Small farmers hold key to food security

JOHANNESBURG -  When agricultural businesses crashed following the 2000 land reforms, small-scale farmers were able to weather the storm, according to the University of the Western Cape's Programme for Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS).

Now, says Professor Ben Cousins, director of PLAAS, small farms need access to subsidised agricultural inputs to kick-start Zimbabwe’s recovery and to achieve food security, rather than attempting to undo land reform.

Ian Scoones, a Professorial Fellow at Sussex University’s Institute of Development Studies, and a PLAAS partner, said in his paper A New Start for Zimbabwe? that research conducted since 2000 in Masvingo had revealed that, despite low capital investment, small-holder farmers had done reasonably well, particularly in wetter parts of the province. Households have cleared land, planted crops and invested in new assets, many hiring in labour from nearby communal land.

A2 schemes, or small-scale commercial farms, had felt the constraints of the economic meltdown, but there were notable exceptions where new farming enterprises had emerged against the odds.

While not denying that political patronage was at play in the allocation of  high value farms close to Harare, 60 per cent of beneficiaries in Masvingo were ordinary farmers originating from nearby communal lands. 

This was not a rich, politically-connected elite but poor, rural people in need of land and keen to finally gain the fruits of independence, the report said. 

Scoones said resuscitating Zimbabwe’s agricultural industries was just a matter of packaging. 

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