Editorial Comment: Recalling A1 offer letters ill-timed

herald most readThe recalling of offer letters issued to A1 farmers, while a step in the right direction in auditing land ownership, has come at the wrong time as farmers are seized with crop production matters. Getting the new land ownership document involves travelling to the offices of the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement and obviously this means being away from the land at a critical time farmers should be busy with operations.

We have no problem at all with the recalling of the offer letters and we understand what the Ministry is seeking to achieve.
While the exercise will benefit the ministry by enriching its database, it will also protect the farmers from being moved off the land by corrupt lands officers as they will now be expected to take personal and permanent residence on the allocated land.

The ministry also made it clear that no one will lose or be removed from the land and that should be good news to the farmers and it should be the reason why they must support the exercise.

It is only the timing that we are worried with.
We would have expected the exercise to have been done at any other time other than now when farmers are busy tilling the land, mobilising inputs, such as seed, chemicals and fertiliser. They spend much of their time preparing to farm and being productive.

Dividing their time between sorting out the offer letters and land preparation can be a big problem and naturally it is production that suffers at the end of the day.

We are not sure if lands officers will issue out the new offer letters on farms and through farm visits and if it is the case then there would minimal disturbance to farming operations.

In farming, timing is of essence and farmers who fail to adhere to planting times always produce poor yields, which translates to low production. Let the A1 farmers be given to time to prepare for the season without worrying too much about having to go and queue at the Ministry of Lands offices to get new offer letters.

Indeed the new land ownership document is important, there is no argument on that but our concern is only on the timing of the exercise.
It is a fact that long queues will form at the lands offices as farmers rush to regularise their offer letters and such stampede can easily lead to farmers spending long hours waiting to be given the document, time which they could have spent working on the land or doing any work associated with production.

We thus want to urge officials at the Ministry of Lands, who will be involved in the exercise, to work flat out to ensure farmers do not spend long hours and days to get the new offer letters.

It would be a big loss of productive time to have farmers visiting the lands offices for two or more days when they should be at the farm.
It is our hope that the exercise would be done with little or no hitches so that farmers can get on with the business of farming.
Farmers should spend more time scratching heads on inputs mobilisation than queuing at ministry offices to get the new land ownership document, however important it is.

Having said this we, however, applaud the ministry for the decision on the new detailed offer letters and hope that once everything is said and done, farmers will be able to carrying with production and turn the vast tracts of land into greenbelts.

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  • Sibo

    “We”? Was this editorial written by an intern ?

  • Alex

    Mr. Editor
    I think you have failed in your editorial. There are questions that need to be clarified by the Lands Ministry which I think you should raised. The timing of the exercise is critical not in terms of the farming season that is upon us but in terms of what the exercise is all about. There is not much awareness campaign if any. It is such exercises that leads to speculation and corruption. A1 farmers have been operation on the basis of a permit since the start of the fast track land reform and there are hundreds of thousands families that benefited directly and many more hundreds of thousands that benefit indirectly through the A1 farms. One would expect a transparent exercise on a change of format for such properties that affect so many people. The transparency should cover consultation on the changes from permit to offer letters, weaknesses of the permit system and benefits of the offer letter system and the form in which the offer letter system should take. This consultation process should be advertised so that all interested stakeholders give their inputs or raise their concerns. The next stage should have been drafting of the new system ensuring that in captures and balances the concerns of stakeholders after which the draft should have been opened for inspection so that interested stakeholders can comment on it. Once that stage was done then the final document should have been drafted and be ready for implementation. Before it is implemented the implementation programme should have been drafted and key stakeholders consulted to ensure smooth implementation. This is where your comment is relevant. The implementation programme would then need to be advertised so that everyone is aware of the procedures to be followed and who will be involved and where the change would be effected and when the exercise would end. Mr. Editor is this programme known by the nation? Your need to remind us of what it is all about. My opinion is that the Ministry is responsible is failing to do a good job. They need to go back to the drawing board and re-plan The Ministry is causing a lot of panic in the farms through their re-pegging of farms and allocation of land in areas that A1 farmers thought were grazing areas and now they bring this offer letter issue least understood by affected farmers..

  • Zimsit Hofisi