Resettled farmers abandon land

There is no phrase other than Nigerian author Chinua Achebe ‘s “Things Fall Apart “ novel title that can aptly describe the en masse desertion of former white-owned farms by resettled black farmers in Matabeleland North’s prime agricultural areas. PAMENUS TUSO REPORTS.

None of the new farmers in Nyamandlovu grew desperately needed wheat for the nation this year.
None of the new farmers in Nyamandlovu grew desperately needed wheat for the nation this year.

Scores of black farmers, mostly those with Zanu (PF) links who were allocated land during the height of the controversial land reform programme in 2000 in Umguza and Nyamandlovu prime farming areas have abandoned their land.

Officials who spoke to The Zimbabwean this week confirmed the development ,which they attributed to a host of factors – chief among them lack of support from the government.

“I would not use the word abandonment – but what I can confirm is that some farms are no longer utilised. I know of a whole section of resettled farmland where farming activities have virtually come to a standstill,” said Winston Babbage, the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union Matabeleland North provincial chairperson in an interview.

Viability challenges

He said most of the affected farmers faced numerous viability challenges such as lack of capital, high utility bills and antiquated irrigation equipment grabbed from the displaced white farmers.

“I think Zimbabwe is the only country in the world which does not subsidise its farmers. Farmers need support in the form of cheap loans and farming inputs,” said Babbage.

According to documents in The Zimbabwean’s possession, only five farmers are still active out of the 42 new farmers who were resettled in the area during the controversial land “reform” programme.

None of the new farmers in Nyamandlovu grew desperately needed wheat for the nation this year, while only five new farmers planted the crop in Umguza area.

Cannot survive

Before the land resettlement programme Umguza and Nyamandlovu used to be the flagship of commercial agricultural activities with the rest of the arid Matabeleland province famed for livestock production. Long grass and shrubs now characterise vast tracts of land that used to grow a variety of crops for both local and export market.

Dumisani Ndlovu, who was allocated land in the area in 2002, has now relocated to Bulawayo. “I left my job when I was allocated land in 2002. I ploughed all my terminal benefits into the farming project but so far I have not realised anything from my investment. If anything, I am continuing to incur high production costs such as electricity, labour, chemicals, water and inputs,” said Ndlovu.

Bruce Nick, a former white commercial farmer in Umguza, said the sorry state of agriculture was not unique to Umguza and Nyamandlovu, but endemic in most resettlement areas.

“What is happening in Umguza and other resettlement areas is a clear manifestation of the failure of the land reform programme. When you use land as a political tool to get political power, these are the kind of results which you should expect. Even the so called successful black farmers cannot continue to survive under these harsh economic challenges,” he said.

Post published in: Agriculture

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