ZAFFICO has no certificate of title to over 48,000 hectares of land it occupies on the Copperbelt and government’s investment is seriously understated.
Zambia Forestry and Forest Industries Corporation Limited (ZAFFICO) managing director Frighton Sichone said despite managing 48,000 hectares of planted commercial forest plantations, the corporation had no certificates of title.
“The corporation has no certificates of title to the land on which plantations are sitting. It negatively impacts on the asset base and, therefore, the balance sheet of ZAFFICO in that land is never taken into account under ZAFFICO assets,” Sichone said when lands minister Jean Kapata held a meeting with management on Thursday.
“The land on which the 48,000 hectares of commercial plantations are sitting is not regarded as an asset of ZAFFICO because it does not legally belong to ZAFFICO. This means that the correct and true value of government’s investment in ZAFFICO is seriously understated.”
He said without title, ZAFFICO was at high risk of losing, without adequate compensation, huge parcels of land to other competing land use projects.
Sichone said the Auditor General’s report in 2015 had raised the issue of lack of certificates of title to land as a serious threat to the existence of ZAFFICO.
And director of plantations Cosmas Nshingo said the organisation was faced with various challenges, among them increased land use conflicts such as encroachments on forest areas, mining activities and urban expansion.
Nshingo said this could be addressed through increased political will to expand forest plantations.
And Kapata acknowledged the importance of having a title deed as it gave security of tenure and protected against illegal activities.
She said her Ministry, through the permanent secretary’s office, would issue ZAFFICO with a land title.
And Kapata threatened to revoke the Memorandum of Understanding signed with Ndola City Council giving the local authority power to sell land on behalf of the ministry if the issue of land was not addressed.
“I warned them last time because they are not controlling it. They are using it for other methods in terms of getting money or whatever they are doing. We have said that what we want is sanity all over the country and we’ll not allow anybody to encroach on any forests,” she said.
Kapata said her ministry would not allow degazettion of any forests unless under instructions from President Edgar Lungu for development purposes.