Land reform – the way forward

BY MUSANDE MTAUSI

ontinuing the analysis of the reasons for the failure of the land reform programme and what can be done to restore some semblance of a viable, commercial agricultural sector in Zimbabwe. Part 3 of our 3-part series. Reasons for failure: - The Patronage Game. It is comm

on knowledge that supporters of the ruling party got the lions share of the land. Peddling political influence created first choices on area, soil type and climate, despite the complete lack of knowledge of farming. This created the new word combination of kufamu kwangu or At My Farm, I do this and that – when effectively there was on going extermination of wild life and logging of trees for firewood. The firewood had a ready market in urban dwellers for braais, winter fires and those who could not afford the cost of electricity. – The Tribal Game. There was also a significant tribal element in the land reform exercise. Zimbabwe is for Zimbabweans and any land should have been available to anyone from whatever tribe. Complaints are all over for failures to get land in certain provinces. – Input Support Game. Government came up with a massive input support programme to bolster the perceived successes of the land reform. The idea was indeed noble but fell short of making any impact for two main reasons. First, even those who had the resources got inputs ahead of the farmers who were obviously resource- constrained. Inputs were sold on the black market at the expense of poor farmers. Second, inputs were delivered to needy farmers when the planting period was effectively over. – Wrong Advice. Some farmers were even encouraged to plant as late as February. That is obviously wrong advice. Agricultural experts who make such recommendations have a political agenda, which eventually creates loss of confidence. – Destruction of Infrastructure. The violent land reform was accompanied by destruction of infrastructure such as irrigation, farm equipment and greenhouses. The vandalism was unexpected as invaders were supposed to benefit from excellent infrastructure and continue with profitable farming. Massive funding for infrastructure rehabilitation and development is currently underway, with money that could have been used elsewhere were it not of the violence. This sets the country back 30 years. Agriculture is the backbone of the countrys economy. There are insinuations from the current crop of politicians that Zimbabwe could survive on imports from money generated by platinum. As always this shows is disregard for the lack of financial and technical resources to exploit the mineral deposits economically. Someone else will have to do the mining for us and we will not get the lions share of the proceeds. Angola and Nigeria are probably the best example of this happening elsewhere in Africa. These two countries are some of the worlds largest producers of crude oil but the economies are malfunctioning and agriculture is needed to stabilize the economies and stop reliance on imports of basic food. This means there is no substitute for agriculture in Zimbabwe and the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa. But Zimbabwe faces an uphill task to make the sector functional and productive. A number of factors need serious consideration, including respect of property rights, rationalization of current land tenure systems, free market input supply system, free commodity marketing, farmer training and development, properly structured financing of the sector and positive political thinking by all Zimbabweans. The seizure of white owned farms was the beginning of the end of property rights on farmland. White commercial farmers used land as an economic unit through which they could access finance from banks. The appropriation and nationalization of land through the 17th constitutional amendment of 2005, means property rights on land will be a thing of the past. Investment in agriculture will therefore no longer be considered safe. There are distortions on land reform. Some land is lying idle, reserved for unknown people. There is need to revisit the current land tenure system born out the chaotic land reform. There is no accountability on land use. The government has to come clean and remove unable farmers, war veterans or party supporters. The input supply system is biased and in favor of government supporters and party cadres. There is need for transparency and accountability on inputs. While inputs are given on credit, the credit system is confused and subject to abuse. Inputs are never paid for. There is need for re-introduction of a free market system for input. A farmer must purchase inputs for farming. A farmer must borrow money to finance inputs. That will make the farmer accountable and productive. Free inputs do not commit farmers to the land. Soon after the onset of the violent land reform, the government was failing to account for its large investments in agriculture. There were reasonable maize deliveries to the Grain Marketing Board. To protect itself from shame of failure, the government came up with Statutory Instrument 235A, which restricted all maize and wheat trading to the Grain Marketing Board. This did not improve delivery and until today government can only hope and speculate on quantities to be produced and delivered to GMB. This has created uncertainty, confusion and panic and today we experience useless taskforces being formed. GMB must be a competitor in acquiring grain for strategic reserves to boost the food security of the country. Earlier this year the Deputy Minister of Agriculture alluded to long-standing concerns that 90% of the new farmers who benefited from the land grab had no idea of farming. The country needs a well-developed, focused and structured training and development program to mature our farmers in accountability, honesty, project management and commitment.

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