Land reform a Zim success story

President Mnangagwa

President Mnangagwa

Joseph Hanlon Correspondent
In his speech after being sworn in as Zimbabwe’s new President on November 24, Emmerson Mnangagwa, stressed the role of the country’s land reform farmers in boosting the country’s economic recovery.

They have excelled recently.

Zimbabwe produced more maize in 2017 than was ever grown by white farmers, who have repeatedly been praised for making the country the breadbasket of Africa.

Maize production in 2017 was 2.2 million tonnes, the highest in two decades.

Good rains helped, but even the United States Department of Agriculture said the huge increase in maize production was “mainly due to favourable weather conditions and a special programme for import substitution, commonly termed “Command Agriculture”.

That programme was implemented last year by Mnangagwa, when he was vice president.

Under the programme, land reform farmers signed contracts for a certain number of hectares and agreed to sell at least five tonnes of maize per hectare to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB).

The Government provided seed, fertiliser, and, if needed, tractors and fuel for ploughing, and the cost was deducted from the sale price of the maize.

Compared to 2011, another good rainfall year, maize production jumped 700 000 tonnes — more than half of which was due to the Command Agriculture programme.

Earlier this year, before he was dismissed as vice president, Mnangagwa announced that the programme would be expanded for the coming agricultural season — when more good rains are also forecast.

The politics of land reform

Robert Mugabe was displaced as president partly by pressure from the war veterans, who he led to victory in Zimbabwe’s independence struggle. But they had stood up to him much earlier, in 2000, as I documented in a book on the issue, written with Teresa Smart and Jeanette Manjengwa, who was recently appointed to the Zimbabwe Land Commission.

Mnangagwa was a liberation war veteran, and as he said in his inauguration speech: “Dispossession of our ancestral land was the fundamental reason for waging the liberation struggle.”

As we showed in our research, by 2000 the white farms were mostly under-used and the war veterans were fed up with Mugabe’s refusal to take them over. They moved against him. In a carefully organised campaign over the Easter weekend that year, 3 000 huge white-owned farms were occupied by 170 000 Zimbabwean families.

Mugabe was initially opposed to the move, but when he saw the popularity of the occupation, he reversed his position — and was happy to be blamed for the occupation by the British Press and media.

The occupation was legalised and small farms were marked out on the land that had been formerly owned by the white farmers. But the new farmers received little support and had to pull themselves up by their bootstraps. It took a decade, and the economic mismanagement and hyperinflation of the 2000s did not help, but the 146 000 smaller farmers with land of six hectares saved and reinvested and became highly productive — and created 800 000 jobs. The development economist Ian Scoones points to the way vibrant market towns have grown up around the land reform farms.

But a group of 23 000 medium-sized farmers with 10-50 hectares had limited capital to get start and farmed only part of their land.

From their limited production they could not save enough to buy the fertiliser and tractors needed for the larger farms. Mnangagwa’s Command Agriculture programme was aimed at this group, and credit provided by the programme more than doubled their maize production.

The other success has been tobacco, with US$576m produced in 2017 — mainly by land reform farmers. Clearly, Zimbabwean farmers are willing to work hard, given the land and the opportunity.

The compensation question

Mnangagwa has been part of the Government since independence, so this is only a change of leadership. Corruption dogged Zimbabwe under Mugabe, but nevertheless, Mnangagwa was already moving to curb it. Participation in the Command Agriculture programme was voluntary, but Mnangagwa used the army to check that the agreed number of hectares had been ploughed and planted. Some senior figures from the ruling zanu-pf party were arrested for fraud for selling fertiliser and diesel that was meant for other farmers.

Officially no family can have more than one land reform farm . . . Last year, under pressure, a Land Commission was named, and in his inaugural speech Mnangagwa increased support for it “to ensure that all land is utilised optimally.”

The new President will need to rebuild links with the international community, and a vexed issue has been the demand for compensation for displaced white farmers.

Mnangagwa said in his speech that “the principle of repossessing our land cannot be challenged or reversed”.

But, he continued: “My government is committed to compensating those farmers from whose land was taken.”

But that is a fraught issue inside Zimbabwe, because the white farmers received their land in the 1930s to 1950s only by expelling tens of thousands of Zimbabwean farmers already on the land.

Restarting and restructuring the economy will now be a priority.

But Mnangagwa recognises the centrality of farming and the success of the land reform, so agriculture is likely to take the lead. — Conversation Africa.

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  • Doris

    A racist article with incorrect facts. Do more homework before you write rubbish like this.

    • Piankhi

      The truth hurts don’t it. When white racist thieves now cannot dictate the story now it is racist. Just like the racist environment that was put on black for the last 137 years. You white people came, you stole, you murdered, and you created fake ownership of stolen property. No one in their right minds would have a conversation about whites being compensated for land their parents and great, great grandparents stole and murder black Zimbabwe for. And then 137 year later cry that blacks took land from whites. That is a conversation I would not have. The insanity that White Supremacy live behind only benefits them. Any black official to speak of compensating any descendants of white thieves that massacred blacks for our right land should be tried for treason. The notions these worthless whites have something coming to them but a big boot to kick their thieving ### off this continent and back to that land of ####their ancestors came from is the only compensation that have coming. Blacks have been mentally oppressed to think whites did something for Zimbabwe or Africa at large but bring murder, invasion, destruction and theft to a people that had no issues before white parasite came on this continent. Facts normally make them uncomfortable and avoid all they have done to blacks and only try a create a narrative of today and forget or avoid the inhuman behavior and death they brought to blacks people on this continent.

      • gibson george

        In the meantime the black tinpot dictators are laughing all the way to their off shore accounts. I believe Mugabe has over 2 billion dollars there. Oh dear. What happened to the socialist utopia lol

      • gibson george

        In the meantime tell your blacks not to go and live in white countries and wiping ** from white ** lol

        • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)


        • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

          Blacks are going to universities there and will eventually take over,

        • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

          Still better than white racism.

      • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

        Well said.

    • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)

      True facts. The Whites wanted to do to the poor Blacks what they did to the so-called aborigines of Australia and the so-called natives of North and South America and the Caribbean, Sorry the greedy whites failed in Africa,

  • Ticha Rukuni

    It is a true shame that justification for a chaotic program is still trying to be dug out given ththe positive progress of th recent weeks!
    Why do you gloss over that it took for a exceptional season of rain and prices twice the world price to get successful production ? Also the relative yields in Zimbabwe compared to its neighbours in the region are shocking !!
    Why do you not include statistics about horticulture, sugar livestock, dairy, coffee and cotton ?
    Why do you quote tobacco in value instead of tonnage ? Is it fair to compare prices of twenty years ago against today?
    I think we just have to say that it happened, it was a political and racial tool instead of based on productivity which has haunted our balance of trade for the last twenty years.
    The president has rightly identified the need for agriculture to regain it’s place in underpinning economic growth through value addition and import substitution. The most important step in our country becominging competitive through productivity once again.

    • Mnaizi

      Why all the sour grapes? Bottom line, there’s progress and a great increase of production. Economic growth, in any sector, is almost always progressive not instantaneous. It’s also important to realize, global agricultural prices are affected by the American and European governments subsidies to their farmers. While it’s understandable (they think of their own economy and food security), they subsidy their own farmers with money generated from the rest of the economy (manufacturing, products and services industry, financial services, taxes, etc) distorting the prices of agricultural products and equipment worldwide. At the same time removing the competitive advantage developing countries had in agriculture before those subsidies. Their farmers can sell products below or close to production cost and still make a profit because of those American and European government subsidies.

      • Proud African (Micah X.J. RIP)