Land reform disaster – clear evidence

The view from Clipsham Farm, east of Gweru, is ample evidence of President
Robert Mugabe's disastrous land grab. Stalks of a maize crop and overgrown
grass is all that remains on this once productive commercial farm in the
Midlands. From the front window one can clearly see what

was once a rolling
field of lush green wheat. It has been reduced to a bed of dry stalks after
pro-government militants seized the farm.
“This field used to produce a crop worth billions if not trillions,” said a
former farm worker.
At Manyati village not far from Beatrice, 41-year-old widow and
mother-of-four Mary Makombo despairs.
“The five bags of maize we harvested will take us to around August, after
that I do not know what we shall eat,” she says.
Zimbabwe, in the throes of its worst economic and political crisis since
independence, faces critical food shortages because of disruptions in
agriculture, and a severe lack of foreign aid and hard currency.
Illegal farm seizures and chaotic fast-track land reform, as well as a delay
in the start of the rainy season last year, shortages of fuel, farming
inputs and a mid-season dry spell, all combined to cause a drop in
agricultural production, said a University of Zimbabwe (UZ) crop science
Agricultural analysts say the failure of the state-run Grain Marketing Board
(GMB) to pay communal farmers, who normally produce 60 percent of Zimbabwe’s
maize, has been a major contributing factor to the looming food crisis.
Observers agree that preventing starvation next year in Zimbabwe will
require external help. But with an election on the horizon, the government
has been reluctant to acknowledge the extent of the problem.
Sacked Finance Minister Herbert Murerwa told parliament earlier this year
that 800,000 tons of maize and 300,000 tons of wheat would have to be
imported to make up for shortfalls in domestic production.
According to a United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
estimate in June, Zimbabwe will need to import a total of about 970,000 tons
of maize and wheat to avert starvation and replenish its reserves.
The Zimbabwe Grain Producers’ Association (ZPGA), bringing together the few
remaining mainly white large-scale commercial grain producers, said
according to its research the country last season produced 400,000 tons
against a total annual requirement of 1,8 million tons of maize. The country
needed to import a minimum of 800,000 tons of maize, ZPGA said.
“Without these additional imports Zimbabwe will run dry of maize until the
new crop is harvested,” an official with ZPGA said.
University of Zimbabwe (UZ) political scientist Eliphas Mukonoweshuro told
The Zimbabwean that the government was deliberately downplaying the food
shortages for fear that Zimbabweans would hold it’s fast-track land policy
“For the government to accept figures scientifically produced by local and
international food experts that put the food deficit much higher would be
accepting a liability,” Mukonoweshuro said.
Although the government continues to publicly downplay the possibility of a
major food crisis, action on the ground suggests that Mugabe’s
administration is taking the threat seriously. Last month the government
started impounding maize from rural farmers and banned all exports of basic
foods, including the staple maize meal. A team of soldiers under the
Operation Maguta/Inala initiative is enforcing the operation. Mugabe has
also hiked producer prices for maize and wheat in an attempt to stimulate
Meanwhile, in regions with low rainfall, like the Masvingo and Matabeleland
provinces, there are already visible signs of worsening food shortages with
most families requiring food supplements because they did not harvest enough
to feed themselves. But with little external aid forthcoming and dwindling
amounts of foreign currency to import food, their plight seems set to

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