|Land reform has potential to change lives: UN rights chief|
|Thursday, 24 May 2012 00:00|
VISITING United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Ms Navanethem Pillay yesterday acknowledged that the land reform programme had opened up economic empowerment opportunities for ordinary Zimbabweans. She said the land reform had the potential to change the lives of many Zimbabweans if they got the necessary support.
Ms Pillay was responding to questions from journalists during a tour of Panashe Estates Lot 1B in Mazowe, on the outskirts of Harare.
Referring to the owner of the farm, Mr Godwin Chitsinde, Ms Pillay said: “What we are witnessing here is part of the land reform process in which the farmer started farming on 5ha belonging to his family but has now blossomed into a commercial producer employing more than 90 people.
“I do not know how the land reform is being implemented elsewhere, but what I have seen here is very encouraging, especially Government’s involvement in deploying extension officers to help the farmers.”
Farmers, she said, had the capacity to produce even more were it not for challenges of funding and shortage of spare parts for equipment.
Most beneficiaries of the land reform she had seen, she said, were using their pieces of land and just needed to have the playing field levelled.
“People are working productively. They are not just holding on to land for speculative purposes,” she said.
Mashonaland Central provincial administrator Mr Josphat Jaji said the farmers could even be producing more if it were not for the illegal sanctions that were making it difficult for them to secure lines of credit and import spare parts.
To this, Ms Pillay responded that she could not say whether the farmers’ plight was sanctions or weather induced, as she did not know much about the country’s land reform process.
Panashe Estate sits on 337ha of which 240ha are arable while the remainder is used for cattle pastures.
Mr Chitsinde has 50ha of seed maize while the remainder of the farm is put under soya beans, commercial maize and sugar beans. He was resettled in 2002.
He boasts a herd of 120 cattle.
Earlier in the day, the UN chief visited Boka Tobacco Auction Floors where she also acknowledged that farming, especially tobacco production, had vastly improved the livelihoods of women.
Tobacco Industry and Marketing Board chairperson Mrs Monica Chinamasa told her that tobacco was one of Zimbabwe’s largest foreign currency earners accounting for over 80 percent of its total agricultural exports.