A study was conducted in Machinga District, Malawi, to evaluate the impact of Community Based Rural Land Development Project (CRLDP) two years after the project phased out in 2011. The objective was to establish the project?s effectiveness on land tenure status, food security and income of beneficiary households in Machinga District. The study argues that adequate post-settlement support and effective collaboration of all role players are necessary preconditions for effective performance and functioning of land reform beneficiary groups.
While the study found that land holding sizes for previously landless and land poor beneficiaries increased significantly, household food insecurity remained high among beneficiary households. The project managed to relocate more than 15 000 beneficiaries planned by the project. Land holding sizes, on average, increased by over 400%. However, 84.5% respondents were found to be food insecure. Similarly, average agricultural incomes fell from MK88 004, observed at project phase out in 2011, to MK60 117. The study therefore shows that increased access to land by landless and land poor smallholder farmers is necessary but not sufficient to enable profitable and sustainable agricultural production and hence greater household income and access to food.
The study demonstrate that the post settlement support package was inadequate. This is demonstrated by difficulties to access agricultural inputs, credit, markets, extension services and infrastructure to support agricultural production. The challenges arose because of weak institutional and organizational arrangements for ensuring effective coordination of role players. The study shows that adequate post settlement support is a necessary precondition for effective performance and functioning of land reform beneficiaries. It further confirms that effective collaboration of all role players is key to provision of sustained and coordinated complementary support to land reform beneficiaries. Adequate and sustainable post settlement support remains a far-fetched dream if institutional mechanisms for effective coordination of role players are not properly defined, communicated and supported.
The policy and operational implications of the study are that an interactive institutional framework is needed for coordinated provision of post settlement support. In order for land reform beneficiaries to develop into sustainable enterprises, there is need to actively strengthen institutional and organizational capacity for coordination of role players. This entails putting up enduring systems and structures and supporting them to effectively carry out their roles. This can enhance a comprehensive approach to responding to beneficiaries? needs. Emphasis need to be placed on farmer organization development to enable beneficiaries gain greater control over their own development. In this regard, it is crucial to balance between technical and organizational/institutional capacity needs of the farmers.
In addition, it must be acknowledged that land reform programmes occur in broad categories of land delivery and post settlement support in which the latter phases in as the former phases out. Discrete budgets must be made available to avoid one phase overshadowing the other. As evidence has shown, conditions may not be the same for different areas and as such one size fits all plans may not work for all circumstances. It is critical for land reform projects to be flexible to respond to emerging needs and demands by having unallocated funds for such purposes.