Zimbabwe: Farmers express mixed feelings on success of the land reform program (by Zenzele Ndebele for Farm Radio Weekly in Zimbabwe)

    | December 20, 2010

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    Forty-year-old Kennedy Ngwenya lives on Leigh Woods Farm, about 50 kilometres north of Bulawayo. He is one of the many farmers who received land through the Zimbabwean government’s resettlement program. But he believes that the government has not been of any help to resettled farmers like him.

    Mr. Ngwenya cannot produce enough food for his family. He says, “When we came here about seven years ago, we just told the white farmer that we had taken over his farm. We divided the farm amongst ourselves but we had no capital to start serious farming.”

    In February 2000, Zimbabweans rejected government plans to seize white-owned agricultural land for the resettlement of landless blacks. The rejection of the draft constitution set off what became known as the fast track land reform program.

    Today, farmers express mixed feelings on the land settlement program. Many resettled farmers in Zimbabwe are struggling to produce enough food for their families. They say the program failed to improve the food situation in the country.

    Methuseli Ndlovu is a neighbour of Mr. Ngwenya. He thought the government program was going to support resettled farmers to buy farm inputs. He explains, “Most of us cannot afford farm inputs and we are failing to produce enough to feed our families. We now rely on donor agencies such as World Vision to give us food.” 

    Mr. Ndlovu says resettled farmers in his area face many problems. He explains, “Our cattle are dying because of the shortage of water. Our water pump engine is not working and we do not have the money to fix it.”

    But not all farmers in Zimbabwe are unhappy with the land resettlement program. Some farmers have benefitted greatly. They say that land resettlement was long overdue.

    Jonathan Sibanda is a farmer who lives in the Nyamandlovu resettlement area, 40 kilometres south of Bulawayo. His life changed for the better when he moved to the resettlement area. He says, “I used to live in a crowded village where I could not farm more than a hectare. Most of my cattle died because there was not enough land for grazing, and the nearest dam was five kilometres away.” After resettlement, Mr. Sibanda owns one hectare of land and has more than 30 cattle.

    Forty-year-old Mavis Ndlovu (no relation to Mr. Ndlovu) acquired a piece of land through resettlement. Her husband died a few years ago, and having this land has helped her family. She says, “I am doing different projects to feed my family using this land. I grow maize, groundnuts and beans. I also run a poultry project. Through this land I am able to send my children to school.” 

    Davison Masendeke is a regional agronomist in Matabeleland. He says the objective of the land reform was to empower the indigenous people. He is not sure this was achieved. He believes it caused the displacement of highly productive white commercial farmers and had negative impacts on food security. He explains, “It was a very noble idea, but those that were undeserving got land and never used it productively.”

    Adolf Dube is the Chief Livestock Production and Development Officer and lives in the north of Matabeleland. Mr. Dube says the land reform did not benefit most of those who were allocated land. He says, “To a large extent, the land reform only benefited most town dwellers that were homeless because they were given shelter to reside. It did not benefit people in terms of empowerment.”