Muli Bwanji (how are you?) is just one of the short phrases that I have been encouraged to use during my current deployment to Malawi.

I feel privileged to be part of a HM Land Registry team that has been invited here by the Ministry of Lands and Housing (MoL) in Lilongwe, to assess the requirements for the implementation of a new land policy for the country. The new Land Policy was developed and endorsed for Malawi in 2002, but the supporting Land Bill is yet to be enacted. The main aim of the policy is to support suitable access to land and secure tenure of property for both smallholder farmers and businesses.

Malawi is a country of just over 16 million people bordered by Zambia, Tanzania, and Mozambique. It has an economy heavily based on agriculture, with a largely rural population. The Land Registry’s work here is supported by and funded by the DFID iFUSE programme.

The Land Registry team is led by my colleague in the International Unit, Emma Vincent (Head of International Business Development). The team also comprises of: Miriam Brown, a lawyer from our Peterborough office, who is reviewing the recent land-related legislation and looking at options for dispute resolution; Carl Boothroyd, a senior operational technician and member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors from our Birkenhead office, who will be reviewing the operational processes and workflow; and myself, International Unit Manager, offering the experience of land registration in other parts of Africa and a background in training and capability.

To date, we have had meetings with representatives from the three main departments at MoL: Land Registry, Physical Planning and the Survey department, to establish the current situation and identify any issues/challenges and areas of best practice. Our programme for the next few days includes meetings with various stakeholders outside MoL and some donor agencies.

Our journey to Lilongwe, Malawi took the best part of 24 hours from door to door, flying via Nairobi, Kenya and Lusaka, Zambia. Upon arrival we received a warm welcome from the Malawian people and began to attempt to master a few words in Chichewa, the local language. Fortunately for us English is widely spoken but our attempts at speaking Chichewa have been genuinely appreciated, and on many occasions caused a giggle or two!

The few short phrases we have managed to get to grips with are:

Muli Bwanji – how are you?
Ndili Bwino  – I am fine
Zikomo Kwambiri – thank you very much
Mwadzuka Bwanji – good morning

Sue_MalawiphotoThe local food is delightful, the speciality being Chambo – a fish sourced in Lake Malawi, traditionally accompanied with nsima (like polenta) and eaten with your hands. It probably wasn’t my wisest decision to try this out for the first time on an evening when I was wearing white trousers! We were very lucky to be able to take a trip to Lake Malawi over the weekend, a beautiful place. The one and a half hour journey also gave us an invaluable insight into life outside the main city of Lilongwe, and to see the ‘customary land’ (traditional tribal land) being occupied by the smallholder farmers.

Our last meeting before we return to the UK will be a high level debrief with the Principal Secretary at MoL to give her our initial thoughts. This will be followed up, after our return to the UK, with a report highlighting our findings with recommendations for the successful implementation of the Land Policy, identifying potential quick wins and longer-term activities.

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Sue Knowles
By Sue Knowles,