Nelly Bassily | August 1, 2011
Land reform is a hot political issue in Zimbabwe. The government’s land distribution program is controversial; public opinion is divided. There were two distinct periods of reform: from 1979-2000, the principle of “willing buyer, willing seller” was applied, with economic help from Great Britain. The “fast-track land reform” began in 2000. Many press outlets referred to this process as “farm invasions,” as black Zimbabweans occupied land previously worked by white farmers. As this story shows, some black Zimbabweans are still waiting to be allocated land by the government.
In November 2010, a study was released which suggested that there were positive aspects of the land reform process which have gone largely unacknowledged:
Reaction to and discussion of this study can be found here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-11764004.
Refer to the website of the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement for the official statements on land reform: http://www.lands.gov.zw/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6&Itemid=3
A new documentary film entitled “Mugabe and the White African” has just been released. It shows one white farmer’s fight to defend his land. For more information, and to view it online, visit: http://www.pbs.org/pov/mugabe/
In November 2010, Farm Radio Weekly published a script about women’s access to land in Kenya:
Women’s right to land is necessary for community development (FRW 139) http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/12/20/women%E2%80%99s-right-to-land-is-necessary-for-community-development/
Farm Radio Weekly has published other stories related to land reform and land rights, including:
Kenya: Indigenous people will return to traditional home following landmark ruling (Issue 99, February 2010). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2010/02/15/1-kenya-indigenous-people-will-return-to-traditional-home-following-landmark-ruling-centre-for-minority-rights-development-witness-catholic-information-service-for-africa/
Southern Africa: Farm workers become farm owners (Issue 69, June 2009). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/06/08/3-southern-africa-farm-workers-become-farm-owners-inter-press-service-the-namibian/
East Africa: Farmers concerned about land grabs urge leaders to promote food sovereignty at climate change talks (Issue 91, December 2009). http://weekly.farmradio.org/2009/12/07/1-east-africa-farmers-concerned-about-land-grabs-urge-leaders-to-promote-food-sovereignty-at-climate-change-talks-the-globe-and-mail-jeune-afrique-daily-monitor/
Every country has national and traditional laws regarding ownership and rights to land. Difficulties with access to land and with secure title affect farmers’ livelihoods in similar ways. For example, farmers are reluctant to invest time and money in their farms if they feel the land or its products can be taken from them at any time. This may cause stagnation of local economies and communities.
You might like to research land issues in your community and consider to what extent these problems are happening locally. Contact local organizations and try to find farmers who have faced similar issues.
-What difference would it make to farmers’ lives if they had land ownership documents?
-What effect would this have on the wider community?
-Are there traditional customs of communal ownership in your area? Do they still work well today?
-Can women in the community own land in their own name?
-Is it difficult to establish land ownership and get secure title?
-Is legal advice or financial support available?