The water harvester, Zephaniah Phiri, has died

The famed ‘water harvester’ of Zvishavane, Zephaniah Phiri, has died aged 88. He was an inspiration to many, and certainly to me. When I was in my 20s he taught me so much about agricultural ecology and rural development – indeed far more than I ever learned from textbooks or university courses. And it has stayed with me as a source of knowledge and guidance. Since then I have always tried to visit him at his home at Msipane when in Zimbabwe, and it has always been a joy to see him and his family. Each time there have been new developments on his farm to share, as well as the usual gossip and stories. He was the true local innovator, always trying out new solutions and sharing them widely. It was wonderful to welcome him to our own home in the UK in 2001, and hear him challenge us about our own extravagant and wasteful water use. It is a terribly sad loss, but his legacy will live on in the huge influence he has had on agriculture and soil and water conversation in Zimbabwe – and indeed much further afield.

zimsept09 029Zephaniah Phiri, 2 February 1927 – 1 September 2015/Photo: Msipane, Sept 2009

Below is an edited extract from his ‘cv’, on the Muonde Trust website, compiled by Ken Wilson. The cv has many other links to videos, testimonies, reports and other research relating to Mr Phiri’s work. See also another Zimbabweland blog here. For a much more detailed account, largely in his own words, see Mary Witoshynsky’s, ‘The Water Harvester: The Inspired Life of Zephaniah Phiri’, published by Weaver.

“Mr. Phiri was educated at Dadaya Mission, for which his father, Amon Phiri (“Bvuma”) was a renowned evangelist who played a lead role under Sir Garfield Todd in the Church of Christ Mission after its Africanization in 1938. Mr. Phiri himself played a leadership role in the Church in the 1960s and 1970s, including in establishing Makiwa Church near his home.

Mr. Phiri’s early career as a fireman on the railways was cut short by his detention in the early 1960s at Gonakudzingwa for his union and other political activities. Following his release in the mid­‐1960s he was blacklisted from formal employment by the Rhodesian Front Government.

Forced to depend upon a small piece of poor land on the edge of a vlei near Msipane in the Runde Communal land, Mr. Phiri experimented with wells, ponds and other water management systems from the late 1960s until Independence. Arrested three times for “farming a waterway” the magistrate eventually demanded to see Mr. Phiri’s land, ultimately ruling against the Government’s L.D.O. (Land Development Officer) and granting Mr. Phiri resource rights to use his conservation farming in his wetland. In 1973 a more progressive L.D.O. brought local farmers to see his drought-­‐beating methods.

In 1973 Mr. Phiri opened his first pond. Ponds enabled holding more water in the vlei, without waterlogging the soils. As the Liberation War expanded he was again detained under house arrest by the Rhodesian authorities in 1976 and severely tortured. His tribulations continued until the end of war, with a long period in leg­‐irons. He never regained his hearing in one ear, but physiotherapy improved the use of his leg.

After Independence his farm became the focus of much interest by local farmer groups and NGOs. Mr. Phiri continued to increase water storage on the farm and to diversify his homestead production system with extensive orchards, including of mango and banana, the sale of reeds for basket making, the adoption of bees, and the development of indigenous permacultural techniques to improve soil and protect areas from run-­‐off.

From 1982-­1986 he served as a Community Liaison Officer for the Lutheran World Federation water programme in the Zvishavane and Mberengwa region. The focus was on protecting wells and on small concrete dams in seasonal streams. Working closely with the District Development Fund and local councillors this revolutionized water and sanitation in the area after Independence. Still active on his land he founded the Vulindhlebe Soil and Water Conservation Project in 1984 and helped many other local gardening groups.

From 1986 to 1988 Dr. K.B. Wilson invited him to join the research team of the University of London/University of Zimbabwe agricultural ecology study in Mazvihwa (Zvishavane) with Mr. Mathou Chakavanda, Mr. Johnson Madyakuseni, Dr. B.B. Mukamuri, Mr. Abraham Mawere Ndhlovu, Dr. Ian Scoones, and others. Mr. Phiri was responsible for action research around soil and water management and again in collaboration with DDF, he assisted Mazvihwans to sink wells, to build more small dams and to improve gardening. His studies also transformed the research team’s understanding of the hydrology of these watersheds and their wetlands.

[Dug out of my archives, a summary of the research projects from that time can be found here, and some excerpts from Mr Phiri’s notebooks, when he was investigating the potentials of water projects in Mazvihwa from 1987 or thereabouts are here].

Stimulated by the experiments with sand filtration using concrete rings, Mr. Phiri discovered in 1987 the concept of “Phiri pits” – holes in contour trenches where water accumulates designed to drive water infiltration deep into the soils up-­‐slope to feed down slope fields later in the season. During the 1980s and 1990s he placed Phiri pits across his land. Efforts to replicate this system were widespread in the region, the most well‐known being by Kuda Murwira and Intermediate Technology Development Group (ITDG) in Chivi.

He founded the Zvishavane Water Project (ZWP) in 1988 and served as its Director until his retirement in 1996. One of the country’s first indigenous NGOs, ZWP secured support from many local and international donors and played a major role in Zvishavane and neighbouring districts with the provision of water for domestic and agricultural uses.

Meanwhile Mr. Phiri continued to receive 25­‐30 visitors a month to his farm. Based upon analysis of his Visitor’s Book, Mr. Phiri officially received close to 10,000 visitors over the last thirty years. These visitors included people from every Government Department, research station, university, district in Zimbabwe and thirty different NGOs; as well as people from 14 African countries and 9 other countries in Asia, Europe and North and South America. The visitors included thousands of farmers who came on their own or with local NGOs, and AGRITEX/AREX officers and spread his ideas, and especially his faith in farmer innovation and responsibility.

As he became more and more well known, he received international recognition through the Ashoka fellowship and National Geographic Society/Buffet Award for Leadership in African Conservation. Proposed at his Lifetime Achievement Award event in 2010, the Phiri Award for Farm & Food Innovators was launched under the chairmanship of Dr. Mandivamba Rukuni and other leading figures in the sustainable agriculture field in Zimbabwe to offer an annual award for indigenous innovation among Zimbabwean farmers. The first awards were presented in 2014, in Mr Phiri’s presence.

*****

The award, the legacy of Zvishavane Water Projects and the work of the Muonde Trust, as well as his homestead in Msipane, will continue the lifetime work of Mr Phiri. He will be sorely missed by all of us, but his work lives on. A remarkable person, a remarkable life.

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

 

 

 

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Land policy and governance: the launch of LEGEND

The first in a series of Land Policy Bulletins from a new DFID-supported programme – LEGEND – came out recently.

This is from the Bulletin:

“Land Enhancing Governance for Economic Development’ (LEGEND) is a new global DFID programme designed to mobilise knowledge and capacity for design and delivery of new country programmes, improve land governance as an essential and inclusive basis for economic development, and strengthen land and property rights at scale.

Through building policy coherence globally and stimulating innovation across civil society, private sector and sector at country and local levels, LEGEND aims to improve the quality and impact of land investments of all kinds so they contribute sustainably to growth while safeguarding rights and opportunities for poor people – rural and urban — especially women”.

This is an important departure for DFID. A decade or more ago, DFID was a leader on land and agriculture issues, but the move away from the productive sectors has meant a loss of capacity both within DFID and outside. In the last few years DFID has supported a number of efforts focused on land. Many of these are now part of the wider LEGEND umbrella – including CCSI’s Open Contracts, Landesa, The Land Portal and RRI and the Munden Project, as well as on-going land work within FAO and the World Bank – allowing more coordination and coherence to result.

Through the Future Agricultures Consortium (FAC), I am involved in a small way with LEGEND, together with Ruth Hall from PLAAS. We are contributing to the work of the Knowledge Alliance that supports LEGEND, led by ODI and involving IIED and NRI. Our inputs can draw on a substantial body of evidence and analysis through the FAC network (much of it funded until recently by DFID). This has included extensive research on the effects and consequences of the ‘land rush’ in Africa, including several conferences, and now a book from James Currey (more on this in a future blog – meanwhile you can get 25 per cent off if you quote code 15350 on the publisher’s website). We have also worked closely and helped launch the Land Deal Politics Initiative that has convened an important researcher-practitioner network globally. And we have published a wide range of journal articles, special issues and Working Papers and policy briefs on land issues in Africa.

In launching LEGEND, David Kennedy, DFID Director General, Economic Development, observed: “Changing the way in which we deal with land is critically important for growth and poverty eradication”. This will require in-depth analysis leading to practical solutions, and hopefully LEGEND can help deliver both. To date DFID’s approach has been framed (rather problematically in my view) by Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘golden thread’, which focuses particularly on private property rights driving growth. As anyone who has studied land and property in different parts of the world, this simplistic narrative, modelled on the arguments of Hernando de Soto, is insufficient. I hope LEGEND can bring a more sophisticated response to the debate about land governance, and think about land and investment beyond the large-scale to encourage a more rounded approach that allows for genuine ‘inclusive’ growth.

To keep updated on the work of LEGEND do sign up to the Bulletin, and look out for Evidence Updates, Analytical Papers, events, and a State of the Debate report each year. The contact is: legend@odi.org.uk.

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

 

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Catch up on Zimbabweland

In case you haven’t been keeping up with all the posts on this blog, here’s a list of the top 20 in the past year in terms of numbers of views. I am away on holiday for a couple of weeks, but check in soon for more posts. And don’t forget to sign up for the weekly post to be sent to your email address. Or if it’s your thing, follow @ianscoones on Twitter for auto alerts. Thanks for reading. There’s now over 200 posts on the site, and in the last year there were nearly 50k views, on a huge array of topics.

1 Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector goes from ‘bread basket to basket case’? Or is it (again) a bit more complicated?
2 Policies for land, agriculture and rural development: some suggestions for Zimbabwe
3 Zimbabwe’s poultry industry: rapid recovery, but major challenges
4 Zimbabwe’s beef industry
5 What if Greece was in Africa?
6 Farming under contract
7 Abbatoirs and the Zimbabwe meat trade
8 Bill Gates discovers redistributive land reform
9 Greece and Africa: learning the lessons of structural adjustment
10 Rural cattle marketing in Zimbabwe
11 Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs I: pig production
12 Retail revolutions: the rise and rise of butcheries and informal food selling in Zimbabwe
13 Land tenure dilemmas in Zimbabwe
14 Why economists fail in Africa
15 Irrigating Zimbabwe: time for some new thinking
16 Tractors, power and development. Mechanising Zimbabwean agriculture
17 What role for large-scale commercial agriculture in post-land reform Zimbabwe: Africa’s experience of alternative models
18 Beef value chains in Masvingo Province, Zimbabwe
19 Class, politics and land reform in Zimbabwe
20 Zimbabwe’s gold rush: livelihoods for the poor or a patronage economy, or both?

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Struggle is not a destination, but a river that runs forever

These lines come from a poem – ‘Tribal Wars’ – by Comrade Freedom Nyamubaya who has sadly died at the age of 55. She was a powerful poet, an ex-combatant and a passionate advocate for land reform and rural development. She joined the liberation war in 1975, abandoning secondary school for the struggle, and later became a field operations commander with ZANLA. Later her poetry provided important insights into this period, and she took up the struggle after Independence with a deep commitment to development. Appropriately, it’s Zimbabwe’s Heroes Day today.

Along with the loss of Chenjerai Hove, we have lost two greats of Zimbabwean literature; superb commentators on life and politics, and inspirations for many of us.

When I heard of Cde Freedom’s passing I found my copy of On the Road Again, the anthology published in 1986 by ZPH. It is a slim volume, so it took a while to find, but I read it all again in a sitting. Even though written 30 years ago, the poems remain highly charged, and deeply pertinent today.

Cde Freedom was not shy to criticize those in power. She did not glorify the role of a freedom fighter. Indeed many of her poems are harrowing accounts, showing how women fighters were so often mistreated.

In ‘The Dog and the Hunter’, she explores betrayal by a new elite, and how some take the rich pickings, while others despite the hard work and commitment just get thrown the bones. In ‘A Mysterious Marriage’, she complains:

‘Independence Came

An old woman saw Freedom’s passing shadow

Walking through the crowd,

Freedom to the gate

All the same, they celebrated for Independence’

Here is the poem that gave the title to the anthology.

On the Road Again

Nine months in the womb

Innocent and comfortable,

Never again will I rest.

Always on the go to nowhere,

Since I left that safe haven.

I creep, I walk,

Many times I run,

But most times I get pushed around.

A student in the morning,

A teacher mid-morning,

A builder at noon,

A slave in the afternoon,

A dog at dinner:

A combatant the rest of my life.

School has holidays,

Workers days off,

Dogs rest too,

But struggles to go on, go on.

Still on the road,

One endless journey.

A 2009 appreciation of her poetry can be found here, along with some more of her poems on the same Poetry International site.

As in the lines quoted in the title of this blog, she did not regard Independence as the end of the struggle. Indeed her commitment to farming and development was translated into the creation of Management Outreach Training Services for Rural and Urban Development (MOTSRUD). I met Cde Freedom once back in the 1980s, when the promise of Independence was still vibrant, and I was working with another inspiring product of the liberation war, Zephaniah Phiri.

Cde Freedom has been buried on her farm near Chinoyi a provincial hero; but even her passing continues to generate controversy. Her visions for Independent Zimbabwe have still not been realised. The struggle continues, like the river, forever.

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

 

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Cecil the lion: a lens on land, wildlife and elite politics in Zimbabwe

A lion called Cecil from Zimbabwe hit the headlines this week. He had been shot by a dentist from Minnesota as part of a high-end bow hunting trip to Gwaai Conservancy on the edge of Hwange National Park. A huge uproar has been generated. Walter Palmer (the dentist) has been condemned by the general public, politicians, including the UK PM David Cameron, and countless ‘celebrities’. The Zimbabwean government has demanded his extradition for trial alongside the landowner, one Honest Trymore Ndlovu, and the hunting guide, Theo Bronkhorst from Bushman Safaris. Bronkhorst had helped bait the animal and draw it out of the park where it could be killed on private land, apparently though without the appropriate quota. There have been calls for a ban on hunting, tough restrictions on trophy imports and a flood of money being pledged for lion conservation.Cecil-the-lion-ap-640x480

The whole episode is for me a fascinating lens into Zimbabwean land politics, and the relationship between humans and ‘wild’ nature, at the centre of debates about conservation and development. A number of things have struck me while trawling through newspaper articles, social media and other commentary (some of it really weird – just check out #CecilTheLion for a flavour).

First is the relationship between people in the (urban, middle class) west and ‘wild’ Africa, and particularly its charismatic wildlife. The outpouring from everyone from Mia Farrow to Ricky Gervais to Newt Gingrich has imposed a strange anthropomorphism on poor Cecil. He had a name because he was famous for his large black mane. But why Cecil? Surely not linked to the other famous Cecil (John Rhodes) associated with Zimbabwe? Was this the tragic slaying of the imperial master, who had gained dominion over nature and people as the head of the pride? But Cecil also has another side to him. He is also constructed as one more of the cuddly toys – the Disney Lion King image of nature – that are stacked up outside the beleaguered dentist’s surgery. Walter Palmer did not fit in with the conservationist view – hunting and killing for pleasure is regarded widely with disgust, and the massive $50,000 fee seen as indulgent, arrogant extravagance.

cecil 1

Second, it raises questions about how hunting revenues can contribute to development. From the 1980s, Zimbabwe was at the forefront of an international movement away from a preservationist position on conservation to one that emphasised conservation for development through ‘sustainable utilisation’. Hunting it was argued could be seen as a form of management, as long as careful cull quotas were adhered to (apparently not in this case). Alongside Cecil, many lions (presumably without names) have been killed in the past years as part of regulated quotas. According to Peter Lindsay and colleagues in a 2013 PLOS One article, the annual lion quota for Zimbabwe is 101 across 38,000 square kilometres of hunting area on a mix of land-use types. On average 42.5 lions – less than half the quota – were killed each year between 2008 and 2011, presumably due to the drop in hunting visits to Zimbabwe in recent years. Along with other southern African countries, Zimbabwe pioneered an approach linking game hunting with development, and the famous CAMPFIRE programme from the late 1980s became a flagship, with hunting concessions offered on communal lands nearby parks and safari areas. The revenues raised were quite considerable, especially for the big five. Around 90 per cent of CAMPFIRE revenues were from sport hunting, not other forms of tourism. Funds were ploughed back into development projects with dividends going to both the local community and Rural District Councils. CAMPFIRE did not always work as planned, and there have been many critiques, but the principle of making use of local resources for local development has been widely acknowledged in the region – if not in East Africa where a more preservationist strand of conservation persists.

Third, while for Westerners lions are either Disney style characters in charge on the African plains or potential trophies to show off machismo and hunting prowesss, for many Africans living in areas near national parks, lions are dangerous predators and pests. They kill their stock, and sometimes people too. Last year there were a number of reports of lions terrorising people in the press in Zimbabwe. And no doubt many, many more where they killed livestock. Hunting as pest control is often valued, especially if the benefits are shared locally, and the hunting replaces the inadequate Problem Animal Control operations from the National Parks and Wildlife Agency. Walter Palmer might have been a saviour to some poor villagers, rather than the devil incarnate.

Fourth, the Cecil story exposes some of the racial dimensions of the relationships between wildlife, land and hunting in Zimbabwe. The hunting business has a long pedigree going back to the establishment of hunting blocks in various parts of the country in colonial times. Hunting was always seen as central to the colonial conquest of taming wild Africa. Many white farmers turned their properties over to private game hunting reserves in the 1980s and 90s, sometimes as part of large blocks of land where the fences were removed, called ‘conservancies’ – such as Gwaai in the west, as well as many others, notably the well-known Save Valley conservancy in the southeast. These blocks and conservancies became the playgrounds of a rich, white elite; some local but many international, with Americans and Europeans being regular customers. Unlike the CAMPFIRE arrangements, the benefits from conservancies to surrounding populations were minimal, beyond a few concessionary ‘outreach’ efforts. Grand visions of connecting conservancies with national parks across borders have recently been promoted in the ‘transfrontier parks’ movement, with the wildlife estate extending over massive areas, very often to the exclusion of people and their livelihoods. Conservation – and hunting – has been long associated with white privilege and colonial expansion, and a European construction of landscape as wilderness. Cecil (and the name becomes more appropriate with this lens) is also about issues of race, colonialism and the control over land.

Fifth, the case however also reveals a new elite land politics in Zimbabwe. The extensive game ranches and conservancies were mostly subject to land reform in the early 2000s. Many of the former owners were evicted, along with their safari operations. But these lands, unlike many of the agricultural areas elsewhere in the country, were not handed over to land-hungry peasants or unemployed urbanites, but to elites. For a time there was an argument that conservation areas were not to be part of the land reform, and that a separate wildlife-based land reform would be instituted. This was to be under the control of the Ministry of Environment, and not the Ministry of Lands, and so would guarantee the sanctity of the wildlife estate as a good source of revenue – from hunting, but more especially tourism. However this soon got overridden by politics and many of the conservancy lands and other game farms were allocated as part of A2 (medium to large scale) land reform. And, as with a lot of A2 allocations – and particularly in the conservancies that many assumed to be very lucrative businesses – to well-connected elites. The list of ‘beneficiaries’ of some of these areas reads like a who’s who of the ZANU-PF political-military elite. Wikileaks offered details of who was in the Gwaai area where Cecil was shot, and there are many recognisable names. Honest Trymore Ndlovu was one such beneficiary (a Mugabe ‘land grabber’ in some people’s parlance). The new land owners in search of income from their land have hooked up with white safari operators, some who had formerly operated on the same areas. Some are legit and above board, sadly many are less so – and Bronkhorst it is alleged is one of the less reputable crowd. Wildlife is once again perpetuating a new elite land politics linked to wildlife, excluding wider populations from the benefits. This time it’s with new (black) faces, but with many of the same unsavoury connections of the past, with links between politicians, poachers and hunting business entrepreneurs never far from the surface.

So what should we make of the sad demise of Cecil? Knee-jerk reactions resulting in bans on hunting or trophy imports will not solve anything. Indeed, past bans elsewhere have made things worse, with a rise in poaching, and decline in conservation protection. But while the posturing rhetoric about extraditing an American dentist dominates now, Zimbabweans should look harder at who benefits from wildlife. If revenues are to be generated from hunting quotas (and I am a great supporter of this route to conservation), they should not just benefit a narrow elite – a new pact between white hunters and their safari companies and the new politically-connected black elite, as exposed in the case of Cecil. If Cecil and his other 100 odd fellow lions are to be part of a regulated hunting quota, and so creating a resource for development, then the conservancies and game ranches need to be opened up for wider use to generate broader benefit. Only then will the wildlife assets of the nation be properly shared and the habitats preserved for Cecil and his relatives. Perhaps the outcry over Cecil can result in a proper wildlife based land reform, so such wildlife can benefit everyone, not just elites – black or white.

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

 

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Tackling climate change: the contested politics of forest carbon projects in Africa

Tackling climate change is one of the most pressing challenges of our age. And this year is a crucial moment with the Conference of the Parties meeting in Paris in December 2015 hopefully to forge a new climate agreement. Forests, carbon and their management are high on the agenda, and a new book has just come out from the STEPS Centre, edited by Melissa Leach and myself. It’s called Carbon Conflicts and Forest Landscapes in Africa (take a peek at some of the content, check out the reviews and chapter listing, and use code DC361 and get 20% off buying it!).

The book dissects the issues, and offers a bunch of case studies from across Africa, including a great chapter on Zimbabwe by Vupenyu Dzingirai and Lindiwe Mangwanya from the Centre for Applied Social Sciences at UZ. This focuses on the Kariba REDD project in Hurungwe, one of a number of districts involved, with the whole project covering to date a massive 1.4 million hectares of land along the Zambezi valley.

Deforestation and land degradation globally contribute significantly to carbon emissions, and addressing these has become a major policy priority. Carbon offset approaches, mediated by carbon markets and facilitated by international accords and global climate finance, have become especially popular. In such schemes carbon emissions in one part of the world (usually the industrialised north) are offset by initiatives that reduce emissions in another part of the world where there are plentiful forests, and opportunities for new carbon sequestration (such as Africa). Such projects can, it is argued, additionally focus on poverty reduction and biodiversity protection, creating a ‘win-win’ scenario, rather than a feared ‘green grabbing’.

This is the theory; but what of the practice? The book is about what happens on the ground when carbon forestry projects – existing in various guises, often under the umbrella of the Reduced Emissions for Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) programme – arrive. In this new field of environment and development practice, there are many new players, a whole panoply of models, processes and procedures for verification and monitoring, and a hot politics of authority and control. Understanding what works, and what doesn’t is crucial, and the various chapters offer some salutary lessons on the current fad for market-based offset approaches to carbon mitigation.

The detailed case studies come from seven countries, from west, east and southern Africa, including Ghana, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The chapters ask what actually happens when carbon forestry projects unfold in particular places: who wins, and who loses out, and what are the consequences – for carbon sequestration and offsetting, as well as poverty reduction? As all the cases show, carbon projects do not arrive on a blank slate. All sites have long histories of intervention, including a whole array of forestry, environmental protection and development projects. These have shaped and reshaped livelihoods and landscapes, and generated experiences and memories that influence local responses to new interventions.

The chapters cover a huge range of African ecologies, different carbon forestry project types and an array of national political-economic contexts. In all chapters, the authors ask: what difference does carbon make? What political and ecological dynamics are unleashed by these new commodified, marketized approaches, and how are local forest users experiencing and responding to them? Carbon forestry projects – as previous interventions in forest use, ownership and management – have not been the panacea some had expected. Multiple conflicts have emerged between land owners, forest users and project developers. Achieving a neat, market-based solution to climate mitigation through forest carbon projects not straightforward.

In the Zimbabwe case, for example, the project developer, Carbon Green Africa, has allied in Hurungwe with local Korekore  farmers and the Rural District Council, offering a range of benefits, including carbon dividends and ‘alternative livelihood’ projects  in exchange for protecting forests, and planting trees. As the notional ‘traditional’ and ‘administrative’ owners of the land, they should have the authority. But they are pitched against powerful forces with other ideas about resource use and economic priorities. These including politically-connected tobacco farmers who migrated to the area through the 1980s and 90s; indeed at the invitation of the same local Korekore leaders now backing carbon. Today, they are making considerable sums of money, and destroying substantial areas of forest when curing. With the land reform in 2000 there was a further wave of in-migration from those displaced from the nearby Karoi farmers, notably farmworkers of diverse origins. They were encouraged to settle on the frontiers, often inside game and safari areas as a buffer to wildlife for the long-standing residents. They too have cleared land and reduced forest cover, and survive through a mix of farming, hunting and gathering, as well as labouring on the tobacco farms. The new social, cultural and economic landscape, evolving through waves of migration, is one where a simple REDD project is immensely difficult to implement, as divisions based on ethnicity, class, gender, economic priority and more divide ‘the community’ that is notionally involved in the project. The assumption that climate mitigation through carbon offsetting in Africa’s forests is going to be easy is thoroughly challenged by the Zimbabwe case – as all the others in the book.

Across the book, we argue that a new politics of access and control over forests and their carbon is emerging, making the noble aims of climate mitigation through carbon forestry very challenging indeed. There’s a need to address conflicts head on, and to develop a more politically sophisticated approach to carbon governance in complex landscapes than has been seen to date. For all those engaged in the debates in the lead up to Paris and beyond, the book points to ways forward that take account of the complex, layered politics of Africa’s forest landscapes. As Jesse Ribot from the University of Illinois says: “Carbon forestry is privatizing, commodifying and financializing the world’s forests, recasting relations between state and market forest landscapes. This book illuminates the fraught political economy of this transformative moment”.

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

 

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Scottish land reform: echoes of Zimbabwe?

Imagine a country with a nationalist government that is proposing land reform. Imagine that a few hundred individuals, many of them ‘foreigners’, own half the country’s private land. Imagine that large swathes of this land was used for sport hunting for a rich elite. Imagine that the government was proposing to enforce proper use of the land for sustainable development through new legislation. Imagine the government through its land reform plans was proposing potential compulsory acquisition to transfer land to community use. Imagine the country’s leader saying that land as a national asset should benefit the majority not just the few. Imagine that the landed elite took umbrage, and shouted loudly at the injustice.

Have you guessed the country? No it’s not Zimbabwe, but Scotland. In June the Scottish government published a land reform bill with proposals for changing the tax benefits landowners had for grouse shooting and deer hunting. The bill proposes that land should be brought under sustainable management, and if it is not, the government could intervene and purchase the land. A fund is to be established for community purchases, and a target of 1m acres under community control is proposed, doubling the current amount. A land commission will oversee the policy and a land registry. The proposals are actually rather constrained – much like Zimbabwe’s were in the 1980s and 1990s. Perfectly reasonable proposals for land holding ceilings, common elsewhere in the world, were not included, for example.

But the outraged reaction has been staggering. The prophets of doom in the right wing press have been calling the proposals a ‘Mugabe style land grab’, the end of game shooting and hunting, a huge injustice, and an attack on a way of life. In the Spectator magazine, Lord Astor, the step-father-in-law of the current UK Prime Minister sounded off in self-righteous, indignant tones:

“Are we estate owners now to be nationalised or made to feel so unwelcome that we have to sell up in a Mugabe-style land grab? It would be a pity, but we are accused of owning too much. Are we really going to have to defend owning so many acres of hill when 500 acres of hill may be only worth the same or even less than one acre of good farmland in the lowlands of Scotland? Is it because we don’t sound Scottish? We should not all have to sound like Rob Roy”.

He recalls how his grandparents arrived, and, “after investing in the estate, improving the crofters’ cottages, reroofing them from turf to slate, they became well liked within the community. They spent summers on Jura, and occasionally visited in winter”.

The patrician tone, and the assumed benefit of large-scale land ownership, is well rehearsed in southern Africa too of course. Lord Astor goes on to explain how his neighbours on Jura are investing in golf courses, water turbines and distilleries to improve the lot of the locals (and presumably keep the estate owners’ bank balances and offshore trusts healthy too). The Duke of Argyle complains to the press about the ‘terrifying idea’ of land reform and that his castle and hunting grounds are at risk of falling into disrepair, like a French chateau. The imperious statements of these landed grandees demonstrate a privileged sense of entitlement; a feeling that massively skewed land ownership is somehow acceptable, no matter what the history of displacement. Sound familiar?

As so often when land reform issues are being debated, history is brushed aside, or just completely ignored. Scottish tenant farmers were removed in large numbers during the Highland Clearances from the second half of the eighteenth and into the nineteenth century to give way to sheep farming. Displaced to crofter settlements and coastal villages, great suffering resulted, and many migrated to the New World. Later the sheep farms were replaced with deer forests and grouse moors, as a new elite, the beneficiaries of the industrial revolution, took over. Relatively few small-scale producers remain in crofting communities in the Highlands; most had to move to the cities or abroad to give way to new forms of production. The estates were very often run by the English gentry; and later also rich elites from the Middle East, even Africa. Bizarre but true, around the time of the Zimbabwe land invasions, a rumour went around that Robert Mugabe owned a Highland estate, and BBC journalists were apparently dispatched check out the (false) story.

No-one of course knows exactly how many people own the land in Scotland, and who owns it. Land ownership remains secret, and there has never been a full, transparent audit. Hiding unequal land ownership is a familiar pattern (again some parallels?), and pressures to impose a full registration to allow for proper taxation and land auditing have been resisted for decades (I wonder why?). Some estimate that 0.025 per cent of the population owns 67 per cent of Scotland’s rural land, and only 432 individuals own half the private land in Scotland, some of it absolutely massive estates. Ten per cent of Scotland is estimated to be owned by just 16 individuals or groups. It makes Scotland one of the most unequal countries in the world in terms of land ownership.

The Scottish National Party, now the dominant political force in Scotland, has land reform as one of its core platforms. It will be important in the 2016 Holyrood elections for the Scottish parliament. Nationalist rhetoric, and a narrative about the return of the land, is of course good electoral material (yes, more parallels), and the hysterical reactions of a privileged (perceived ‘foreign’) elite makes it all the more effective (familiar too?).

Only now are Scots and the wider UK population waking up to the shocking disparities in land ownership and the outrageous tax breaks and benefits that are being drawn on by the landed elite in Scotland. The Scottish government argues that the modest, sensible, rather cautious land reform proposals should be seen as the first step towards a more radical transformation of the Scottish countryside and rural economy.

Such moves are always resisted: names are called, terrible disasters predicted, and outrage vented to anyone who will listen. But land reform can be beneficial, and progressive as our work has shown for (some of) Zimbabwe’s land reform experience. The prospects of more positive change (rural and urban) is enhanced if it becomes part of a mature national debate about more just economic futures, as is beginning to happen in Scotland. Resisting, delaying and then rushing a land reform through when politically expedient, is not the best path, as Zimbabwe’s failure to address land inequality after Independence shows. When a slow, more modest change, leading to more radical shifts over time were proposed in the 1990s, they were rejected by those with their head in the sand, as some are now doing in Scotland. This was a big mistake, and one that Zimbabwe has paid a heavy price for.

I suggested last week that Zimbabwe might offer some lessons for Greece. Perhaps the Zimbabwean advisers could stop off in Scotland too.

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

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