Zimbabwe cotton farmers earned from this year's yield according to a recent article in the state newspaper The Herald. The land redistribution program in this Southern African state has provided farms to people dispossessed by colonialism., a photo by Pan-African News Wire File Photos on Flickr.
How land reform beneficiaries conquered
Sunday, 10 February 2013 00:00
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail
On January 28 2013, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) hosted a panel discussion on a new book, Zimbabwe Takes Back its Land, which details how beneficiaries of the land reform programme have faced all odds head-on to improve agricultural production.
On the panel were the authors: Joseph Hanlon, a visiting senior fellow at the LSE and an honorary research fellow at the University of Manchester; Jeanette Manjengwa, the deputy director of the Institute for Environmental Studies at the University of Zimbabwe; and Teresa Smart, a visiting fellow at the Institute of Education, University of London.
Below is Part One of a transcript of the discussion that will be serialised in subsequent issues of The Sunday Mail.
Teddy Bridge: It’s very nice all the people are here this evening, I’m very pleased to welcome you here.
We are talking this evening about what’s been one of the sorts of big and most spectacular issues in African development over the last decade, which is to say the land reform in Zimbabwe and its long-term consequences.
I was doing work in Zimbabwe, myself. I’m Teddy Bridge from the Department of International Development in the early 21st century.
And that was the point at which after the enforced land reform, some people would call it the enforced land seizures, Zimbabwe appeared to be going down the tubes and in a very serious and ultimately irreversible way. We all know by the time I was there in the early . . . I was there in 2001 no 2003/4 and 5.
One had reached the point where people were queueing for petrol and food was having to be imported and a lot of people were dependent on handouts.
And the story was the land reform had totally failed that few of the available farms had been given to cronies, weren’t operating and that small farmers who had been given land were unable to use it and were just operating on a subsistence basis.
So I’m very pleased to be able to listen to people who have been in Zimbabwe recently and who are looking at what’s happened.
What is it now 12,13 years down the line?
All of you who are sitting here can get a lot more information from the book they have just produced and that is the starting point for this discussion “Zimbabwe takes back its land”.
Joe Hanlon is from the Open University and Jeanette Manjengwa is actually from the University of Zimbabwe and Teresa Smart (who is the third author and who won’t be speaking on the first round) is from the Institute of Education in London.
I should also say that we are very pleased here to have Charlie Taffs — who is the chairman of the Commercial Farmers’ Union in Zimbabwe who is sitting over there and having his picture taken at this moment who, in fact, offered to come after we put the panel together and we will be asking him to make some comment at the end of this discussion.
Speakers are hoping to get over their presentations in just over half an hour and we hope to have an extended discussion just after that, so thank you very much.
Joseph Hanlon: Honourable, I’m amazed at the audience. Thank you for coming. Our book is about the land reform in Zimbabwe and we are looking at what is on the ground now, so, we spent a lot of time talking to the farmers looking at research that has been done recently touching on land reform.
But, one of the things we found is, one of this raises a set of very much broader issues, particularly about the merits of large-scale farming versus small-scale farming and this is not a new issue. The farm scale debate goes back at least a century to Soviet debate about state farms versus small farms and it is still going on.
Last year, we saw all the coverage about land grab in Africa and the G8 meeting in Washington last May actually agreed to use aid finance to help large agro-businesses to have large tracts of land in Africa.
And there has been quite a promotion about mechanised large-scale farms, yet last week we also had a campaign that was launched by all of the major NGOs here in Britain called Enough Food If.
And they said the biggest opportunity to reduce hunger is to support small-scale farms. Now Zimbabwe is interesting because it has seen both models.
In the 1930s and the 1950s you had the land grab in which half of Zimbabwe was given over to white farmers and the rest of the Zimbabweans were pushed to small plots.
That set the precedent of large-scale versus small-scale model within the then Rhodesia.
At independence in 1980, you had the shift back to supporting small-scale farmers. It really started with the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 which defined 51 percent of Rhodesia, the best land as being European and 30 percent as being native.
Yet at independence white farmers — there never were more than 6 000 white farmers — they had about a thousand hectares each.
They had a huge subsidy from the government. We calculate that the equivalent in that in current money would be about £30 000 per farm per year in subsidy.
The white farmers had guaranteed markets, they had differential pricing, whites would be paid more than blacks for their maize, for instance, and they had a huge extension services science and technology support.
Rhodesia was one of the first places to develop hybrid seed maize and yet only one third of the arable land was used. A recent World Bank report which came in November again talks about the under-utilisation of the land by white farmers.
The other thing is that the white farmers were not very successful; 30 percent of them were insolvent — bankrupt — they survived on subsidy.
Another 30 percent only broke even; they fed themselves, but they didn’t make the profit.
So it was the rest who were doing relatively well and 5 percent of the farmers were doing spectacularly well.
And they are the ones who are always held up as the success of large-scale commercial farming in Zimbabwe, but they are a very small group, now what you had at independence was a specific shift to support small-scale farmers, particularly the shift of maize from the white commercial farms to the black communal farmers and this was done by shifting the marketing system, the extension system, the input system from the white sector to the black sector.
It also meant paying higher prices to the black farmers instead of white farmers; just a reverse of the colonial policy.
And it was spectacularly successful, within a couple of years after independence maize production had jumped hugely and it was mostly being produced by small-scale black farmers.
You also had in the first years of independence the first land reform, 75 000 farmers got land which made it the largest land reform in Africa at that point.
It was under the willing seller-willing buyer policy of the Lancaster House Agreement which meant that the Government could only take farms that white farmers were willing to sell.
And that meant that exactly the unprofitable farmers on the poor land sold their land and the good land was not sold.
But it worked and we saw a move of the land reform farmers into cash crops — cotton, sunflower and other crops — and real accumulation by these land reform farmers.
The other surprising move to small farming was by the white farmers themselves, because there was a major shift to horticulture and horticulture — this is flowers and peas and so on — required relatively little land so where these huge white farms existed before, suddenly they were running on relatively fewer hectares very intensively.
The outcome of this was the black
Zimbabwean saw more and more land which was not being used or being inadequately used and that finally led to the occupations in 2000, which we will talk a little more about a bit later.
But one of the things which we have to say about land reform in general is the one of the experiences, it takes a generation for a new farmer to take control of their farm and become really productive.
We saw that with white farmers who came in the 1940s and 1950s we have seen it again with land reform farmers from 1980. And this is a kind of a global phenomenon, it takes a generation for farmers to really take control.
The other thing which was very specific for Zimbabwe was the hyper-inflation which reached its peak in 2008 and that made it difficult for all Zimbabweans but for the new farmers as well. From 2009 Zimbabwe has been using the US dollar as its currency and that has made a dramatic and very rapid change.
So the first question we want to ask is: how were the new farmers doing?
This is World Bank data, from a World Bank report that was released in November, we compare against the average for the 1990s looking at the two most recent seasons; 2010-2011 was a very good season, 2011 2012 was not a good season the rainfall patterns were very bad.
But what you see now is that maize production is creeping towards the level they were back in the 1990s that groundnuts and small grains are kind of up where they should be, tobacco production is increasing again, cotton production is going up.
So what we are seeing, in a sense, is that 10 years after the land reform, three years after the dollarisation we are actually seeing an agricultural recovery which is taking place in Zimbabwe.
Now the second land reform involved 170 000 families, a very large number — by far the largest land reform in Africa.
But, most Zimbabweans still live in communal areas which give you a chaotically mixed system in which you have communal farmers.
You have settlement farmers that are called A1 farmers which is where white farms were broken up into 50 smaller farms typically six hectares depending on arable land available.
You have larger A2 farms where white farms were broken up into 10 farms and you still got some large farms.
So any data about Zimbabwe is confused. But this is from Tendai Biti, the Finance Minister, and its production by sector 2011 August. What’s important about this is half of the maize is being produced by the resettled farmers, 40 percent of the tobacco is now being produced by the resulted farmers and so the resettlement farmers have become a major engine in agricultural production.
Now, when you talk about production that isn’t the only issue, it isn’t how much these people produce.
You can evaluate farming and the land reform also on question of how it affects poverty and one of the things that is important about the land reform is that the new farmers are less capital intensive and more labour intensive and that has led to a dramatic change in the workforce.
The best estimate is that there were about 167 000 full-time farm workers before the land reform, probably a 100 000 of those are still employed on estates, in timber and a number of other areas. But that means that at least 67 000 people lost their jobs, many of them lost housing as well.
What’s interesting about that number is that it is almost equal to the number of people who lost their jobs during the structural adjustment period in the ’90s.
So we have two huge blocks of people who lost full-time employment and that’s a very real issue. What is dramatic is that these new farmers are much more labour intensive so the estimate is that there are about 550 000 family members working full time on these farms and they are hiring 350 000 full-time workers. There little six-hectare farmers are hiring full-time workers.
So now we have more than a million people employed on the land compared to 157 000 under the regime of the white farmers.
That’s a dramatic change and, of course, these people are supporting families and so on, that has an impact in the transformation of poverty in Zimbabwe.
I have been talking about statistics and now we want to talk about real farmers so now I will pass to my colleague Jeanette.
Jeanette Manjengwa: Thanks Joe, good evening everybody. Joe has talked about the broader picture and, as he says, I am going to give you some examples of these farmers and I am especially going to focus on women resettlement farmers.
This is a group of women who worked with us during our research and they are also farmers. Besides this research, we also used the extensive research that has been done about Zimbabwe’s land reform.