through inheritance. However, with urbanisation and shifts from the extended to nuclear family, property grabbing and other marginalising cultural norms it is more and more clear that youths have limited access to inherited land. Also Increased impoverishment of rural families has led to selling of family land that would have otherwise been inherited by the next generation.
It must be said that, pinning the low number of youth landowners on lack of finances does not draw a complete picture. Many youths do not consider land ownership a priority.
Many young men and women straight out of college or university first focus on finding a well paying job, the lucky few that land one then begin to focus on building their careers. Israel Bwalya, a youth in Lusaka, explained that land ownership is considered to be more of a long term achievement amongst youths. the general order of achievement is a job, a car and then a house one rents for a few years before they consider buying land and building on their own, a sentiment echoed by many youths spoken to.
Even with the growing number of youths venturing into agriculture or at least being exposed to the benefits of it, the number of youth landowners remains low. Young farmers opt to start off on family land which reduces the initial capital needed and the waiting time to actually acquire the land.
It is fair to say that young people’s access to land or lack thereof is influenced by biased attitudes and cultural barriers resulting from the idea that young people have not reached “maturity” which is coupled with lack of awareness and effective land policy tools.