Logistics, corruption could hamper 99 year lease scheme

HARARE - In a bid to boost food production, the Zimbabwean government will give 99-year leases to the first batch of resettled black commercial farmers this week.
Ngoni Masoka, permanent secretary in the ministry of lands, said in a statement that the leases would demonstrate the government's com

mitment to empowering black farmers who had benefited from the government’s controversial fast-track land reform programme.
The leases will provide resettled commercial farmers with security of tenure, which could serve as collateral for loans to procure inputs. They have cited their inability to raise money and uncertainty about their future as reasons for the drop in production.
The leases will be issued to farmers who have been on their plots for at least three years, and have been vetted by the National Land Board for competence and commitment to farming.
Land expert and former head of the technical unit of the presidential land review committee Sam Moyo said the 99-year leases would increase the confidence of farmers. “Generally, many farmers falling under the A2 [commercial] scheme perceive having leases as a reason for them to feel more secure and, hopefully, to increase production.”
However, the group of beneficiaries could be small. “Given that there is a need to survey the farms, the numbers of farmers might not be large, since the capacity to survey the land seems limited. I doubt if the figure will go beyond 1,000.” Moyo added that the vetting process by the land board, while desirable, “might tend to be cumbersome”.
He said there was also concern that influential people could take advantage of their positions to get the leases ahead of the intended beneficiaries. At the height of the fast-track programme, many top politicians were accused of grabbing multiple farms in violation of the land policy, which stipulated that a person was entitled to only one farm.
Since the land would remain state property, there was a need for the government to clarify whether farmers could use their farms as collateral, said Moyo. “It is not yet clear how the government will deal with cases whereby a farmer goes to borrow from a bank and defaults: will the bank be able to repossess the farm and sell it? Because for as long as the plots remain state land, the government would still be involved.” – IRIN

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