Strengthening Community Land Rights and Responses to Involuntary Displacement Caused by Development Projects in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe's economic development blueprint aims to revive the country's economy by attracting greater investment in agriculture, infrastructure, and mining. Development projects in those sectors, however, can carry a risk of displacing community members, particularly where they reside in strategic or resource-rich areas. The construction of hydro-electric dams and other large mining and agricultural projects, for example, have led to negative consequences due to weak land tenure rights and a more general failure to establish or respect needed protections. Community members have not been consulted on development of projects that affect them and, as a result, have not received fair compensation for the loss of use or access to lands or livelihoods. Such threats to communities' land and environmental rights point to larger stresses in the government and in the justice system. Against that backdrop, Zimbabwe's new Constitution (2013) provides important protections such as new property rights guarantees and safeguards against displacement. However, the laws and policies needed to ensure respect for those rights have yet to be put in place. There is currently very limited research on development-induced involuntary displacement and its relation to community land rights in Zimbabwe. This two-year research project with the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association will generate a greater body of knowledge. It will map the extent and nature of development-induced displacement across the country. Then, with active community participation, the project will undertake two detailed case studies in contexts where there are potential risks of displacement. This research aims to strengthen community responses to involuntary displacement and to contribute to improved laws and policies on land rights and displacement that align with the Constitution.