The geography of Zambia's customary land: Assessing the prospects for smallholder development

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Abstract

This article utilizes available spatial data to quantify the amount of customary land in Zambia and to examine the prospects for agricultural commercialization in those areas, in terms of population densities, market access conditions, and agro-ecological suitability. We find that approximately 51-54 percent of Zambia's land remains under customary tenure and, by implication, available for smallholder utilization. However, populations are clustered in 5 percent of the customary land with reasonably good market access conditions. Good market access conditions are generally located in regions with high levels of rainfall variability due to historical infrastructure investments. High density, market accessible regions are witnessing a rapid increase in land commodification, land alienation, and declining fallow rates. Land and economic development policies must be attentive to the changing dynamics in customary land areas in order to ensure the future viability of the smallholder farming sector.

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Sitko, N. J., & Chamberlin, J. (2016). The geography of Zambia’s customary land: Assessing the prospects for smallholder development. Land Use Policy, 55, 49–60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.landusepol.2016.03.026

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