The workers driving the bulldozers came to the house and said, “You have to move from here.” Evelyn is just one of dozens of rural residents recently forced to move by a commercial farming operation in Zambia. These satellite images show the rapid
increase of large-scale agricultural investments in Zambia’s Serenje district.
The government touts this area as being a prime spot for investment because of
its good soil and abundant water. Investors both foreign and domestic have
come to grow crops such as wheat and soybeans mainly for export. The government has been so negligent in enforcing laws on land acquisition and
regulating these ventures that some of the rural communities that should benefit have suffered severe harm. I was taken to court because the white man wants the land where we are. In Serenje district, we’ve
interviewed scores of families in multiple communities that are impacted
by expanding commercial agriculture in the area. We’ve documented cases of
displacements and forced evictions. Felicia had no home to go to and was forced to
live outside for months with her many children. We were told that we only had two weeks and we had to leave. That’s how we ended up here. My children, they sleep in that tent. But when the rain comes, the tents flood and we have to remove water but we still have to sleep there. Serious human rights concerns characterized these displacements and forced evictions where the right to food, housing, water, health and education are threatened. Our research shows that women are disproportionately impacted by displacement. Many are forced off land they counted on
for their survival, land where they once grew crops or
obtained water. We women used to grow plenty of crops and keep it in our storage bins. It’s a big difference. The river was close and we could draw water. We grew a lot of cassava and sweet potatoes. When I moved here, close to the road, I found that there was no water. The place we get water is very far so when you go, you have to rest at least three times in order to get there. If we start off at 7:00 am, we return between 9:00 and 10:00 am. With these displacements, people have also been moved further from schools. We have no school. I have eight children and none are going to school. There is no transport so my children do not go to school. Commercial farmers say they get minimal guidance
and conflicting information from government institutions. Government
officials admit that the practices in Serenje have failed to protect the rights
of local residents. I want the government to help me with water and houses, to help me build a house. We need help from the government to help us find a place where we can raise our children. The government of Zambia should investigate these evictions and displacements and ensure that farmers develop resettlement and compensation plans that respect the rights of residents and adhere to Zambian law. The government should take urgent action to enforce its own laws and regulations and ensure that displaced families are able to secure a remedy for human rights abuses.