Land Reform in Zimbabwe Can Succeed
|March 28, 2004||Posted by Staff under Archive, Progress Report, The Progress Report|
Land Reform Would Strengthen Any Economy
Land Reform Is Not A Threat To Food Security
Below are excerpts from an InterPress Third World News Agency report, plus a few side remarks of our own.
by Lewis Machipisa
Zimbabwe’s land reform programme will not jeopardise the country’s food security needs, as it is designed to give more land to the people who produce the bulk of the nation’s food requirements.
The chief executive of the government Agricultural Rural Development Authority (ARDA), Dr. Joe Made, says even assuming all white commercial farmers stopped farming in Zimbabwe and no one started farming any of those lands at all, the country would still have 70 percent of its annual maize production; 65 percent of cotton; 40 percent of wheat. (The crop that would see its production cut all the way down to just 10 percent? Tobacco. No great loss there.)
When Made talks about the ongoing invasion of white owned farms by veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war, he deliberately avoids using words such as “land grab, farm invaders” and “farm squatters”. Over 1,000 farms have been invaded over the past two months.
Made instead talks about “repossession of what’s rightfully theirs.”
The Zimbabwean parliament, two months ago, passed a bill which imposes conditions on Zimbabwe’s former colonial power, Britain, to pay compensation for agricultural land compulsorily acquired for resettlement.
If Britain fails to pay the compensation, then Zimbabwe has no obligation to pay for the land taken for resettlement of landless blacks. Britain has said it will not be bound by the new law, but reneged on promises that it and the USA made decades ago to assist the Zimbabwe land reform process. The broken British promise has led to many years of terrible poverty for blacks, which resulted in no action, and now violence against some whites, which has resulted in lots of condemnations and huffing and puffing.
Whites constitute less than one percent of the population, yet they still own 70 percent of all the prime land, while a million black families are still settled on barren land after being forced to vacate their original fertile areas by the colonial rulers. This condition persists even though Zimbabwe won its independence decades ago.
Made says he has no fear — as is being widely anticipated by opponents of land reform — that land redistribution will result in much lower crop levels being produced in the country.
”While we must face the reality, that we are going through a painful period, we should not overplay the point that there will be a reduced crop because of the farm repossessions,” says Made.
”Zimbabweans, in general, are over experienced in agriculture but lack the land to grow,” he explains. ”Our agricultural extension services are among the best in the world. One just has to look at the maize being produced under peri-urban agriculture.”
Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector is dominated by two major players, commercial farmers and peasant farmers in communal areas.
Despite being situated in poor sandy, rocky soils and semi-arid regions which makes agricultural production difficult, communal farmers produce 70 percent of the country’s annual staple maize crop.
About 30 percent of the maize comes from the commercial sector which includes some indigenous blacks, numbering about 700 compared to the 4,300 whites in that sector.
In addition to these 4,300 whites, there is the government’s ARDA which also produces maize at a larger scale. ARDA is a government parastatal agency which deals with state farm production mainly involving large agricultural and rural development projects.
Made dismisses widespread fears that the land reform programme will see the country move into making Zimbabwe a nation of subsistence farmers. ”We have a lot agronomists walking the streets because they cannot get jobs. ARDA is willing to release its experts to assist in training and giving skills.”
”There has to be a regional approach to the issue also,” suggests Made. ”Once SADC (Southern African Development Community) has an equitable land redistribution, we will, as a region, actually be able to have a surplus if the season is good.”
About 87 percent of agricultural land in South Africa is in the hands of a white minority, according to Made. The same goes for Namibia.
This report was distributed by the InterPress Third World News Agency.
Winning independence from colonial rulers means little if land access is restricted. Why not levy a tax on the value of land owned? Or what would you suggest to increase access to land in Zimbabwe? Tell your fellow readers at The Progress Report!