Sunday, February 17, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL ZW) Zimbabwe gets back its land

Zimbabwe gets back its land
Sunday, 17 February 2013 00:00

The land reform programme in Zimbabwe continues to attract interest both locally and internationally after its successful implementation benefited thousands of previously marginalised indigenous Zimbabweans. A new book, Zimbabwe Takes Back Its Land, focuses on how such beneficiaries have improved agricultural production. Below is Part Two of a panel discussion held at the London School of Economics and Political Science on January 28, 2013.

Jeannette Manjengwa:

Besides this research, we also used a lot of extensive research done about Zimbabwe’s land reform. There are numerous long-term studies about the land reform and from this research one of the things that came out was that initially 18 percent of the small farms were allocated to women, but more recently about 30 percent of the small farms that were transferred through reallocation or inheritance were transferred to women.

Apart from the women who were given land in their apparent right as women-headed households, women also benefited from the land reform through their husbands who were allocated land and they farm together as a family. The Government has actually introduced a policy where both names of the spouses are on the offer letter or the permit or the lease that is given. But, even though there are still problems when there is divorce or when the husband dies, but for us what we found even more interesting and important was the fact that the women are actually making decisions about farming together with their husbands.

They are making decisions. The farm may be in the name of the husband, but they work together as a team and we saw a lot of evidence of that. One of the members of the groups is Agnes.

Agnes joined the liberation war as a teenager, but, unfortunately, she lost her leg to a landmine accident in Mozambique and she was one of the leaders of the occupation in the Goromonzi district in 2000.

She was allocated land and she has built a brick house on it and looks after her three grandchildren after her daughter died. Her main crop is maize. The UNFAO estimates an average yield of maize on white farms was about four tonnes per hectare. That was average; obviously some were more. Now, Agnes is actually doing better than that.

There is Esther. She is actually getting eight tonnes per hectare from her maize. She farms on six hectares in Mazowe, which has some of the best farm land in Zimbabwe; fertile soils and better rainfall.

She was a teacher, but she grew up on the farm. She uses every inch of her farm and she also has irrigation. She has a winter crop as well. So, maize and soya beans then maybe wheat in the winter that is irrigated.

She has six workers, but she ploughs all her profits into the farm and she has been able to get two tractors and bought some more irrigation pipes.

She produces groundnuts and she has a peanut butter machine, which she uses to make peanut butter or dovi and sells it. So, we were amazed by what she has done with her six hectares and we said “where did she get all these things from?”

So, she picked up a handful of dirt and said it is all from the profits from the farm and her hard work.

Esther helps other farmers as well; she is a role model and inspires, helps the other farmers in her area.

Now, both Esther and Agnes that we have looked at previously are both becoming serious commercial farmers on their small plots of land.
In this slide, we see in the middle there, that is Tabeth at Rochester Farm.

She is not a big commercial farmer, but she is quite content. She told us that to her what is important is peace of mind coming from the land that she owns. She was a second wife and she shared one hectare of land with the other wife in the communal areas which was quite a sort of infertile field. So she joined the occupations in 2000 and was allocated a small farm with six hectares of productive land.

She grows maize and groundnuts and she does not have a peanut butter machine, but she is grinding the peanuts to make the dovi.

She sells the maize and the peanut butter and she gets a profit of about US$1 500 a year. Yes, it is not a lot of money and she is not a big commercial farmer, but she is now out of poverty and she says she has peace of mind.

Now, obviously, of course, these single examples prove nothing but they do give a face to the land reform because otherwise we are just talking about numbers and statistics and percentages.

So, I just wanted to give you a feel because these are real people who are working hard and the land reform is changing their lives.

We used a range of studies in the book and we included looking more closely at three farms, three former white-owned farms in Mashonaland Central and Mashonaland East and for those of you who are not familiar with Mashonaland, this is where the best agricultural land is.

It is the so-called breadbasket of Zimbabwe. Here, we see three farms — Kiyora, Springdale and Brookmead — and we surveyed all the 110 farmers on these farms and as you can see here these are the bars and the graphs of individual farmers and it shows their production.

The growth crop income for the 2010-2011 season and, as you can see, there is a lot of variation by the way. These farmers also grow their own food as well for household food security.

As with white farmers that Joe mentioned, there is also a spread; some are doing very well, some in the middle and some are not doing very well. And if you take this line, US$2 500 at the time we did the research, this was about the amount of money that a teacher or civil servant would be getting at that time.

Now, those who are below the US$1 250 line here are obviously struggling and they are in trouble.

Now, I want to point at Kiyora which seems to be standing out and seems to be having a lot of production. This is because they have got two crops a year: the rain-fed summer crop and the irrigated winter crop and there is a mixture of crops they grow: maize, sugar beans, soya beans, wheat and barley and the most successful ones are getting profits of up to US$12 000.

The winter crop; several of the people are growing barley as a winter crop. This is being grown as contract farming to a neighbouring white farmer John Soul. So, this shows the potential of productive collaboration with the white farming community. As you see, there is spread here, there is a spread of success or failure. We were particularly interested to find out what makes a successful farmer successful and what are the factors involved and from our research we found six factors.

So, these are the ones we found. They are not the only factors. There are others as well, but these are what we found to be important. First of all, you needed to have money to start.

Now, the World Bank in its new study says that new farmers in Zimbabwe are seriously undercapitalised; most have no financial assistance whatsoever.

So, they had to provide their own capital and some mortgaged houses and some used their savings, some were working and could use their income and often the spouse was working and the other one would go to the farm so that there would be some extra money for the important things.

For example, the case of Esther we saw, when she started farming in 2003 her husband, who is now dead, worked in Harare and he was able to provide the initial support for her.

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