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Author Topic: Zimbabwe: Lessons from land reform  (Read 14867 times)
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« on: August 02, 2013, 10:34:39 PM »

South2North - Zimbabwe: Lessons from land reform
Published on Jun 22, 2013

In the 1980s Zimbabwe became the poster-child for African independence. Twenty years later, violent land grabs pushed white farmers off their land, and the economic turmoil caused unprecedented hyperinflation, resulting in the ultimate crash of the Zimbabwean currency. Food production collapsed and one of the continent's strongest economies reduced to half its previous size. While the West was quick to dismiss Zimbabwe as another failed African state, new research shows that Zimbabwe is actually recovering, and that land reform is working. After years of economic collapse caused by violent land grabs, Zimbabwe is recovering, but who is reaping the benefits?
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« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2013, 12:16:53 PM »

Zimbabwe's Land Reform
Myths and Realities
Ian Scoones et al.

Ten years after the land invasions of 2000, this book provides the first full account of the consequences of these dramatic events. This land reform overturned a century-old pattern of land use, one dominated by a small group of large-scale commercial farmers, many of whom were white. But what replaced it?

This book challenges five myths through the examination of the field data from Masvingo province:

Myth 1 Zimbabwean land reform has been a total failure
Myth 2 The beneficiaries of Zimbabwean land reform have been largely political 'cronies'
Myth 3 There is no investment in the new resettlements
Myth 4 Agriculture is in complete ruins creating chronic food insecurity
Myth 5 The rural economy has collapsed
By challenging these myths, and suggesting alternative policy narratives, this book presents the story as it has been observed on the ground: warts and all. What comes through very strongly is the complexity, the differences, almost farm by farm: there is no single, simple story of the Zimbabwe land reform as sometimes assumed by press reports, political commentators, or indeed much academic study.

Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, with co-authors Nelson Marongwe, Blasio Mavedzenge, Jacob Mahenehene, Felix Murimbarimba and Chrispen Sukume.

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« Reply #2 on: December 07, 2013, 12:18:39 PM »

Has Zimbabwe’s land reform actually been a success? A new book says yes.

I’ve never been to Zimbabwe, so tend to get my messages from the news coverage. On land issues, that means a picture of a predatory Zimbabwe cover state driving white farmers off the land and handing it out to cronies and bogus war veterans, who fail to produce anything much in the way of crops.

Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land, a new book co-authored by Joe Hanlon, Jeanette Mangengwa and Teresa Smart, sheds a very different light. Based on field visits, numerous conversations with farmers, and mining the available data, it paints a much more nuanced picture that is broadly positive about the impact of Zimbabwe’s land reform. It makes some telling points, including:

The media story about efficient white commercial farms is a half truth at best: at independence in 1980, 700,000 black farmers were squeezed onto 53% of the farmland, while 6,000 white farmers had 46% (and often the best land at that). Yet when Zimbabwe achieved majority rule, one third of white farmers were insolvent and a third were just about breaking even. Only 5% (300 people!) could be described as ‘very profitable’.

It often takes a generation for a land reform to produce results – the larger of Zimbabwe’s two post apartheid land reforms is only a decade old, but new farmers have already caught up with the previous white-dominated system in production (although of course, there are always better and worse farmers in any category). That is initially being achieved by bringing some of the idle land into production, but yields are also rising.

Zimbabwe is special in several ways: one of the best educated populations in Africa actually sees farming as a good way to earn a living. Those making a success of farming include ex army generals, teachers and businesspeople.

The book is not an apologia for Robert Mugabe’s government – it acknowledges corruption and cronyism, but argues that the more recent land reform was driven from below, initially in the face of Zanu opposition, before the government finally decided to accept a fait accomplit – ‘perhaps the only thing Robert Mugabe and the British Government agree on is a myth, namely that Mugabe was responsible for the land occupations’. The book also points out that not all cronies are the same – some are just interested in speculating on land values, but others have actually become successful commercial farmers.

The more recent land reform comes in two types: ‘A1’ farms handed out about 150,000 plots of 6 hectares to smallholders by dividing up large white farms, while the ‘A2’ model sought to create large black commercial farms by handing over much larger areas of land to about 23,000 farmers.

One side effect of Zimbabwe’s educational record is plentiful research and survey data, which the authors make the most of in exploring the impact of the land reform. Has most land gone to government cronies? No.  Large-scale black commercial farmers have received just 7% of the land handed out since independence.

The first half of the book covers this history, the second surveys today’s agriculture, with evocative reportage from the field supplementing the number crunching. The book draws lessons about which farmers succeed and which fail, and why.

Overall, a lot of the smaller A1 farmers (including a significant number of women beneficiaries of the land reform) have become successful small commercial producers, breaking into markets for tobacco, maize and barley, often as contract farmers. This despite the lack of support for new farmers (a contrast to the lavish support for white newbies in earlier times).

The big A2 farmers have faced more of a struggle, both because hyperinflation and economic crisis had more of an impact , and because political infighting and favouritism tends to target the big farms. The largely unreported story here, though, is that the dollarization of 2009 and subsequent economic stabilisation has led to a resurgence of agriculture.

Not all is great of course, land reform has led to deforestation, and gold panning is causing environmental damage. Paid agricultural Zimbabwe land hungerworkers now number more than a million, and often face low wages and poor working conditions. Water and irrigation remain a big challenge.

The book concludes:

‘In the biggest land reform in Africa, 6,000 white farmers have been replaced by 245,000 Zimbabwean farmers. Zimbabwe’s land reform has not been neat, and huge problems remain. But 245,000 new farmers have received land, and most of them are farming it. They have raised their own standard of living; have already reached production levels of the former white farmers; and with a bit of support, are ready to substantially increase that production.’

So who’s right, the book or the Daily Mail? I’m off to Zimbabwe for a few days in March, so hopefully will get a clearer idea then, but would love to hear your views before I head off.

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