Catch up on Zimbabweland

If you missed out on Zimbabweland blog posts since the beginning of the year, you can catch up now (sorry, I am on holiday!). Here are the dozen most popular ones of those posted this year:

  1. Spurious statistics: why figures on Zimbabwe’s ‘lost growth’ mislead
  2. Going up in smoke: the environmental costs of Zimbabwe’s tobacco boom
  3. Dams, flooding and displacement: the Tokwe Mukorsi dam
  4. A fictitious budget or a sensible plan in constrained circumstances? Zimbabwe’s 2014 budget
  5. Land tenure dilemmas in Zimbabwe
  6. Zimbabwe’s country clubs: the changing social life of Zimbabwe’s farming areas
  7. Zimbabwe’s gold rush: livelihoods for the poor or a patronage economy, or both?
  8. Farm workers: reconstructing lives and livelihoods
  9. GM crops: continuing controversy
  10. Access to $1000 credit: would this help unleash agricultural commercialisation in Zimbabwe?
  11. What should be on a new Zim dollar note? Two nominations
  12. Rethinking agricultural extension

If you want to ensure you don’t miss any, just sign up on the blog and each Monday a new post will be sent automatically to your inbox.

Also, in case you missed them, two blog series were posted in this period, focusing on updates of the Masvingo ‘livelihoods after land reform’ work, looking at changes in the last five years, and comparing new resettlements with nearby communal areas. You can find the first posts in the links below (they ran for the subsequent 4-5 weeks, so just click ‘next’).

Finally, the low cost book ‘Debating Zimbabwe’s Land Reform’, a compilation of various blogs from 2011-2013, is now available in Kindle format for 77p! You can still buy the book via Amazon if you prefer a paper version for just over a fiver (UK pounds that is).

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland



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A1 permits: unleashing contradictions in the party state

On 2 July, President Mugabe launched the new permit system aimed at all A1 farms. Previously, Minister for Lands, Douglas Mombeshora, had announced that all previous ‘offer letters’ were null and void, and that everyone with land officially allocated in A1 resettlement schemes should apply for a new permit. These permits were aimed at regularising land tenure arrangements, and provide security of land holdings in perpetuity.

The permits, Mombeshora claimed, could be used as collateral to raise money from commercial banks. Both husband and wife would be named on the permit, and this would avoid any disputes around inheritance, offering women in particular security. The permits would come with conditions, however. They would not be issued to those who were not utilising the land, nor those who had been allocated land illegally outside the ‘fast-track’ allocations. A total of over 220,000 permits would be issued (although this seems high), and the first were handed over as part of a presidential ceremonial occasion at Chipfuri farm in Mhangura.

Some argued that the permits were illegal, however. Since compensation had not been paid for the land, the title deed is still notionally valid, and so no new land ownership arrangement can be applied. The ministry disputes this interpretation, but the issue of compensation certainly still remains very live, and must be a high priority.

On the face of it, the issuing of permits seemed to me like an excellent move. Indeed very much in line with arguments made on this blog before. Uncertainty about land tenure has plagued development in the new resettlements, and many had pointed to the limitations of the ‘offer letters’. A clearer, more transparent approach, with conditions and backed by an audit, would provide a firmer basis for planning and development efforts. Clear ownership arrangements would also offset attempts at ‘grabbing’ land by elites, or the growing practices of informal land allocation by a range of different authorities. The Ministry of Lands, backed hopefully by an improved land information system and greater clarity in land administration, would be doing its job.

However, rather than providing stability, normalisation and security, the announcement appears to have had the opposite effect in some places. A spate of land invasions has occurred again. These seem to have been in part prompted by the speech made by President Mugabe at the launch. Whether this was misreporting by the press or the president, as ever, was playing to the crowd, he was reported as saying that whites had no right to the land, and that ‘supping with whites’ through ‘fronting’ farms would not be countenanced. This has been interpreted variously as an affront to the Constitution, a racist attack and a spur for more land invasions, including of black farmers suspected of colluding with whites.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, had to defend the president’s speech in parliament, arguing that it had been misinterpreted, and of course the President is fully committed to upholding the Constitution. Equally, Minister Mombeshora has reiterated that the land reform is over, invasions should not be allowed, and those moving illegally, for example into forest areas, would be removed in a crack-down on illegal land deals. However, some others may have not been listening to the parliamentary record and ministers’ statements, and in the last few weeks a series of, sometimes violent, invasions have occurred.

One of the most disturbing occurred in Masvingo East near our study sites. Black farmers on a series of farms, many purchased long before the land reform, were accused by war veterans of providing cover for whites and underutilising their land. Repeating an invasion that resulted in evictions last year, the farms were invaded again by a group of youths recruited from nearby areas, and there was a stand-off. This escalated into a conflict in which Mr Mufaro Mukaro was seriously injured in an axe attack, and remains in hospital. The local lands department say that the invasions are illegal and the occupiers should go. The local MP and deputy agriculture minister, Davis Maripira, condemned the attack. But the situation remains tense, although the lead war veteran was arrested.

Other invasions have occurred in Mazwi nature reserve near Bulawayo; in Goromonzi associated with an ownership wrangle with local big wigs, and disputes over periurban housing offered as part of election sweeteners last year; as well as in forest estates in the Eastern Highlands. A violent attack in Guruve earlier in the year also occurred, leaving Malcom Francis and his daughter Catherine both dead, signalling increasing insecurity for remaining white farmers. William Stander of Benjani ranch in Mwenezi also recently lost a Constitutional court contest to retain his farm. The most recent invasion, garnerning substantial publicity through activist Ben Freeth, was the attempt by deputy presidential secretary, Dr Ray Ndhlukula to take over Figtree farm in Matabeleland South, despite a High Court ruling against this.

Just as we thought that a sensible, ordered reform of land tenure and ownership was to happen, backed by a long-called for audit, then confusion and uncertainty emerges again. The recent period is a telling sign that Zimbabwe has a long way to go before a formal, effective and accountable bureaucratic state is allowed to operate. The Ministry of Lands under Mombeshora has been trying to move in this direction, recognising the urgent need to move on from the land reform to rebuild agriculture and spur rural development. Yet political factions within the party state, including perhaps inadvertently the president, but also senior members of his own office, are resisting this move to a normalised situation. Political and personal benefit can be gained from instability just as it has been over 14 or more years.

Others resisting are those disappointed with the way the state is moving to regularise things, and so exclude some from potential future spoils. And there are those too who are disillusioned with the party, including core supporters inside the war veteran movement, seeing it as selling out in its attempts to become ‘acceptable’ to the international community in the post July 31 2013 era. Jabulani Sibanda, the notorious war veteran leader, commented recently: “This is a struggle; this is war against multiple black farm owners. Some of them have farms registered under the names of their children who are not even in the country. We will take such farms and redistribute them. We are against land hoarders and people who have too much land; excess land to be precise,”

As discussed last week, the complex manoeuvres, the competing factions, and the layers of commercial and political interests at the heart of the ZANU-PF state can result in all sorts of contradictory and conflicting results. So within one month, we had a move to regularise and formalise land tenure, along the lines that many had long been calling for, and yet a reaction that resulted in more violent land invasions.

Those stuck in the middle, including many ministers, civil servants, but particularly people on the ground, including frontline government officials, find it difficult to navigate a way forward. They urgently want a clear, transparent system to prevail in line with the Constitution; and with whites involved in the new agrarian system, contributing in multiple ways. It is no wonder, as discussed last week, that things are stuck, and reforms and the economy are not moving forward as fast as many, including many within ZANU-PF, hoped.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland


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A year on from ZANU-PF’s election victory: limits and constraints

On July 31 last year, ZANU-PF were victorious in the elections. The opposition was annihilated. The elections were disputed by many, and many questions were raised about the process, but most commentators agreed that this was a shift of support back to ZANU-PF, with the opposition having run out of steam.

A number of good commentaries were published in the Journal of Southern African Studies that offered views from different perspectives, including from Miles Tendi, Phillan Zamchiya and Brian Raftopolous. Perhaps the most powerful though comes from McDonald Lewanika and Delta Milayo Ndou (formerly of the Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition) in ‘We the People’, a beautifully illustrated edited book of personal testimonies and reflections from Zimbabweans after the elections. Most are urban, educated and opposition supporters, but the sense of melancholy and loss, reflecting on a moment that had so much hope, is tangible and powerful.

Nearly a year ago on September 10 2013, a confident ZANU-PF announced a new cabinet and ambitious plans for the future under the ZimAsset programme. Attempts to rebuild relationships with the west started, while overtures to the Chinese continued. A new minister of lands, Douglas Mombeshora, has stated boldly that no new land invasions would be allowed, and that land administration would be regularised, with those illegally occupying land or underutilising it evicted.

It sounded as if a corner had been turned. But sadly such a transition has not occurred. In the last year, the economy has floundered, as the new investment has failed to arrive; relationships with Europe and the US remain tetchy; the Chinese are playing hardball; and land invasions have continued, despite attempts at audits and new permit systems (see next week’s blog).

Meanwhile, the opposition has imploded. The expected departure of Morgan Tsvangirai has not happened, and he clings on to one faction, with surprisingly wide public support. The MDC-T though has fractured, with Tendai Biti and colleagues declaring a ‘renewal team’, and presumably in time a new party, for a revived opposition. They are actively courting investors and foreign governments, while belatedly accepting that a focus on economic and social rights and redistribution issues – ZANU-PF’s political territory for the 2013 elections – must be central to any revamped approach. The situation is very messy indeed.

The warring factions continue to slug it out within ZANU-PF too, with different groupings being speculated on in the press almost daily. What is clear is that there is no easy resolution of the ‘succession’ issue, and Mugabe is playing the longer game (to the 2018 elections) to see how this will resolve itself.

The consequence is that there is massive uncertainty on the political scene, and this translates itself into challenges for economic regeneration. In May at a SAPES Trust event, Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa declared:

Zimbabwe is open to Foreign Direct Investment from all Nations of the World, whether these be in the North, South, East or West… Zimbabwe is ready to re-integrate into the global economy. Zimbabwe is looking for new friendships, new opportunities while consolidating old ones. We are looking for mutually beneficial economic relationships not confrontation. We are too small a country to pursue a policy of confrontation.

This signaled a softening of stance, and a willingness to engage. Equally the purge of corrupt parastatals and their officials led by Jonathan Moyo was clearly aimed at an international audience, with a very visible attempt to deal with corruption – although of course only in one area. Statements on the flagship ‘indigenisation’ policy have been much more tempered since the elections, with senior party officials stating that expropriation and nationalization are not on the agenda, and that there has to be flexibility in the application of the policy.

In a typically perceptive piece for the Solidarity Peace Trust, Brian Raftopolous argues:

The mixed policy messaging of the Mugabe regime can be attributed both to the challenges of seeking fuller international re-engagement while holding on to its empowerment programme, and the tensions within ZANU PF about how to proceed with such a re-engagement. The tropes of sovereignty, liberation history, regional solidarity and empowerment have been integral to ZANU PF’s political imaginary and ‘language of stateness’, in both the party’s ‘practical languages of governance’ and the ‘symbolic languages of authority’. However the exposure of the limits of the state’s capacity to effect its indigenisation programme has led to the dual strategy of seeking a rapprochement with the West, while promising to export the Zimbabwean model to the SADC region.

Such contradictions are the legacy of the past 14 or so years. The radical redistributive policies, most notably the land reform, have presented major challenges in economic terms. The withdrawal of external support and international investment has hampered the rebounding of the economy, and the business-political patronage networks that were established to prop up the regime in this period are certainly not the basis for a prosperous, competitive economy.

There are bright spots though. The informal sector is booming, and providing jobs and livelihoods. While many argue this is not the real economy, it is certainly the main economy. In the restructured agricultural sector, the tobacco boom continues, with a massive 210 million tonnes of tobacco being traded this year. While livelihoods are unquestionably improving especially for those on the land, galvanising new, coherent and sustained economic growth is a big challenge, and the long (often rather sensible) wish-lists in the ZimAsset blueprint will not be realized without sustained investment.

Much of course relies on a rapprochement with the west, and with international capital and finance. Given the bad feeling, abuse and threats that have occurred over time, this will not be easy, especially with Britain. Miles Tendi offers a fascinating analysis of this challenge, based on interviews with some of the key players, on both the UK and the Zimbabwe sides, and how a sustained ‘demonisation’ invective from both has not helped matters.

A fundamental question remains, however: how to balance a commitment to redistribution and economic empowerment with engagement in a globalized economy, and in a context where national debt amounts to a staggering US$6 billion? Is there any way to resist the inevitable reincorporation into a neoliberal world order, and sustain the progressive gains of reform? Despite the socialist solidarity rhetoric, the Chinese are interested in commercial business just as any other western nation or multinational company. And countries in the region are wary of heading down an alternative route, despite the electioneering rhetoric of Julius Malema further south. So ZANU PF is in a bind. As Brian Raftopolous argues, there are clear ‘limits to victory’.

 This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland


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Comparing communal areas and new resettlements in Zimbabwe V: farm employment, off-farm income earning and livelihood diversification

Growth and development does not just derive from agriculture, but the wider economic linkages that are generated. Successful agriculture generates employment opportunities, it results in multiplier effects in the service industries, and it boosts consumption as people buy more things. Equally, in dryland agricultural settings few can rely on just agriculture for their livelihoods. They must seek piece work jobs in the dry season, sell their skills as builders, carpenters, tailors or hairdressers. And they can make use of local resources for making craft items or agricultural equipment and tools.

In other words, in order to assess the success of the wider economy and individual livelihoods, we need to look at the rural economy in the round, and look at things going on on-farm as well as off, and the flows of resources that come to the area from outside, as well as those that leave. Too often there are narrow assessments of economies and livelihoods that miss these wider dimensions. There are multiple livelihood opportunities in the communal and resettlement areas, as well as flows of labour, remittances and trade. How then do these patterns compare?

A1 farmers employ considerable numbers of labourers. 42% of A1 self-contained and 12% of A1 villagised farm households employ temporary labour, while 16% and 17% employ permanent labour. By contrast in the communal area sites only 2% of households employ permanent and temporary in the sites outside Chikobmedzi, where a few farmers employ significant numbers, although concentrated among the more successful farmers for piecework on larger farm areas. On average though across the A1 sites, households employ 0.53 temporary workers and 0.2 permanent workers, while those employed in the communal areas are vanishingly few. The employment opportunities, although often temporary and low paid, are important for many, and attract hundreds of people to live and work in these areas. This is an important part of the wider economy, and many of these people come from the nearby communal areas, with labour being recruited through family, church and other networks.

Collective work is also important in the new resettlements. As farm sizes have declined in the communal areas the institution of the ‘work party’ (humwe) has declined. Some have put this down to the decline in tradition, but actually it more reflects the lack of need for recruiting labour for farming small plots. This changed in the resettlement areas with larger areas to plough, weed and harvest. Thus across the resettlement sites 37% of households held work parties in the 2010 season, and 36% in 2011, while only 18% and 14% held them in the communal areas.

Off-farm income has always been important as part of livelihood portfolios in rural Zimbabwe. Such income allows people to earn money in the dry season, or offset the consequences of low yields. As part of a diversified livelihood strategy such income sources reduce risk, and spread gains, often to women and children as income earners. We looked at the patterns of off-farm income earning across resettlement and communal area sites, and the pattern was remarkably similar.

In order of importance (in terms of percentage of households engaged) it was trading, building/carpentry, brickmaking/thatching, pottery/basket-making, fishing, wood carving, tailoring, transport businesses and grinding mill operation in both sites, with similar proportions of households involved. Farm-related income earning was also similar, with the rank order being sale of vegetables, poultry, cattle, goat/sheep and fish in both sites. The only contrast was that vegetable sales at 45% of all households was significantly higher in the communal areas, with only 28% of resettlement households selling vegetables regularly.

Perhaps the biggest difference in income sources was in the proportion of households receiving remittances from relatives resident outside the home. The highest level of remittances was in the Chikombedzi area, near the South African border, with 67% of households receiving some remittances in the communal areas and 52% in the A1 villagised resettlements. The biggest difference was in the Gutu area, where the only 7% of A1 villagised resettlement households received remittances, while 33% in the communal areas did so. A similar pattern was observed in the Chiredzi cluster sites, with 10% and 23% receiving remittance. The only area with a different pattern was Masvingo, where a higher percentage of resettlement households received remittances (28% vs 17%).

There are several issues to note here. First, outside Chikombedzi, the level of remittances is low compared to historical studies that showed around two-thirds or more of households receiving such support. Second, with the Masvingo exception, the A1 villagised households were more independent, and less reliant on relatives’ support. This is partly due to the age profile of such households, with fewer older children sending remittances, but also the sense that the new land reform beneficiaries did not need looking after, as they had the land. Indeed, there is plentiful evidence of flows of remittances (in both cash and food) flowing from the resettlements to the communal areas. However the main source of remittances was household members working in Zimbabwe, sending money home. With the collapse of the economy, and the decline in employment opportunities, this flow of income has declined in the last decade, and there has been more reliance on income from outside the country, notably South Africa. But outside Chikombedzi area, this was not a significant source, and there were only a few others who received income from further afield, including the UK.

Both the new resettlement areas and the communal areas have diversified economies, where off-farm work is important. But the resettlement areas are more self-reliant, relying less on remittance flows, labour migration, and instead are generating employment on the farms, and also other business for entrepreneurs, service providers, traders and others. These could not be regarded as either booming or resilient economies, and on the face of it there are considerable similarities between the sites, particularly around off-farm income earning activities. But the overall opportunities offered in the resettlement areas seem to be more substantial, reflecting the greater underlying potential from agriculture, and the presence of a core group of farmers who are accumulating, spending, employing and generating economic activity.

A more detailed look at these diversified economies and patterns of livelihoods, as has been attempted in this short blog series, therefore shows that the resettlements are not simply an extension of the communal lands, but are different on a variety of fronts, with important implications for the future.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

The on-going Masvingo study research is conducted by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge,

Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene.





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Comparing communal areas and new resettlements in Zimbabwe IV: accumulating assets and investing in the land

One of the striking findings of our earlier work on the new resettlements was the level of investment that was going on in the resettlements – in houses, wells, toilets, farm equipment, transport and, above all, cattle. This investment has continued, and indeed expanded.

But the question has been raised, what is the baseline against which this success is measured? How do we know what is a lot or a little? One way is to compare with what has happened in the communal areas: the areas where many in the new resettlements came from. Is the ownership of assets higher, and the rate of accumulation greater in the resettlements? And if so, what does this say about the ‘success’ of land reform?

Let’s start with housing and shelter, a very basic human need. Many other studies have shown that housing is often the first thing people invest in when acquiring new land. It is so fundamental, and the basis for further accumulation. Housing per se does not reduce income poverty, but by improving the quality of life, and the level of comfort, it is an important route to accumulating and investing. Certainly in the mid-2000s we found people building like fury. Many structures were permanent brick ones, with thatched or tin/asbestos roofs. There was considerable expenditure, and much labour invested. People had camped for months in the bush during the invasions and in those days the communal area amenities looked very enticing. The new settlers were therefore insistent that getting homes established was a priority. This was about marking out the territory, asserting the right to remain in the absence of often even an ‘offer letter’, let alone something more secure. But it was also about making life reasonable: having somewhere dry or warm for the family to live in.

By 2011-12, 83% of houses (excluding kitchens/granaries) in the A1 sites were brick built, with 1.9 such structures per household on average. This compared to 86% in the communal areas, with 2.3 house structures per household compound. Thus by 2011-12, the resettlements had almost reached the level of housing investment that existed in the communal areas that they had left. While there were plenty of fancy homes, with tin/asbestos roofing, glass windows and the rest, in the resettlement areas, there were still fewer than in the communal lands, reflecting the length of residence time, and demands on investment. In the building realm, there is clearly more to aspire to.

In terms of water and sanitation, 63% of households in the resettlements had built toilets by 2011-12, a substantial leap from five years earlier. But this was still less than in the communal areas, where the figure was 78%. In terms of water sources too, the resettlements are catching up. An average of 0.3 wells were built per household in the five years before the survey in the resettlements, compared to 0.06 in the communal lands. In the communal area sites 74% of households had access to household water through such communal wells, while in the resettlements it was 49%. Private well ownership was again higher in the communal lands at 24% compared to 14% in the resettlements. 14% of homes in the resettlements still collected water from an unprotected dam or river source, while none did so in the communal areas.

These different patterns reflect the longer period for investment in the communal lands, and the fact that in the 1980s and 90s, government and donors invested considerable amounts in water and sanitation, particularly communal boreholes. By contrast, resettlement investments have been largely independent of state or donor support, and focused on private and community initiatives. Investment is continuing, as witnessed by the rate of well digging, and it will not be long before the resettlements have water and sanitation coverage at a level of the communal areas, but without 30 years of external investment.

The rate of investment in farm equipment has also been significant in the resettlements. 80% of households have an ox plough, many several, with an average of 0.5 ploughs per household being bought in the past five years. This contrasts with 73% ownership in the communal areas, with only 0.15 having been bought per household over five years. Ox cart ownership is also higher in the resettlements (at 52% of households compared to 49%). Only cultivators have a lower ownership level at 25% of households in the resettlements compared to 32% in the communal areas; although 0.1 cultivators per household was purchased over the previous five years on average, showing a pattern of continued accumulation in the new land reform sites.

A similar pattern is shown with transport. In the new resettlements 48% of households own a bicycle, while this is only 38% in the communal areas. 0.45 bikes per household were bought over the previous five years in the new resettlements, compared to 0.2 in the communal areas. The contrasts are more dramatic for cars (21% ownership compared to 5%) and tractors (6% compared to 1.6%). Transport is seen as vital to livelihoods in the new resettlements, given the larger distances, poor transport infrastructure, and lack of public transport.

We also looked at two other items, once deemed ‘luxuries’ now seen as essential: cell phones and solar panels. These have been bought in large numbers in all areas, although the rate of purchase in the previous five years has been a bit higher in the resettlements (1.7 per household versus 1.2 per household for cell phones, and 0.6 per household versus 0.5 per household for solar panels). Everyone needs to be connected now, and this helps on multiple fronts, from agricultural marketing to family relations. And having electricity for lighting at night improves rural living no end, improving health, enhancing education for kids, and making sure that you are up on the latest news, football scores and soap opera dramas.

But the big story in the resettlements is livestock, and especially cattle. Comparing the A1 villagised sites in Gutu, Masvingo, Chiredzi and Mwenezi clusters with their counterparts in nearby communal areas, the average cattle ownership per household is 6.6 v 5.0, 5.7 v 3.5, 4.9 v 6.3, and 9.5 v 12.3. Thus in the drier areas, it is the communal areas that have the larger herds on average, but this is reversed in the other sites. Again focusing on the A1 villagised sites, 98% of those in the top ‘success group’ (those doing the best, according to local criteria), while 80% of those in the middle group and 73% of those in the bottom group had cattle. This compared to a pattern of 80%, 93% and 50%, over all sites. Cattle ownership is thus better distributed in the resettlements, with more people, across all groups, having access to animals for draft, milk and meat. Donkey ownership shows a comparable pattern, with 24% of the top success group owning donkeys in the resettlements, 9% in the middle and 5% in the bottom. This contrasts with 19%, 10% and 3% in the communal areas. The pattern though is however reversed for goats, as across success groups (top to bottom), 57%, 44% and 37% of households own goats in the A1 villagised schemes, while 71%, 68% and 45% own goats in the communal areas. This reflects the high herding costs of goats, and the difficulties of managing them in the resettlement areas.

Since the terrible droughts of the early 1990s, livestock populations across the country have recovered. In the economic chaos of the 2000s, investing in livestock made even better sense, as the formal currency lost its value. As sources of draft power, access to draft animals – whether cattle or donkeys, or some combination – is vital, and boosts production potentials. This is why the new farmers have invested so heavily in this key asset. It is not that communal farmers have not been accumulating too, but the new resettlement farmers have been doing so faster and across a wider group of people than in the communal areas, particularly in Gutu and Masvingo areas.

Investment by new resettlement farmers remains impressive. It is clearly differentiated by site and by households within sites, but the continued investment in housing, equipment, transport, livestock and so on is impressive. And is especially so when compared to the communal area patterns, where investments are less extensive and less well distributed. In the resettlement areas, the data reflects a broader based accumulation from below, with investments focused on improving the effectiveness of farming, as well as the living conditions on the new farms.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

The on-going Masvingo study research is conducted by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge,

Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene.






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Comparing communal areas and new resettlements in Zimbabwe III: land and agriculture

Last week we saw that there are definitely ‘new people’ (with a different demographic, educational and gender profile) on the land, but how have they fared?

First we should ask: have people got more land than they had before? This is an easy one to answer: yes. In the A1 villagised sites land allocations are about double what is found in the nearby communal areas, with the exception of Chikombedzi where the communal area land holdings are marginal higher. The communal area land holdings range from 1.5ha in Gutu to 8.8ha in Chikobmedzi, while the resettlement land holdings range from 3.7ha in Gutu to 7.4ha in the Chikombedzi area.

But more crucially than the land holding, it’s important to ask if a greater land area is being cultivated. The answer is again, yes. Heading north to south, wetter to drier, the A1 villagised sites had the following hectareages cultivated in 2011-12 per household: 2.5ha (Gutu), 3.6ha (Masvingo), 4.3ha (Chiredzi) and 6.2ha (Mwenezi). The comparable hectareages in the communal areas were 1.0, 2.1, 3.2, and 7.4ha, with only the Mwenezi site showing a different pattern, reflecting their pattern of residence (see last week’s blog).

However crop output levels in 2010 and 2011 (the two seasons for which we have the comparator data) were not impressive anywhere, except for a few cases. Average maize production across all the resettlements was barely over a tonne, and in the communal areas it was 555kg in 2010 and 935kg in 2011. And these figures were affected dramatically by a couple of farmers producing a lot. Of course it was a drought year, and there was production from other crops – notably small grains (sorghum and millets) in the drier areas, but production was nothing to shout about (although fortunately things have improved in more recent years).

In terms of overall patterns of food security, we found that in 2010 and 2011, 35% and 24% of households across all resettlement households produced more than a tonne of maize, while in the communal areas the figures were only 16% and 10%. The communal area figures were in turn boosted by the relative success of the Ngundu farmers, where 36% and 20% of households produced more than a tonne of maize. Again, in these years the figures show that up to 90% of households require other sources of food during the year, beyond home produced maize. This is lower in the resettlement areas, but this still means two-thirds to three-quarters of households had food deficits. Compared to the situation in latter part of the 2000s, when there were a string of good harvests, the situation was worse, across all areas in these two seasons.

However, by comparison to the communal areas, the resettlement farmers were better off. In 2010, for example, across the A1 sites, one third of all farmers sold some maize. In the A1 self-contained sites, 28% of farmers sold over a tonne, and 45% something; even in this poor season. It is this group of farmers who produce surpluses and sell regularly that we highlighted in our book in class terms as ‘middle farmers’ who were ‘accumulating from below’. By contrast, in the communal areas, the maize sales levels were paltry, averaging 125kg and 277kg in 2010 and 2011. Across all sites only 14% sold any maize in 2010, and 6% in 2011 – and these figures were boosted by the group of Ngundu farmers who sell regularly (although many no longer as they have been displaced by the flooding of the Tokwe Mukorsi dam). In 2010 there were five individuals who sold more than a tonne (4% of communal area farmers in the sample), three of whom were from Ngundu, while in 2011, there was only one farmer from Ngundu (less than one percent of all communal area farmers)

The crop mixes in all sites are similar, and much the same across the A1/informal resettlement areas and communal areas, with the exception of specialisation in cotton in Uswaushava in the Chiredzi area. In addition to maize, sorghum, pearl and finger millet, cotton, groundnuts and sunflowers are grown. In lowveld areas it is the growing of sorghum that dominates food production, so in both cases maize outputs as an indicator of food security is of course insufficient.

Also, in addition to the main fields people also have gardens. Over the last couple of decades, outside the lowveld where land remains abundant, farming in the densely populated areas means there has been a shift to home fields and gardens away from the outfield production of the past. This allows some level of intensification (including the use of conservation agriculture techniques on these small patches), and a concentration of farming activity around homesteads in home fields, where fertility inputs and labour are concentrated. This is reflected in the comparative data we collected.

In the communal area sites 57% of households have a garden at the homestead, and 40% have a garden elsewhere. In the A1 resettlement sites, the figures are 25% and 40%. Gardens have become popular in the resettlements, but usually are located by the rivers away from the homes, focused on vegetables. By contrast, in the communal areas, the home field may have become the main source of production of core crops, while gardens by rivers are left for vegetable production.

In terms of indicators of intensification, nearly half communal area households have invested in soil conservation measures, while less than a quarter have in the resettlement areas. This reflects the level of extension effort in the past decade, as many communal area structures were built earlier. But according to our data, resettlement farmers have been planting trees (usually fruit trees) in their new homesteads at a greater rate than their communal area counterparts, reflecting a process of home establishment in the new farms.

Across all sites inorganic fertiliser application remains relatively low. In the 2010-11 season around two-thirds of households in both communal and resettlement sites applied fertiliser in the Gutu areas, but this declined to nearly zero in the very dry sites of Mwenezi. This is to be expected, and makes good agronomic sense. In other areas between 50% and 75% of households applied fertilisers, but often with very low application rates. Overall a greater percentage of households in the resettlement sites applied fertiliser, but the difference was not pronounced.

So overall, the settlers have larger areas, apply (marginally) more fertiliser, produce more output and sell more. They have a similar crop mix to their counterparts in the communal areas, but have overall better food security from own farm production. Their improved output though is generated by extensification rather than any major intensification, and conservation measures to protect the land are often lacking. Gardening is important in both sites, but in the communal lands it is often a response to land shortage, with a more intensified production in a home field, while in the both areas vegetable gardens are important away from the home.

In the communal lands there are only a vanishingly few individuals who are producing regular surpluses and selling these. By contrast in the resettlement areas, despite the poor seasons, there are relatively more. A core group of around 30% of households is producing and selling, with the same group having sufficient grain to feed a family for a full year. The relative proportions in each of these categories changes between the seasons, but it is this group of middle farmer ‘accumulators’ in the resettlement areas who we identified in our book from data from the 2000s that is central to the contrast.

This group continues to drive a wider set of economic relations – including employment, input supply, marketing, transport and so on – which the odd individual cannot. While this group was clearly finding the going tough in 2010 and 2011 because of poor rainfall and depressed crop yields, they were still there, associated with the same ‘success groups’ we identified in the mid 2000s. They are still not getting support – whether extension, credit, or wider infrastructural development – but they are still continuing to capitalise on the opportunities created by land reform.

 This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

The on-going Masvingo study research is conducted by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge,

Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene.





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Comparing communal areas and new resettlements in Zimbabwe II: People and places

The communal areas are crowded places. The population density in Chivi district was for example 46 people per km squared in 2012. In a dryland environment (average rainfall in Chivi is about 550mm), land areas are not sufficient for extensive cropping and grazing areas are limited. Given their histories as ‘labour reserves’ – sources of labour for the mines and farms of the Rhodesian settler economy and dumping grounds for the retired, unemployed or inform – it is not surprising that their productive potential is limited. This is why before and since Independence the argument for land reform has been strong.

Some argue that the communal areas can be transformed, by investing in new technologies (conservation agriculture is the latest donor driven craze) or reforming property rights giving people private title (a solution which is of course much disputed) or creating alternative income opportunities in ‘growth points’ or nearby towns (again a set of interventions that has been tried many times). It is not that transformations of the communal areas should not be attempted; they should, as over 1.1 million households, most of the rural population, live there. But if a wider dynamic of rural economic growth is to occur, people need the land on which to do it.

The resettlement process in the 2000s was of course not the same as that which occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, people moved to resettlement areas often far from their homes, either through the government programme or spontaneously. This meant the links between old and new homes were severed, and on the formal schemes strict rules were applied as part of the permit conditions. In the 2000s, the A1 sites were invaded, occupied by villagers, people from towns and supported by war veterans. They came very often from nearby communal areas; sometimes people invaded the neighbouring farm, as in the case of our Serima CA site and Lonely A resettlement site.

In all cases connections could be maintained. In the years after land invasions, new settlers frequently maintained homes and fields in nearby communal areas, particularly in those sites where uncertainty over tenure prevailed, as offer letters had not been issued. In most cases, they were just keeping a home or field as insurance, and not making much use of it themselves. In 2011 around a quarter of A1 households maintained another home, and 4% and 9% kept a field. Only in Masvingo district resettlements were practically no homes and fields being held on to. For communal area households, there were no households having a home or a field elsewhere in the Masvingo and Chiredzi sites and only 3% in Gutu had a field elsewhere. By contrast in our Chikombedzi site in Mwenezi, 27% of the communal area sample had a satellite home in the nearby resettlement farms.

Even if homes and fields were not being kept, there were still plenty of other connections being maintained: through churches, social events, burials, transfers of food, sharing of equipment and animals, and movement of relatives as workers, for example. These are often tightly linked communities, as new resettlements often have substantial numbers of people from single villages, who joined invasions together. Of course over the decade since settlement some of the links have been formed. New churches have been formed, people are being buried in their new homes, and so on, but social and economic lives remain connected.

What about movements from our communal area sites to the new resettlements? Did ‘decongestion’ occur? From our comparator sites linked to our Gutu, Masvingo, Chiredzi and Mwenezi sites, there were 20%, 13%, 17% and 18% of households who had some household member move to a new resettlement site. These were usually younger men, looking to establish a new home. By definition, of course, the surveyed household remained.

There was a considerable movement of people. Indeed, government stats shows that across four districts in Masvingo province, a total of 32,500 households were established in A1 sites as part of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme, and many estimate that there was an additional 6000 involved in ‘informal’ settlement (some now regularised). Assuming that 60% came from communal areas, this represents about 12% of the communal area households in these districts as counted in the 2012 census.

Those who went to the resettlements tended to be younger and better educated than their counterparts in the communal areas. According to our surveys, the communal area household heads were on average 5-7 years older; in their mid 50s, rather than in their 40s (compared to being in their 30s a decade earlier during land occupation). While there is of course a distribution in both sites, the overall demographic pattern is different. This means that those in the communal areas have older children, have more likely worked off the farm, and have therefore access to other income sources. The educational level of the ‘household heads’ reflects the period of their youth. Those in the resettlements who are now in their 40s benefited from the post Independence education provision, and the biggest group is Form 4 (O level) graduates, while the biggest group for those older individuals in the communal areas is Grade 7 (basic primary).

However, while formal school education levels are higher in the resettlements, agricultural qualifications are not. In the A1 villagised sites, only 9% of household heads have the Master Farmer qualifications, while it is 27% in the communal areas. This reflects experiences of the past decade, when extension services collapsed. When people arrived in the new resettlements, they did not get the support, while those in the communal areas who were older probably got trained in the 1990s.

These age demographic differences are reflected in household sizes and composition. The average size of households in the A1 resettlements is larger, around 6.5 people, compared to 4.85 in the communal areas. This reflects the ageing of households in the communal areas, with fewer children at the parental homes, and greater deaths of older adults. Thus there are only 16% of households whose household head was more than 61 in the A1 villagised resettlement areas, while across the communal area sites it ranged from 37% (Chiredzi) to 56% (Chikombedzi). The generation of adults living in the communal areas was also more vulnerable to the impacts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with many mortalities occurring in that age cohort. With the decline of transmission we can speculate that this affected those who moved to resettlements less (although certainly the epidemic has not spared them either).

Another factor that explains the larger household sizes in the resettlement areas, is what Bill Kinsey and colleagues termed the ‘magnet effect’. Successful households in resettlement areas attract others, particularly relatives from poorer settings in the communal areas. They can gain food, some work and housing with relatives in the resettlements. Alongside these movements are of course workers who come and stay permanently and temporarily to work on the new farms. In our 2007-08 surveys, we found that household sizes had increased by on average 2.8 people, up from 4.2 on settlement in 2000-01. This pattern continues as family size increases through births, and other relatives come and stay.

What about the gender composition of households? The proportion of female headed households averaged 14% across the A1 sites in 2012, the same as when we surveyed in 2007. By contrast 37% of household heads in the communal area sites were identified as women. Of course the definition of household head is notoriously difficult, but we have tried to be consistent, including absent males if they are still regarded as ‘heads’. In such situations – and indeed when the husband is present – women take on many management and organising roles in the household, and so the term ‘head’ is often a misnomer. Be that as it may, we therefore only defined female household heads when the male was completely absent (through death, divorce etc.), and when a woman was the sole manager of the farm and home. The high proportion of such ‘female headed households’ in the communal areas is well known, but this figure is surprisingly high, reflecting an ageing, disease-susceptible population, which has suffered the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

So are resettlement households different? Well, there is much variation of course, but some generalisations hold. A1 resettlement households are (on average) younger, with more children at home, with adults better educated in school, but less in professional farming qualifications, and with more male resident household heads. These are not the classic ‘reserves’ – retirement places, or places where people grow up to get out for work. Instead, these are places where people have chosen to go at the prime of their working life, when they are younger, healthy and where they want their children to grow up. Partly this is of course because there are few other choices. There is no land in the communal areas to grow food and no jobs elsewhere, but it is partly out of choice.

Next week, I will look at how they are faring in terms of crop production on their new land compared to their communal area counterparts.

 This post was written by Ian Scoones and originally appeared on Zimbabweland

The on-going Masvingo study research is conducted by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge,

Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene.





Filed under Uncategorized