Saturday, 05 February 2011 21:26 The Herald Zimbabwe
By Tinashe Farawo
THE Government has achieved its objective of empowering indigenous Zimbabweans through the land reform programme as two-thirds of the beneficiaries are ordinary citizens, a new study has revealed.
The research, conducted by the African Institute for Agrarian Studies and led by Professor Sam Moyo, has found that most beneficiaries were from rural farming backgrounds and unemployed.
It also says the newly resettled farmers continue to improve despite experiencing financial constraints.
In the research report, Prof Moyo dismisses assertions that the programme had seen an increase in causal labour, saying a large proportion of maize and cotton produced in recent years originated from newly resettled farmers as confirmed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation/World Food Programme Report of 2009.
Part of the report reads: “The results of the survey indicate that there is scant evidence to support most of the commonly held assertions regarding the outcome of the fast-track land reform process in terms of who gained access to land, their security of tenure and the failure to realise meaningful rural social reproduction.
“Only about 15 percent of the land beneficiaries could be considered ‘elites’, including high-level employees and businesspeople who are connected to Government and the ruling Zanu-PF.
“By far, the largest number of beneficiaries are people who have a relatively low social status and limited political or financial (commercial) connections, although some of these may have important local connections and influence.
“Most of the beneficiaries were from rural farming backgrounds (mainly in communal areas and as farm workers), while many of the urban beneficiaries are working people and from among the unemployed.”
The study, which is said to be the only extensive survey of six districts across six provinces in most of the agro-ecological regions, shows that land tenure insecurity is not a major problem in resettlement areas.
It also emerged during the survey that inadequate input supply has hampered production in recent years.
“The majority (of new farmers) were resettled from neighbouring rural settings, to which many remain connected.
“A much lower proportion of the land beneficiaries, than is often alleged, remains in formal employment and has access to State resources, given also that the job market has been deteriorating and that there has been inadequate public input supply and financial support.
“Land tenure insecurity is not commonly cited as a problem in the newly redistributed areas, as only 18 percent of the beneficiaries cite either land conflicts, including their lack of ‘title’ and fear of eviction as factors which limit their social reproduction and/or production. Instead, crop inputs by most land beneficiaries are found to be the main constraint to agricultural production.”
In an interview last week, University of Edinburgh (Scotland) PhD candidate and researcher Mr Grasian Mkodzongi said the fast-track land reform programme was successful.
He, however, cited inadequate funding as a major impediment to increased yields.
“The land reform programme was, to a large extent, successful and it’s not true that it only benefited the well-connected,” he said.
“It also benefited poor people from rural areas and the unemployed.”
Last year a Professorial Fellow at the Institute for Development Studies at Sussex University in the United Kingdom, Professor Ian Scoones, also published a study on the programme, declaring it a success.
“There has been a lot of distortion and misleading facts.
“Debates have stuck in emotional and ideological positions around land,” he said.
Prof Scoones said some crops grown by small-scale farmers since the beginning of the reforms had increased tremendously.
Small grain production went up by 163 percent, edible dry bean production by a whopping 282 percent and cotton by 13 percent.
“The agricultural sector has been transformed and there are problems but it has certainly not collapsed,” he said.
Of the 400 resettled farmers interviewed during the research, only 5 percent could be categorised as elites, he added. “Yes, there have been problems. We would not deny that has been part of the story, but it’s not the whole story,” he said.
“We have to appreciate both the successes and failures and not to take a misleadingly one-sided perspective on it all.
“Sometimes this is reported in very respectable newspapers in the UK, South Africa and Zimbabwe, but this is simply not supported by facts on the ground. Sure, there are elites who have benefited, but, overall and certainly from our study, we found that about two-thirds of the beneficiaries were mostly poor people from rural areas.”