Making markets: land reform, agriculture and new local economies in Zimbabwe

Over the last few weeks, a series of films have been posted based on work undertaken by the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development project in Zimbabwe. By looking at different commodities – tobacco, horticulture and beef – they have explored how land reform has created opportunities for new markets and employment.

A new locally-based and inclusive economy is being generated, replacing often narrowly based economic activity of the past. Not everyone benefits from these new spatially and socially different patterns of economic activity, but there are important lessons for future development strategy that emerge.

A focus on local economic development, and supporting new market networks and value chains that can add value and create employment from a transformed agrarian economy is crucial. This will require a rethink as to how we think about ‘commerical agriculture’ and market-led development, and move towards seeing rural development in a new spatial context, with land reform sites, linked to other areas of rural production, and to towns and cities, and wider markets.

As further research findings are produced, I will up-date blog readers. Meanwhile, you can have a look at all the films again in a playlist (both high and low res versions are below – and do run on the first 1 minute 30 sec introduction which is repeated in each. The playlist starts with an overview, and then moves to each of the commodity focused films. Click the icon on the top left of the image to see a choice of the films if you don’t want to watch the lot. They are all about 10 mins long).

The post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

 

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Transforming beef markets in Zimbabwe

This week the final film in the ‘Making Markets’ video series is released. This focuses on the transformed beef sector in Masvingo. In farms that were once large-scale ranches, with high quality animals stocked at very low rates, now a very different cattle production system has emerged on the new resettlements. Here multi-purpose herds are being kept providing multiple functions – draft, transport, milk, manure – and also meat. The beef market has radically changed, from one focused on high quality cuts and exports to the supply of a growing urban domestic market. New farmers are supplying beef via a range of private abbatoirs, butcheries, supermarkets and informal meat traders. The whole value chain has transformed in ways that has resulted in employment and more locally-based, inclusive growth.

The video picks up on themes discussed in earlier blogs, including on:

This work, and the production of the film, has been supported by the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development (SMEAD) project, looking at changing patterns of local economic activity following land reform.

Watch the video here (as before if you’ve watched others in the series, you can skip the first 1 min and 30 secs. Also if you would prefer a low resolution version, the link is here):

The post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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The new irrigation entrepreneurs: commerical horticulture in Masvingo

This week, we are releasing the next video in the ‘Making Markets’ series. This time it focuses on vegetable production in Mavingo (if you’ve seen the other ones, you can skip the first 1 min and 30 secs, as it’s the same intro. The total length is 11 mins. Also, if your internet connection is slow, there’s a lower resolution version too).

Mr Mahove of Wondedzo extension A1 resettlement area and his wives appear on the video, shot in 2014. He is an example of a new farming entrepreneur, focusing on irrigated horticulture for local markets. He was a pioneer in the area, but many others are now following his example, making often significant money from selling vegetables. We interviewed him in 2012 as part of the ‘Space, Markets and Employment in Agricultural Development’ project:

“I am 30 years and originate from Chikombedzi. I am married to six wives and we have a total of 11 children. I belong to John Marange Apostolic church which emphasizes self-reliance. I used to survive using my hands as a tin smith based at Bhuka Irrigation scheme some 20 km south of Masvingo town. While there I was impressed by the fact that people were prospering through irrigation. I am the elder son. My father passed on in 2004 and left behind a large family of 20 on this 28 hectare plot who had to be taken care of. I had no option but to inherit the plot and the responsibility over family.

“In 2006 I decided to practise what I had seen at Bhuka Irrigation scheme in order to make money and cater for family needs. We started irrigating with buckets from a small dam near the homestead from 2006 to 2007, selling vegetables locally and a bit to Masvingo town. The funds allowed me to buy a water foot pump. In 2010 I bought a 5 HP diesel water pump for USD $220. Members of the community who were irrigating using buckets started complaining saying I was finishing the water in the small dam. I was irrigating just 0.4 ha, but they still evicted me in 2010.

“I approached the councilor, also from my same church, who gave me part of his land (0.3 ha) close to Mutirikwe river to do my horticulture pumping water from the river at the start of 2011. The area proved too small to satisfy increasing demand for my produce. I approached the councilor again who allowed me to use part of state land allocated to the cattle dip. My total irrigable area was now 1.5 hectares. All along I was renting irrigation pipes from Mr Madzokere, a plot holder, for USD$ 17 per month. In 2011 I bought 46 irrigation pipes from Mbare/Magaba in Harare at USD$46 per pipe. I was now irrigating full time and making good money which made people jealous.

“The struggle to evict me started again. I was accused of invading the dip area. First I was reported to Vet Department. They came and were impressed by my irrigation and allowed me to continue because I was using only a small part of the dip area. I was reported again to   Zimbabwe National Water Authority ZINWA) for abstracting water without a permit. They came and again were impressed and advised me to get a permit which I did. ZINWA gave me a permit for domestic use which means I was not using amounts that warranted payment for water use. I was then reported to the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) . The allegation was that I was cutting trees during land clearing which caused deforestation. They came and made assessments and concluded there was no environmental threat in what I was doing. I was then reported e to the Ministry of Lands for using state land without a permit. The District Administrator, chief, councilor, Committee of Seven and other players became involved. They came to the conclusion that I was actually doing the community a service because I am the one who pumps water into the dip using my engine. The people who wanted me evicted had failed and as a last resort they physically confronted me at the irrigation plot. I stood my ground and they left humiliated up to now. I produce rape, tomatoes, cabbages and green mealies. I sell most of my rape and cabbbages to OK supermarket, Tsungai supermarket and the local market also buy rape and cabbages. The bulk of tomatoes is bought by 5   women vendors from the kutrain market in Masvingo. Supermarkets want tomatoes in bulk – the whole of 1 ha. I cannot supply that amount.

“I hope to manage the seasonal pattern of supply. For rape I supply 500 bundles twice per week. January to June is the highest production. It sells at 25-30c per bundle. The main season for cabbage February to September. I sell 300 heads/once per week at 50-65 c per head. I sell green mealies for $1 for 10, sold at Roy Business Centre along the highway. For green leaf vegetables we prepare dried vegetables (mufushwa) from poor quality plants and trimmings. This is sold at Masvingo kutrain market at $5/20 litre bucket.

“For transport I hire Mr Ruchanyu’s two-tonne truck. He’s a fellow Apostolic farmer nearby. It costs US$25 to town Also Mr Mugabazhi has a smaller 1 tonne truck. He is extension supervisor. He goes to work in town and will carry produce [since 2012, Mahove has bought his own from the proceeds of his sales]”.

Mahove is one of a number of new irrigation entrepreneurs in the Wondedzo area of Masvingo district. Each has invested in pumps and pipes and are making good use of available water supplies. All have developed market networks linking to Masvingo town and beyond, as well as supplying the local area. They are also employing people for a range of tasks. With a limited capital investment in irrigation equipment, the returns are significant, and many have, like Mahove, bought vehicles to assist with their marketing, as well as improving their homes, sending kids to school and so on.

But there are clear constraints to this form of production. Water is the key limitation, as the water sources are limited, and under increasing pressure. While extraction is not massive with the small pumps, as more and more join this form of small-scale commercial irrigation, seasonal water scarcities are emerging, along with conflicts over who has access. The authorities have not thought how to regulate such water access, as the Water Act offers only large-scale catchment management solutions geared to large scale irrigation. Policy innovation in this area will be important to ensure that people have equitable access to water, and that the resource is not permanently depleted. The other challenge of course is marketing. Mahove was a new entrant into the market, establishing early connections with supermarkets and traders. But there is intense competition, and major gluts at certain times of year. Tomatoes in particular are a favoured crop, and diversification is essential. This makes managing production in a market-sensitive way essential, as well as expanding out into processing to add value. Mahove and family are involved in drying vegetables, but other options will need to be explored in order to maximize income.

The post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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Tobacco: driving growth in local economies

The rebound of tobacco production in Zimbabwe is striking. From a low in the mid-2000s of only around 48 million kgs, the last season produced 216 million kgs, almost hitting the levels of historical peak production 236 million kgs. Last season recorded exports of some US$450m, with Belgium and China being the major buyers. For the coming season over 75,000 farmers have registered to sell, mostly from the communal areas, but some around 27,000 from A1 resettlement farms. This is dramatically different to the pre-land reform era when tobacco production was dominated by a about 2000 large scale farms.

How does tobacco production, spread across so many farmers, affect local economies? Our studies under the Space, Markets and Employment in Agricultural Development (SMEAD) project took us to the Mvurwi area in Mazowe district. Here you cannot escape the impacts of tobacco. Those growing, mostly through contracting arrangements (nationally this was about three-quarters of all production) are linked to a number of companies who provide inputs, transport and other support. This has allowed farmers with limited capital to get going. The new farmers are employing labour, including many from the former farm compounds, and are sinking their profits into a variety of businesses, including transport and real estate. They are improving their farms and homes, and buying farm equipment. It is an intensely vibrant local economy, with spin off benefits for those running shops, beer halls, transport busineesses and offering services from hairdressing to tailoring. There are downsides too, as the growing of tobacco, and particularly its curing has negative health and environmental impacts. The destruction of local forests for curing wood has been dramatic.

Our film on tobacco in the ‘Making Markets’ series tried to capture some of this dynamic, with interviews from farmers involved at different scales, both on A1 and A2 farms. Watch it here:

There are clear challenges in the tobacco sector, but the last few years has shown that small-scale farmers, supported by contracting arrangements, can contribute high quality products, and reap the benefits of of a high value export crop. And most significantly the benefits are more widely shared than was the case before, suggesting opportunities for a much more inclusive growth pathway.

The post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

 

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Making markets: local economic development following land reform

Today we are releasing a series of films on the relationships between land reform and economic activity in Zimbabwe, focusing on three commodities: tobacco, beef and horticulture. The films emerge from on-going work coordinated by the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies based at UWC in Cape Town under the ‘Space, Markets and Employment in Agricultural Development’ (SMEAD) project supported by the UK ESRC and DFID growth research programme. They were made by Pamela Ngwenya, supported by the field team. This week, I am posting the overview film which gives you a taste of the series. In subsequent weeks, I will post ones on the each of the three commodities we looked at.

Over the last couple of years the work has been carried out in Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe looking at the linkages between agricultural production, employment and other economic activity and the spatial patterns of these interactions. Through some detailed case study research, the project has been attempting to look at the different growth pathways linked to agriculture, and investigate how inclusive these are, asking who gains and who loses from agricultural commercialisation.

The study of course links to old debates about scale and agriculture, and the linkage and multiplier effects of different types of farming. Do big or small farms create more employment and economic growth, for whom and where? What spatial mix of farm sizes and markets make sense? Can local economic development flourish in an era of globalisation? These are not easy questions to answer, and that’s why the debate has continued and continued. It depends what commodity, which markets, what spatial arrangement of farms and markets, levels of infrastructure and much more.

But across our studies in southern Africa, some interesting patterns emerge. The cases from Malawi show very localised economic activities, with spillovers and connections occurring within a few kilometers. Few farmers are able to scale up, and although commericalised, the prospects for growth without wider shifts in the economy look bleak. In South Africa by contrast, the linkages were extensive, with very few steps to large companies operating in highly developed value chains, and linking to markets in distant urban conurbations. Here, for differnt reasons, the prospects for local economic development looked limited. The value was captured and exported, and employment was not being generated in the local area. Zimbabwe showed an intriguing middle ground. Here lots of local economic activity was evident, particularly linked to entrepreneurial farmers in the A1 resettlement areas. These farmers were selling into new value chains, created since land reform. These were more local, supplying markets in nearby towns and business centres for beef or horticulture, but also export markets for tobacco. Employment was being generated along the value chains, and benefits were far more widely shared.

The results of the study are still being processed, synthesised and written up and I will share more when the reports are out. But the early indications suggest an interesting story, especially for Zimbabwe. This suggests a focus on local economic development, capitalising on and amplifying the linkages already created by entrepreneurial farmers who have benefited from land reform. This will mean a major rethink of rural development policy and planning, but the benefits could be significant if the cases highlighted in these films are anything to go by.

The post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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Reviving indigenous crops: the return of millet in Gutu

A new report is just out making the case for the revival of indigenous crops – notably finger millet – as a way of tackling food security. The author, Chidara Muchineripi, is a management consultant in Harare, but also the son of a chief in Gutu. Since 2005, he has encouraged the revival in millet growing across Gutu as a response to drought and economic crisis.

This has all been done without external support and finance, and demonstrates what’s possible when the motivation is right. According to the report the growing of a core crop of millet has resulted in the accumulation of some 20,000 tonnes of stored grain, across 40,000 households. This provides a source of resilience against future shocks, improving the sustainability of livelihoods in the district.

It all sounds too good to be true. Unfortunately I missed the launch of the report in London, and I have not been able to visit the areas in Gutu (clearly the effort is focused outside the new resettlement areas, as the farmers in our sample in Gutu are sticking solidly to maize), but the data is impressive, and the testimony passionate.

But there are questions about the indigenous grain strategy being advocated. I speak from experience, as in the 1980s, together with an NGO ENDA Zimbabwe, I was involved in a project that promoted small grains – finger and pearl millet, and sorghum – in Zvishavane district. The project supplied seeds, and supported the processing of the grains with the provision of ‘dehullers’. While it did make some in-roads, by and large the project failed. The dehullers are now archaeological relics and most farmers in the area plant maize.

Why was this? There are a number of complex intersecting reasons. First, growing millet is hard work. Finger millet is a difficult crop and pearl millet is subject to massive bird damage, from flocks of Quelea who descend in large numbers on any field. This is a big turn-off, as bird scaring is labour consuming and troublesome. Older farmers used to tell us that the problem is worse because millet fileds are now few. Being a first mover growing millet is brave. Second, millets take a lot of processing. The hard outer layer has to be removed to get the flour – hence the dehullers. Without these, it’s tough pounding, and much more difficult to prepare than women. In discussions around the ENDA project, women always used to object. They didn’t want the hassle of going to the fields early and staying late – they had other caring work to do too – to scare the birds, and pounding for hours to get a few kilogrammes of millet flour was not worth the effort in their view. Finger millet in particular was not liked by women, as it encouraged beer drinking. While men would get quite motivated about millets in the discussions, it was women who often dominated the planting decisions, and it was striking that there was always much less millet planted than was discussed. In intrahousehold decision-making, women’s agency can be quite powerful. Third, is taste. Finger millet is good for beer, but many find the ‘sadza’ porridge of pearl or finger millet less a delicacy as is suggested in the new Harare ‘African’ restaurants. With the colour and consistency of concrete, pearl millet sadza is not my favourite food either! Several generations of people accustomed to easting white maize means that sadza from millet is difficult to sell (although it’s quite nice with soured milk I must admit!).

So there are reasons why adoption of millet is constrained. But the advantages of secure storage, as documented in Gutu, are potentially substantial. Millet stores well – for years. Unlike maize that needs to be consumed within a year, you can keep a granary full of millet over a full drought cycle. In the past, rainfall was patterned by cycles of a few years, with droughts coming more or less predictably. Having millet stores for the times when rain was less was essential for food security, and the store could be replenished when the rains returned. It was a perfect system for local level resilience. But with the move to maize, and the advent of food aid and relief programmes, these cycles have been disrupted. Climate change too has had an impact, as droughts are much more unpredictable these days, even if average rainfall has not shifted much.

In the areas I have worked in Masvingo and Midlands provinces, a key moment in this transition in the food crop mix and local food security system, was the devastating drought of 1991-92. This had a catastrophic impact on many fronts, and many were reliant on food aid through imports. Perhaps the most dramatic impact for the long-term was the disappearance of local varieties and land races, particularly of small grains. People had to plant their last seed stores, and when they didn’t grow, that meant the local extinction of a huge array of genetic variety, and with it the knowledge of what grows well where. A number of research and NGO projects – most notably the Community Technology Development Trust, whose head Andrew Mushita is a veteran of the ENDA experience – have tried to document and revive this genetic biodiversity, but with it lost from the farming and livelihood system, it is difficult to reincorporate.

Around that time, as part of a wider project on risk and farming systems, we did some modelling of risk responses under different conditions. Like all models it was only an interpretation of reality, but the approach used tried to simulate the type of stochastic variability seen in an increasingly volatile climate. The results were surprising. Despite the greater vulnerability to low rainfall episodes, a maize dominated strategy came out better than one focused on small grains in the model. This was because of the costs of production, and the value of maize. As long as this value (in the form of grain or cash) could be carried over to the following year, opting for risky maize made sense especially for the poor.

Farmers didn’t need a model to show them this – and especially women, for the reasons described – but it highlighted how complex decision-making under conditions of high variability is. As the model showed, mixed strategies made the most sense, with a smaller amount of millet as part of a mix. As the maize economy came under stress in the 2000s with the failure of markets, and government support through the Grain Marketing Board, new incentives to secure food locally emerged. In this period, for the first time in decades, the political and economic support for maize had disappeared. And without state support and the absence of a cash market because of hyperinflation, the maize reliance strategy became much riskier, and a local production system became preferable.

I suspect it’s a combination of these factors have pushed farmers in Gutu to take up millet again at the peak of the economic crisis. These were very different conditions to those in the late 1980s, when the earlier millet focused strategies foundered. Context matters a lot, and it is a combination of factors – markets, taste preferences, labour requirements and the wider political economy of crop support – that combine to make one technology more or less favourable. Maybe the experiences from Gutu suggest that the age of millets are returning, and we will have to get used to a different type of sadza.

The post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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The big thaw: Zimbabwe comes in from the cold

The last few weeks have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity, culminating in the announcement that the European Union is to remove restrictions on financial aid to the government, and a new $300m programme would start in the new year focused on governance, health and agriculture.

This is long overdue. The sanctions imposed by western countries have done far more harm than good, and have provided an unnecessary political block to progress. The announcement was made by the new EU ambassador to Zimbabwe, Phillipe van Damme, and he was flanked by ambassadors from ten other EU countries, including Britain.

The thaw with Britain continues too. The new UK ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing, presented her credentials to the President recently (there’s even a youtube video of the event!), and she tweeted enthusiastically about the opportunity to discuss UK-Zimbabwe relations, describing her new posting as her ‘dream job’. An interesting interview in the Herald exposed a very different stance to the frosty relationships in recent years. Her background is in development, and she previously worked for DFID, so it bodes well for UK engagement in the development field.

Zimbabwean officials too seem to be on the charm offensive with the west. Patrick Chinamasa argued that the policy is no longer just ‘look east’, but ‘look everywhere’. VP Joice Mujuru hosted a British trade delegation and the trade minister from Denmark was also warmly received. The UK government proclaimed the trade mission a great success.

All this is of course about trade and business, and the interests of capital, and its influence on foreign policy. The sanctions from the early 2000s sent signals to many western investors and there was a massive flight of funds. Indeed the decline in investment had a far greater impact than the sanctions per se. European business has therefore lost out from the isolation of Zimbabwe. And it’s widely recognised that much has been conceded to the Chinese, Indians, Brazilians, South Africans and others. In some sectors – mining and tobacco for example – traditional commercial relationships with the west have been pushed aside in favour of new partners. This has cost Britain and others market share and economic influence. The trade delegation from the UK was keen on a range of investments, from infrastructure to agriculture; all areas where British business can make money in Zimbabwe.

The new focus on investment is certainly good news. Zimbabwe has been starved of finance, causing a serious crisis of liquidity, and declining investment in key assets. A return of the aid programme is helpful too, but it’s the investment that really counts. The ambitious ZimAsset economic recovery programme is premised on the arrival of such investment; nothing can happen without it as the government is bankrupt and has a massive debt.

Of course there are constraints. ‘Trust’ has been the watchword in the discussions of the past weeks. Is Zimbabwe a reliable investment destination? Do the ‘indigenisation’ policies limit possibilities? Interestingly the UK Ambassador emphasised that it was less the policy on indigenisation, something she noted was the sovereign right of Zimbabwe to pursue, but the clarity of the laws and regulations, and the importance of assuring security of investment. Lack of clarity, often promoted by the media and other commentators, causes uncertainty, rumour and misunderstanding. The Minister of Finance, Patrick Chinamasa, once again assured the trade delegations, but for good reasons doubts remain.

Does this mean that everything is back to ‘normal’? The answer of course in no. EU travel restrictions still remain on the President and Grace Mugabe, despite the cordiality of the discussions at State House. And there are a number of outstanding issues, notably relating to land. Compensation for land acquired during land reform is still due for most properties, and an agreed formula has yet to be negotiated and financed. The particular case of land acquired that was under Bilateral Investment Protection treaties still has pending court cases, and remain unresolved.

But the thawing of relations and the reinstatement of financial aid by the EU is an important signal. More day to day interaction with government will build the necessary trust, and hopefully ways forward on the most tricky issues will be found.

Meanwhile, let’s hope the new aid for agriculture in particular is well directed. With the new agrarian structure, the key is to provide support for the growth of local economies based on agriculture, and that includes a focus on the new resettlements and particularly the A1 areas, that have the potential for driving economic growth and employment through agriculture, and processing.

Investments in basic infrastructure, including roads, markets, veterinary and agricultural extension systems, as well as water management, storage and irrigation systems are long overdue. The failure to invest in the new resettlements has held them back for over a decade, but now is the opportunity to put that right. Hopefully the EU support will not shy away from this challenge.

The post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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