Zimbabwe’s new agricultural entrepreneurs I: pig production

In the next few weeks, I want to share some case studies from Masvingo focusing on new agricultural entrepreneurs. This links to our work on Space, Markets Employment and Agricultural Development that I have shared before – particularly through our series of films. One thing that has struck me working in the post-2000 resettlements, is what some call a ‘business mentality’. This takes many forms, and is of course not universal, but one important feature of new resettlement areas, particularly perhaps the A1 areas, is the presence of agricultural entrepreneurs. These are people who have established often quite specialised businesses to complement their on-going farming activities. In the next few weeks, I will discuss pig production, poultry and irrigated horticulture.

The numbers of people involved are small. They are usually people with particular connections, some capital and have worked out a market niche. While these have always been part and parcel of the rural production and market landscape, they have become more common. This is in part because they are filling a gap in markets left by the absence of larger scale commercial players. But they are not just replicating past patterns. They are smaller scale, reaching different markets, and embedded in different social and economic relationships. But they are producing, supplying products in demand to different outlets, and very often employing others.

One thing that they have in common is that these businesses are linked in to wider supply chains and connections to other market connections. This is where the articulation of different types of businesses, of different scales, are important. This is important, for example, for the supply of day-old chicks, or for pig slaughter or horticulture product processing. Equally these specialised businesses often need acquiring new skills – for veterinary care, for marketing techniques and so on. This means that knowledge networks – including with ‘classic’ extension workers, but also other business people in social networks – becomes important.

Business and technological innovation, credit financing and capacity issues are all important in developing entrepreneurial opportunities and this needs external support. Here the role of the state is significant in shaping innovation and business environments, but this has largely been absent.

This week, I want to focus on pigs. Pig production on a very small scale, and usually with indigenous animals has long been present in communal areas. But in our sites we have seen the emergence of more advanced piggery options, with improved breeds, and infrastructural development for sties and so on. In 2014 we undertook a survey across all our 16 sites in Masvingo, across four districts, in both A1 and A2 schemes. We found only five cases of ‘improved’ market oriented pig production among the 400 households, so this is a relatively rare occupation. Below I share three case interviews from Masvingo district, which are broadly representative of these new businesses.

Case 1: My name is NM. I am 65 years old, married and educated up to secondary school level. I am a farmer in Wondedzo A1 practising pig production. We produce Landrace and Duroc cross porkers. Production started in 2004 when we bought 4 gilts and 1 boar from a Gutu farmer. Money to start the project came from crop sales and my welding shop in Masvingo town. We did not benefit financially from any outside source. At present we have 4 sows, 1 boar and and 5 female porkers (gilts). Over the years selection of breeding stock has been internal, so no further animals have been bought in. The highest number of pigs was in 2013 when we had 58 pigs composed of 6 sows, 2 boars, 8 male porkers and 42 female porkers. We sold most of our stock due to feed and accommodation constraints, mostly to local farmers and to customers in Mucheke suburb of Masvingo town, including civil servants. We sold 13 pigs in the last 12 months. A total of USD$2050 was realised from sales. Ten pigs were sold to local farmers for USD$1620, two to Mucheke residents for USD$300 and one to a civil servant group for USD$130 . Money was used for school fees, grocery, pig feeds and medicines. USD$821 was used to buy pig inputs. We do not employ labour for the piggery. My wife and I do all the work. We only hire people temporarily to gather melons from our fields which we use as supplementary pig feed. I gained pig rearing knowledge from employment as a foreman at NKM’s Gutu commercial farm from 1983 to 1986. Diseases have been a challenge. Our current pig housing consists of brick under grass thatch but with mud floors. The absence of concrete floors has led to prevalence of tape worm and wireworm infections in young pigs. We want to build a proper pig house with 8 cubicles and a big shed for handling feeds but do not have enough capital. Financial limitations are worsened by recurrent droughts when feeds become quite expensive. Drinking water for pigs is a problem especially in dry years. Finances permitting we have plans to deepen our well. We achieve litter sizes of 8 piglets per sow. We want to expand our Masvingo markets including supplying Colcom in future.

Case 2: I am 57 yrs and formerly I worked in the army. I used some money from my pension to kick off the piggery project in 2005. I gained experience in pig rearing while working on the army’s farming projects. I started with just two pigs, a large white boar and an indigenous ‘mukota ‘sow. I get advice from the Dept of Veterinary Services officials. I need fast growing pigs therefore I am in the process of replacing indigenous sows with large whites. I want to start afresh.  Earlier in the year I had 20 pigs composed of two boars. five sows, six male porkers, and seven female porkers. At present I just have four pigs, a boar and three gilts all to be replaced by August 2014.

Project costs incurred in the last 12 months are in the table below:

Input type Amount Cost USD$
Labour Sty construction, feeding, watering, melon collection 300
Dipping chemicals 2 litres 24
Procane penicillin 100 ml 10
Pig starter 100 kgs 72
Pig concentrate 100 kgs 74
Sunflower 12 buckets 60
Maize 24 buckets 187
Total   427

Dip chemicals were sourced from the Vet Dept in Masvingo town. I bought starter and concentrate from Farm and City and National Food shops in Masvingo town. During the past rainy season the pigs were affected by sores all over the body but Procane penicillin effectively contained the problem. I sold 16 pig units in the last 12 months (see table).

Market Pigs sold Amount usd
Masvingo town 6 male porkers 240
Masvingo town 4 female porkers 160
Masvingo town 3 sows 240
Masvingo town 1 large boar 130
Masvingo town 2 young boars 160
Total   930

Income was used to buy farm inputs (fertiliser), pig feeds and some dollars were spent on purchasing a car. In future I want to build proper brick and roof pens for the pigs. At present it is a pole construction and grass roof. I want to build 10 pens to house expected bigger litter sizes than the current 6 litters per sow. This will be achieved through changing over to pure bred pigs. The pigs must have ample drinking water so I want to dig a deep well. On the market front I want to supply Colcom and private butcheries in Masvingo town.

Case 3: I am in my late 50s, married and work for Zimbabwe Railways in Harare, and have an A2 plot in Bompst farm. I copied the idea of pork farming from Mr M a farmer in Wayne who keeps porkers. Before taking up the project I had a goat project, selling goat meat to Masvingo townships and to Chevron Hotel. I erected four pens with bricks, poles under roofing and started the project in 2011 with three landrace gilts and a Duroc boar. 140 usd was spentconstructing the pig pens in the last 12 months. At present I have15 pigs composed of six sows, four male prkers aged three months and five piglets aged three weeks. I have one permanent worker and casuals at the farm and proceeds from sale of pigs help to pay them.

Inputs purchased in the last 12 months are reflected in table below:

Input type Amount Cost USD$
Dip chemical 1.2 litres 30
Systamex 800ml 26
Megapen LA 200ml 16
Pig concentrate 600kgs 384
Home crushes 300kgs 150
Pig Pen construction
Builder and materials 140
Total   746

I am into horticulture so I supplement pigs with garden left overs. Most feeds and drugs are sourced from Masvingo town shops especially Meno Maviri and Musa Hardware. I own a butchery in Mucheke township where I sold 8 pig units in the last 12 months. Butchery pig sales in last 12 months.

Number of pigs sold Average weight per carcasse Price per kg Total amount
3 40 5 600
2 45 5 450
3 30 5 540
Total 1590


Apart from helping to pay farm workers, proceeds from pig sales also helped buy horticulture inputs. Challenges faced with piggery include recurrent droughts and diseases. Droughts cause food shortages and increases in feed costs. Internal parasites such as tapeworm are a problem in young pigs but can be controlled through dosing and good hygiene practises. Mange is the common external parasite but can be controlled through regular dipping and scrubbing using brushes and soap. In future I want to open more butcheries in Masvingo town as well as expanding pig infrastructure in order to accommodate more pigs.

These cases from Masvingo district are similar to others we have collected in other areas of the province. A number of features emerge:

  • Technological upgrading: from indigenous to ‘improved’ varieties, or crosses, although limits on continuing to improve the quality of stock due to lack of financing and access to genetics.
  • Infrastructural upgrading: including the development of new sties and also wells for watering
  • Skill development: learning from other farmers and from past jobs.
  • Labour: these are all small scale operations, and mostly family labour is deployed, but some hired labour is important in larger operations.
  • Farm-business linkages: including the planting of crops for supplementary feeding
  • Input supply: hooking into Masvingo based suppliers was essential. These businesses are embedded in much wider set of businesses
  • Disease management: veterinary drugs and disease control have been crucial and support from state supplied services, notably from the Veterinary Department have been essential.
  • Market linkages: Most have started out linking to informal market networks, but ambitions exist to link to larger market outlets, notably Colcom. Access to this has not always been straightforward, as these larger operations are not yet geared to local small-scale supply chains. In one case, a vertically integrated approach has been adopted to their own butchery business.

In all these cases (and indeed all the others involving pigs), these businesses were run by older men. This was because they had the finance capital (such as from a pension) to invest in starting up. The businesses once they got going were maintaining a profit, allowing for reinvestment. But piggeries are not a business opportunity for everyone. Next week, I look at broiler production, which is both more common, and with a wider array of business models, and wider participation.

This work was undertaken under the Space, Markets, Employment and Agricultural Development project, and the field research was led by BZ Mavedezenge and Felix Murimbarimba.

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

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Nutrition puzzles: the shit factor

A few years ago I posted a blog titled ‘Nutrition Puzzles’. Today, the puzzles seem a bit nearer to resolution. And the answer may be shit.

The earlier blog was prompted by the huge and massively expensive nutrition survey that was sponsored by a range of international aid donors. It showed to everyone’s surprise that, despite the crisis, nutrition indicators across Zimbabwe, including in rural areas, were not as disastrous as expected. Indeed, they were better than most neighbouring countries, including South Africa.

Why was this? I suggested a number of reasons. First, the availability of food was higher than many had assumed – and this was due to underreporting, and especially the production that was occurring in the new resettlements. This line of argument was reinforced in the discussion about the mismatch between ZimVac assessments of food insecurity and realities on the ground, commented on in another blog.

Second, and perhaps most intriguingly, it could also be due to the level of sanitation in Zimbabwe, reducing the effect of diarrhoea, but also crucially many other often subclinical and continuously debilitating faecally-transmitted infections, including environmental enteropathy, other intestinal infections and parasites. In a 2009 article in the Lancet, Jean Humphrey, working in Zimbabwe, argues that a combination of poor sanitation and poor nutrition can have major effects, resulting in effects on growth, even though nutritional intake remains high. The massive investment in toilet building – dating from the colonial period – has meant that protected toilet coverage is large in Zimbabwe, including in rural areas. The famed ‘Blair toilet’ -nothing to do with Tony, but the product of Zimbabwe’s Blair Institute from the 1970s (and the work of Peter Morgan) has had a major impact, providing cheap, sanitary toilet options across the country, reducing open defecation to a minimum.

Shit makes a big difference to nutrition, as work by the Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) initiative and others is showing. As Robert Chambers puts it “shit stunts”. CLTS is a global movement pioneered by Kamal Kar to encourage community-led behaviour change around sanitation. It has facilitated major unsubsidised investments in toilet building, and changed behaviours around shitting outside on a massive scale across particularly Asia and Africa.

Asia in particular is an enigma. Despite the Green Revolution, growing incomes and better metrics on all sorts of counts, nutritional deprivation is widespread. This, Chambers and colleagues argue, may well be due, in significant part, to poor sanitation. The puzzle for southern Africa is different. Zimbabwe may be an enigma in its own region but in reverse: it has higher nutrition indicators than perhaps would be expected. But the explanation may be the same: shit (or the lack of it) counts. Zimbabwe’s sanitation revolution has happened over many decades. Maybe the impacts on nutritional status are being seen in its seemingly anomalous comparative statistics.

The CLTS research, published as an IDS Working Paper by Robert Chambers and Gregor von Medeazza, argues that nutritional indicators have to be understood as a combination of food intake and health status. 5 As must be addressed – the traditional indicators of food availability and access. But also three other less understood As: absorption, antibodies and allopathogens. Clearly genetics matter too, and often confound some of these data (including I suspect in Zimbabwe, given the anomalies in height to weight ratios in different parts of the country). But taking only ‘environmental’ influences for now, the focus on food intake (quantity and quality – and so availability and access) may miss a big part of the story. If nutritional uptake by the body – and so how tall, fat/thin, and healthy you are – is significantly affected by environmental enteropathy, as well as micro-parasites and pathogens, then forgetting this dimension is a big mistake.

The paper has a striking graph from India correlating the percentage of households practising open defecation in different Indian States (both urban and rural) and stunting (below 2 SD).

shit blog

This focus on food availability and access, rather than a more holistic assessment of food, environmental health, sanitation and nutrition is almost universal. Take the Global Nutrition Report, a new initiative from IFPRI, and involving my home institution IDS too. This compiles reams of statistics on every country, inevitably of varying quality (they seem to draw from the joint UNICEF, World Bank and WHO database, and so Zimstat data, for Zimbabwe). The report presents the data in a series of graphs and tables, but does not offer an integrative analysis.

A comparison across countries though is instructive – although it may be influenced by uneven data. For example, if we compare Zimbabwe with its now economically successful neighbour Zambia, nutritional indicators are better for Zimbabwe. For example, stunting of under 5s is 29-36% for the data shown in Zimbabwe (from 1994-2012), while in Zambia it ranges from 46-58%. And this despite Zimbabwe’s lower GDP growth rates, an ailing economy and assumed food insecurity rife across the country.

As before, both explanations may be required: there’s more food than we thought, and there’s less shit. But as with the wider commentary about nutrition, the Global Nutrition country reports don’t make the link and stick to an aggregate picture. The bigger puzzle lurks within and across these data. Work on shit and nutrition suggests an important hypothesis though, but despite the obvious policy implications this has largely been ignored. Maybe Zimbabwe is more like Kerala, and Zambia more like West Bengal (see graph above)? According to the data presented in the Global Nutrition country reports, 43% of people have unimproved facilities or openly defecate in Zambia, while this figure is 33% in Zimbabwe.

I heard recently that new work on nutrition in the new resettlement areas of Zimbabwe is being proposed as an extension of the earlier ZHRDS survey carried out from the 1980s. This is excellent news, and will fill an important gap to our knowledge of the impact of land reform, exploring a dimension that our team hasn’t been able to tackle. Earlier work on old resettlement areas showed intriguingly that, despite improved indicators of production, income, asset ownership and the rest, resettlement households often had poor nutrition indicators compared to their communal area counterparts. The research put this down to higher household sizes and the need to share food and income among more people. This is certainly a plausible explanation – and one that we have discussed for new resettlement households. But perhaps there was another reason – a lack of toilets and poor sanitation.

In our work in Masvingo and Mvurwi we have looked at toilet building since settlement. Certainly in the early years as people carved out homesteads and villages toilets were few and far between, but the numbers have grown rapidly (completely unsubsidised by government, donors or NGOS, and often using the classic Blair design). 83% and 63% of households in the A1 sites in Mvurwi and Masvingo had built a toilet by 2014 and 2012 respectively in our sample. Because these facilities are often shared in villages, basically everyone has access to a toilet. Resettlement households definitely value toilets. Toilet building has been a key part of the investments in new resettlements. Based on estimates of the cost of building (materials, not labour), we worked out that households in our sample had spent on average the equivalent of around US$150 since settlement on toilet building.

The impetus of CLTS programmes is not it seems needed to build them, and people have recognised the importance of sanitation over many, many decades of exposure to various programmes. I have no idea whether this cultural and social history of toilets has affected attitudes to shit in different ways to other countries in the region, but it’s an interesting question worthy of some comparative research, along the lines of the India study mentioned earlier.

As new work on nutrition in new resettlements is undertaken I hope the ‘shit factor’ is added into the hypotheses and research design. Working this out and establishing the evidence base may have major implications for policy – not only in Zimbabwe, but also the region. If addressing poor nutrition is a goal for sustainable development – as it should be – then building more toilets may be as important as growing more food.

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



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The UK election, Africa and Zimbabwe

On Thursday it’s the UK election. The most open for ages, and no-one knows who will come out on top – and more importantly what configuration any post-election coalition will look like. As a small set of islands and a dwindling economic and political power, elections in the UK should not really matter for the rest of the world. But bizarrely they do; and perhaps especially this one. The tectonic shifts occurring in British politics may have long-run consequences. Depending on the outcome and the political battles that follow, the UK could either split up – with the Scottish Nationalists demanding an early re-run of the referendum – or leave the European Union – with the Tory right and UKIP urging an exit. Any of these scenarios will mean major changes in how Britain (or perhaps a new union of England, Wales and Northern Ireland) interacts with the world.

How then are the various parties addressing ‘international issues’, and African and development issues in particular? On African Arguments, Magnus Taylor and Hetty Bailey have offered a very useful summary of the different manifesto pledges. With the inevitable exception of UKIP, all the parties have committed to maintaining the 0.7 per cent of GDP commitment to international development. The Greens even urge that it be increased to 1 per cent. In the age of austerity this cross-party consensus to ring-fence aid money seems extraordinary. It is however a fragile consensus, continuously attacked by the right-wing press and others. Any post-election wrangling, particularly if UKIP are involved in some type of deal in alliance with the right-wing of the Tory party, will challenge it. But for the time being the view, forged by Tony Blair and Gordon Brown before 2010, that the UK should commit to an internationalist agenda, involving humanitarian and development aid is, amazingly, sticking.

However, as the African Arguments piece shows, the way ‘international development’ is framed in the manifestos is – with some exceptions – very different to the hey-day of the late 1990s, when the Department for International Development was formed. Today, because of the political threat, aid is very much constructed as expenditure in Britain’s often quite short term interests. Aid is for building platforms for British business abroad (a return to a ‘mercantilist power’ – and of course competing with China who has no qualms about link aid and commerce); for quelling conflict and reducing immigration to Europe (and with the horrific scenes of boats arriving to Lampedusa, this is high on the news agenda); and for preventing Islamic extremism that may have an impact at home. Humanitarianism has not gone though, and the massive public response to the Nepal earthquake has demonstrated again, that small-island selfishness is not universal. However, the aid for trade agenda in particular has become very prominent under the current government, and DFID’s work is often indistinguishable from the export promotion wings of the Foreign Office and BIS, the Department for Business, Industry and Skills. The focus on ‘fragile states’ means the Ministry of Defence is also heavily embroiled in the ‘development’ agenda too. It remains to be seen if DFID survives this election along with its budget. Certainly in the last decade DFID has become a shadow of its former self, and very much lost its way (see this brilliant blog by my colleague, Robert Chambers on the extreme pathologies hampering DFID’s work).

What does this all mean for Africa – and Zimbabwe in particular? Zimbabwe retains a peculiar fascination in British politics. There is an All-Party Group on Zimbabwe for example that provides an essentially anti-ZANU-PF/anti-Mugabe lobby group within parliament, with regular meetings, reports and parliamentary questions. It has been chaired for by the Labour MP for Vauxhall, Kate Hoey. Her website documents her ‘undercover’ visits to Zimbabwe in the 2000s and support for human rights and the opposition MDC. Her other passion for country sports and fox hunting probably makes for common ground with other members of the committee, who include a number of Tory Lords and establishment figures. The group reflects the very British complexion of political links with Zimbabwe. It includes Labour party human rights campaigners – with their backgrounds often in the struggle against apartheid (most notably Peter Hain, but also Baroness Kinnock – a leading member of the group, and someone who regularly asks questions on Zimbabwe in parliament), the Tory grandees with post-colonial connections to ‘kith and kin’ in Zimbabwe, and those more squarely interested in trade and business in southern Africa. This unlikely coalition have been brought together in the past 15 years with their support for the opposition in Zimbabwe and their detestation of President Mugabe. Lobbied by former white farmer activists from Zimbabwe, business associations, and diaspora networks, mostly notably the die-hards of the Zimbabwe Vigil, the Foreign Office and DFID are under continuous pressure on Zimbabwe. And too often, as I have found on too many occasions, subject to extreme forms of misinformation and bias.


Nothing perhaps illustrates this better than the most bizarre of outbursts from the Mayor of London, prospective MP, and potential future Conservative Party leader, Boris Johnson. On the occasion of President Mugabe’s birthday bash in February, Johnson used a column in the Tory flagship, the Daily Telegraph, to let rip. Too often dismissed as a posh buffoon, Johnson is a smart and dangerous political operator. And if Cameron and co stumble on Thursday, he could find himself in the top position in the Conservative Party, maybe in time even Prime Minister. So read his diatribe in this light – and be scared, very scared. While pitched as a pre-election jibe at Tony Blair (blaming Blair for appeasing Mugabe), it demonstrated in full flow the narrow-minded, colonial, almost racist, attitude of too many (highly intelligent – and Boris is no fool) commentators on Zimbabwe. As noted by Wilbert Mukori in his column the Telegraph piece was full of an “obnoxious and overbearing British imperialist mentality” that simply acted to boost Mugabe’s position. Of course the ZANU-PF spin-master, Jonathan Moyo lapped it up, and the clumsy intervention was used (as ever) rather effectively as a propaganda weapon in ZANU-PF’s on-going tussle with the British establishment.

British politicians repeatedly fail to understand Africa, and perhaps especially Zimbabwe. From Clare Short’s disastrous letter on the land issue to this most recent outburst from Boris, the lack of appreciation of history, the gross insensitivity to global relations, and the absence of reflexivity of position and power, is flabbergasting. The 2013 elections in Zimbabwe were badly called by British diplomats, characterised by Richard Dowden as “the biggest defeat for the United Kingdom’s policy in Africa in 60 years”. I have no idea who advises the UK Foreign Office or DFID at the highest levels on Zimbabwe (it’s not me – they’ve never asked!), but the lack of understanding is frequently quite shocking. It comes from their own isolation (they don’t get out enough), the extraordinarily poor reporting of Zimbabwe in the British media, and the briefings influenced by the London and parliamentary lobby groups of course. And their hands are tied by the strictures imposed by the UK and the European Union following 2000 – the ‘sanctions’ and ‘restrictive measures’ that have caused so much confusion and damage.

With a European lead, the UK is beginning – sensibly, but all too slowly – to re-engage with Zimbabwe ‘on an incremental basis’. The overall UK aid budget has remained high but it has to be allocated very selectively – with new resettlement areas and support to post-land reform still out of bounds. This means that aid efforts get distorted, and the conversations that are needed to allow a greater ‘normalisation’ do not happen. And so with this misunderstandings and misperceptions continue. Applying diplomatic pressure and focusing aid is of course perfectly appropriate, and I subscribe to nearly all the broad objectives of the UK aid programme, as outlined on the website. But much of this gradual, painfully slow, movement in the right direction may be undermined by the outcomes (immediate, and longer-term) of this election. What if the UK leaves Europe? This will leave UK diplomacy very exposed in Zimbabwe, as elsewhere. What if, in time, Scotland leaves the UK? Will there be a radical, progressive Scottish aid programme in Zimbabwe, alongside DFID’s? Maybe. And what if the likes of Boris Johnson, with a bunch of UKIP allies, take over? Heaven help us. Despite Britain’s dwindling power and economic influence, elections in the former colonial power do still, strangely, matter, so look out for the news on May 8, and the days and weeks that follow.

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



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BRICS and development: new hubs of agrarian capital

When talking about the BRICS countries and their role in development, there is a lot of hot air surrounding debates on ‘South-South cooperation’ and plenty of warm words offered about ‘mutual learning’ and ‘solidarity’. But it was refreshing to be at a conference last week at PLAAS in Cape Town on the engagement of Brazil, China and South Africa in patterns of agrarian change to start from a different perspective: the influence on development pathways by the BRICS as new hubs of capital. The proposition of the BICAS group – similar but with different emphases to the CBAA project (also affiliated to the Future Agricultures Consortium) – is that we have to understand the origins, political and economic driving forces and limitations of the new hubs of capital, in order to get to grips with new dynamics of agrarian change across the world. There was a huge amount discussed at the conference, and the details are only now sinking in, but let me offer a few first thoughts on the emerging debates and their implications.

Emerging dynamics

Despite the hyperbole often associated with ‘rising powers’, one thing that struck me from across the presentations was the limits to accumulation and the extension and penetration of new forms of capital. There has been much debate about ‘land grabbing’, alongside much misinformation and confusion about its extent, but many of the big investment deals that were profiled soon after the 2007-08 crisis have not materialised, and even very high profile programmes – such as Prosavana in Mozambique, the subject of much debate and a panel at the conference – have not really materialised on the ground.

Capitalist accumulation of course takes many forms, and not always those of violent displacement and dispossession. Instead, a much longer, quieter pattern of accumulation may be happening, driven by a new global configuration of capital. This is what Jun Borras called for southeast Asia, the ‘thousand pin pricks’ of small scale transfers of land and extension of (often) Chinese capital in the region. In Africa too, while land grabs still continue, Ruth Hall emphasised the extension into processing, input supply, agricultural technology including seeds, transport and retail. The multiple ‘value webs’ created are crucial in understanding the impacts of the extension of capital from the new hubs. Compared to dramatic grabs, the slow, cumulative ‘dull compulsion of economic relations’ may have as big an effect in the end. But, participants argued, this requires a different lens to understand its dynamics.

Of course since the financial crisis, the possibilities of accumulation have changed. Africa with its vast land area, and apparent emptiness, was seen as a new frontier. But since then commodity prices have collapsed, and the urgency of seeking new markets via Africa – to Europe and beyond, possibly assisted by aid-funded preferential access and state support from African governments eager for investment – has receded. Africa in particular has proven a tough place to extend business ventures. Red tape, local politics, harsh environments, poor infrastructure plague new capital, just as they have old capital.

Domestic political contexts and economic imperatives in China, Brazil and South Africa have changed too. Talk in China is of the ‘new normal’ where consumption demand stabilises, and growth rates decline from the supercharged levels of a few years ago. As China turns to rebalancing and making the economy more sustainable, the massive commodity demand has tailed off. This of course has a direct impact on Brazil, where the decline in commodity prices, particularly in agriculture, has major consequences. This has combined with the domestic political crisis dominated by corruption scandals and a backlash by the middle classes. Concerns again are more inward looking. South Africa has its own economic and political crises, reflecting its failure to deal with the legacies of apartheid, as discussed on this blog last week. This at one level pushes capital to seek alternatives elsewhere, but also highlights the rather fragile claim to be a ‘rising power’, when perhaps Nigeria will prove its economic might in the region if conflicts in the north can be addressed.

Another theme running through the conference, and now more thoroughly understood thanks to some great new work, is the influence of financialisation. This is transforming land and agrarian change, as new players – be they equity funds, sovereign wealth investments, or banks of different sorts – see land and agriculture as new asset classes and investment opportunities. As Moises Balestro commented, the old landowning rentier class of Brazil has a new ally in financialisation. This transforms the way capital operates – no longer necessarily driven by companies associated with nation states (whether BRICS or not), but often truly globalised flows of finance that upset the notion that new political blocs centred on states rule the roost. Such finance has no particular national character, nor any form of political accountability, yet has enormous power and influence.

The mirror effect

Alongside these changing dynamics of capital and accumulation trajectories, another theme of the conference was how the political economy of the new hubs of capital establish the nature and direction of new investments abroad. This is a strong theme of the CBAA project that argues that the histories of domestic political economies in China and Brazil, and the associated imaginaries and narratives of agriculture and development, strongly influence what forms of agricultural development cooperation arrives in Africa – and so the meanings of agriculture, farming and development, and with this the pathways that emerge through these encounters.

In Brazil the long-running tension and political accommodation of both agribusiness and ‘family farming’ with agrarian reform, that Sergio Sauer and Sergio Schneider both talked of, is exported in various projects and technical assistance programmes. Models appropriate to Brazilian contexts – and reflecting this on-going very Brazilian political struggle – arrive in Africa, resulting in frequent confusion, as various cases under the CBAA project describe.

From China, the tension between ‘filling the rice bowl’ and the need to keep a stable, rural peasantry and the narrative of agricultural modernisation was discussed by Ye Jingzhong. This is also reflected in its ‘going out’ policy, as elaborated in CBAA work by Chinese Agricultural University colleagues led by Li Xiaoyun. Thus in different Chinese Agricultural Technology Centres, emerging from different provinces in China, very different visions of agriculture and development are reflected. There is no one China, and variegated forms of capital, reflected in the range of emphases of Chinese State Owned Enterprises that generally run these centres in Africa.

South African capital as it extends into Africa reflects a more unified vision, with its projection of large-scale commercial farming and vertically integrated value chains. This of course mirrors the historical evolution of South Africa’s agrarian sector, from the apartheid era to today, linked closely to what Ben Fine calls the minerals-energy complex that has historically defined South Africa’s political economy. With the power of large agribusiness even more entrenched by the processes of post-apartheid liberalisation, and now reinforced by financialisation, the extension of South African capital, perhaps especially in retail, processing, transport and logistics, but also technology and input supply is, as Ruth Hall and Ward Anseeuw, described, pushes a very particular logic and vision.

There is thus a striking mirroring of domestic struggles, tensions, accommodations and political-economic dynamics as capital extends from the new hubs. This imposes particular directions for accumulation and investment, and smooths certain paths for capital, and so the nature of investments. For this reason, in order to understand agrarian change, the scope must be cast wider, as much activity is focused on roads, mines and infrastructure development. Across the world, aid and state backed investments in ‘corridors’ and ‘investment zones’ are providing conducive conditions for capital accumulation. New agribusinesses follow on behind, often as the second or third wave of investment. This is a long game, where the quick wins of the speculative post-crash boom have gone, but state-capital alliances are forging longer term patterns, setting in train investments and visions of development framed in very different contexts, as Chinese, Brazilian and South African hubs (as well as Indian, Turkish, Indonesian, Vietnamese and other new hubs) extend their reach.

Beyond the rhetoric of South-South cooperation

To my mind, this is the context in which the high-sounding rhetoric around ‘South South cooperation’ must be set. For Zimbabwe, ‘Looking East’ to China – or to south of the Limpopo to South Africa or across the Atlantic to Brazil – must be seen in this light. While ‘conditionalities’ are not as imposed by the west or the old International Finance Institutions of the World Bank or IMF, there are consequences of engagement. Transfers are not just cash or technology, but much more. They include visions and trajectories of development that were constructed elsewhere, and so carry with them different politics and economic relations.

Talking about the emergence of a class of new entrepreneurial farmer, linked to urban markets, in Tanzania (very similar in many ways to what we see in Zimbabwe today), Marc Wegerif, only half jokingly, commented that being low on the World Bank’s index for doing business may be a good thing, providing some level of protection for smaller, domestic economic players. No-one denies Zimbabwe needs investment, but this conference reemphasised that understanding the wider system of finance and capital accumulation in a regional and global context is essential, so this can be responded to strategically.

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


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Xenophobia and inequality: notes from the ‘Rainbow Nation’

I am currently in South Africa where liberal opinion is reeling from the latest wave of xenophobic attacks in Durban and other cities. Flamed by comments from Zulu King Zwelithini and Edward Zuma, the President’s son, the attacks against migrants, mostly from elsewhere in Africa, have left many dead and a large number displaced. Zimbabweans have been caught up in this, with reports of some deaths and hundreds of Zimbabweans having fled to camps for safety. This was not supposed to be what the Rainbow Nation was about.

Yet it has happened before – in 2008, and again in 2013, and continues at a low level in the poor, urban contexts where poverty and inequality are extreme on a daily basis. South Africa has attracted many from across the continent, picking up business opportunities, providing labour and contributing to the economy. They come from Nigeria and across West Africa, from Somalia and across the Horn, and of course from other countries in southern and central Africa, including Zimbabwe.

No-one knows how many migrants are living and working in South Africa. The figures being bandied around again this week don’t add up. Some claim there are a between 2 and 5 million migrants (quite a range), others say there are 3 million Zimbabweans. The truth, as I outlined in an earlier blog, is rather less dramatic. Nevetheless, migration to South Africa, as it has been for a long time, is a crucial part of regional livelihood strategies. In the colonial era, Zimbabweans would come and work in the mines and farms, as part of a pattern of circular migration. This continues today, where ‘border-crossing’ for temporary work or trading is crucial for many Zimbabwean’s livelihoods. Migration is not new in southern Africa – it is in fact essential for the regional economy, and now on a wider scale with new patterns, and added to be many others from across the continent.

A negative, sometimes violent, reaction to foreign migrants in times of economic hardship is of course not just a South African problem. The current UK election campaign at turns blames migrants for all ills, as well as praises them for their contribution to the economy. There is no doubt that vulnerable migrants in Europe are exploited and paid lower than wages that others can claim, and so act to drive wages down. But they also contribute massively in terms of skills, entrepreneurship, business acumen and hard work. The same applies in South Africa.

But the reactions in Europe and South Africa do not look at the larger problem. This at root is a pattern of uneven economic development on a regional scale, and deep inequalities within nations. The great hopes for the Rainbow Nation in 1994 have not been met. The scars of apartheid are obvious for everyone to see. The symbolic removal of the statue of Cecil John Rhodes  – that xenophobe supreme buried in the Matobo hills – from the University of Cape Town has sparked a wider debate on why it is so long after freedom there are only a handful of black professors of South African origin at this most prestigious of universities. Such inequalities are felt even harder in the townships of Durban and Gauteng, where unemployment is rife, and opportunities are few. Meanwhile great riches are displayed by those living in their protected condominiums in the smarter suburbs of the same city.

Inequality breeds distrust, hate, conflict and violence. Without a state that is able or willing to intervene, address past and current injustices, and embark on realistic redistributions, whether in land, housing, services or economic opportunity more broadly, the only resort is a form of local level violence, where gangs and militia rule. The late action and response from the South African state in this recent wave of violence is shocking, and the complacency of the elite is also palpable.

Last weekend a link was been made between conflicts in other parts of the continent, with the warnings reported that there would be ‘pay back’ from Boko Haram and Al Shabaab on South Africans. Yet these conflicts in Nigeria and in the east African Horn also emerge from local disputes; a sense of injustice and lack of attention from the state. Locals are easy recruits into a wider movement because they offer an alternative, however restrictive and violent, to what is currently on offer; which is either neglect or direct persecution of marginal groups by the state. Sometimes portrayed as part of ‘international terror network’, linked to a ‘global jihad’, as pointed out in an excellent new IDS briefing, such conflicts are actually in their origins and motivations quite local, and based on the consequences of deep and persistent inequalities, including around rights to land and access to services, unaddressed by states.

Zimbabweans are caught up in the current horror in South Africa in large numbers. The Zimbabwean government has sworn to repatriate those who want to come home, while Zimbabwean citizens have protested volubly in a march on Harare’s South African embassy. Regional economic integration is the dream of SADC and the AU, but unless South Africa can address its own inequalities, and provide opportunities for migrants in a safe environment and on a level playing field, this will remain a pipe dream. Just as in Europe, closing the borders and discriminating against migrants is not the answer; it’s the underlying inequalities that must be addressed – something that South Africa over 21 years has patently failed to do.

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




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Beyond Zimbabwe’s ‘politics of despair’

There have been two excellent commentaries on Zimbabwe’s political situation recently by Brian Raftopolous and Joost Fontein. Both point to a ‘politics of despair’, a sense of despondency that no alternative is possible at least in the short-term. They make rather depressing reading. I agree with their analysis in broad terms, although as I point out below, they miss out another more pragmatic politics of hope. They focus on (mostly) a view from the metropolitan middle classes, committed to a democratic transition. In different terms, this is the view expressed widely in the diaspora. The excitement around the potential for change that was seen in the late 1990s and into the 2000s, has dissipated.

Raftopolous points to the changing global configuration of power and interests that frames the Zimbabwe situation. Contrary to the last decade, he argues, “calls for democratisation are being pushed back by the statist imperatives of securitisation and stabilisation with few attempts to confront the constraints of neoliberalism”. This is apparent amongst western nations whose concentration on southern Africa has been diverted to the concerns with militant Islamic insurgency in eastern and west Africa. SADC as a body seems not to be pushing a democratization agenda, and with Mugabe at the head of the AU this year, his focus will be on other questions, not least the threats of Boko Haram and Al Shabaab. As Raftopolous points out, the Chinese, now major backers of the Zimbabwe state, with bilateral trade reaching $1.4 billion, are not, despite claims to the contrary, interested in disrupting a neoliberal status quo that benefits their commercial interests.

Given this, “the challenges for the opposition in developing an alternative vision for Zimbabwe are immense”, comments Raftopolous. “At a domestic level the opposition has to confront the combined coercive and patronage structures of the ruling party. On a broader regional and international plane the opposition must contend with Zanu-PF’s capacity to combine its nationalist and Pan Africanist invocations with the ‘normalisation’ discourse of neoliberalism and the clear international trend towards re-engagement with the Mugabe regime”.

Combined with the “constant bickering” of the opposition parties, there does not seem much prospect of an organized opposition response, even in the 2018 elections. With the opposition in disarray and key leaders on sabbaticals in the US, writing biographical reflections of their earlier heroic struggles, and the ‘Renewal Team’, at least for now, being expelled from parliament, there does not seem to be much likelihood of early regrouping.

This is the politics of the long-haul. A view reflected in the commentaries picked up by Fontein. He reflects on the hope that characterized the mood of the early 2000s. Correctly he observes, this was far from universal,  “but the doom and gloom of ‘authoritarian nationalism’, and the ‘end of modernity’ for a ‘plunging’ Zimbabwe, that preoccupied scholars, did not always match the confidence in new and better futures that one also encountered on Zimbabwe’s streets and resettled farms”.

He, however, observes that with hindsight, “all this hope seems profoundly misplaced”. He goes on to paint a rather dismal picture, where no hope for change is offered. He concludes “Despondency is prevalent and a new timescale of hope and aspiration has taken hold that makes both the present and any immediate future appear equally uninspiring. If people are just waiting, as many have suggested, most have resigned themselves to the long haul”. For his friends working in local government in Harare who had not been paid for months, this is indeed the reality (although perhaps offset by the growth of an excellent underground strand of satirical comedy).

Raftopolous points to the underlying factors leading to this politics of despair. These range, he notes, “from the re-organisation of Zanu-PF and its political machinery of patronage, coercion and electoral chicanery, to the massive dissipation of opposition energies in the context of large-scale changes in Zimbabwe social structure since the 1990s”.

But it is these changes in social structure – rooted in the land reform – that I think have been missed in these analyses. Maybe I am overly optimistic, but while these portrayals – of the international setting and for the employed, urban middle class – are unquestionably accurate, I don’t think they reflect the whole picture.

In our work in the resettlement farms of Masvingo, Mvurwi and now Matobo, we come across a spirit of optimism. Yes there are hardships and frustrations, and often damning tirades against the elite political class (but also, as noted last week, examples of resistance). People point to how things are better than they were, and are improving. We have been recently analyzing data from our surveys in Mvurwi, and you can see where this comes from. Across five years from 2010, all households across three A1 farms have been averaging production of maize at 3.2 tonnes (although with much variation), and tobacco averaging nearly a tonne. Around half of all households sold over a tonne of maize in 2014, many considerably more. And the numbers of cattle, cars, combis, tractors, trucks, cell phones, solar panels, pumps and more that have been bought in the last five years is phenomenal, according to our data.

These figures far exceed anything possible in the communal areas from where many came. And those who came from jobs in town swear they will never go back. Perhaps surprisingly, even though extremely income and asset poor, farm workers still resident in the compounds on these farms registered improvements, with many increasing cultivation, and acquiring assets. They all mentioned many problems of an often fragile existence, but nearly 60 per cent indicated that things had improved since land reform.

The contrasts with the depressed and demotivated discourse in the urban areas, where hope of change had been offered by the MDC in the 2000s, the resettlements seem a world away. Many problems remain, but things seem more hopeful and positive, focused as they are on the day to day travails of farming rather than on uncertain government salaries and a failing old, core economy. In a month or two (probably in June), there will be a blog series on our data from Mvurwi to illustrate the underlying patterns of livelihood change that generate this. But this is not just in the higher potential areas such as Mvurwi; even in Matabeleland where I was last month, and in the midst of a poor rainy season, many expressed a sense of achievement and potential when talking about their farms, and the future.

Generating a new sense of hope, out of which a new politics might emerge, will have to come from the fields and farms of rural Zimbabwe, and especially the resettlement areas. The opposition’s failure to engage with the realities of the land reform, and for much political commentary to ignore it too (including the otherwise excellent pieces from Brian and Joost) means that the other side of the Zimbabwe story is not heard, and another, more positive, future is not imagined.

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



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When Zimbabwe’s land grabbers don’t get their way

Reshuffling of political power at the top always has implications at the bottom in Zimbabwe. And so from December last year, with the purging of the Mujuru faction at the ZANU-PF congress, there were multiple rumblings elsewhere. As ever in Zimbabwe, issues of land were important. With a new configuration of power and leadership, some thought that this was the time to use their weight to get land.

Since the land reform – and indeed before – a spate of land grabbing has been seen around the time of elections. Either just before, for those fearing losing power, or just after as those with new power exert it. This was especially the case in 2008, when the ruling elite feared time was up. As it turned out the chaos of election violence meant they hung on, and were able to consolidate positions, resulting in another round of grabs. These are widely resented, including by the majority of land reform beneficiaries who after all were normal people, coming from nearby communal areas and towns, with few connected to this party

The fall out of the ZANU-PF congress upheaval has seen some pushing their luck, confident that they are in the right camp, while others have used attempts to grab land as a way of distancing themselves from the toxic consequences of being associated with the ‘Gamatox’ camp (the term associated with the Mujuru faction – a banned pesticide against weevils).

But land grabbers don’t always win. And indeed in this latest round, many, despite their credentials, have lost. Resistance and protest from villagers, authorities condemning the attempts at usurping ‘strategic’ farms, contests in the courts, and local press and international condemnation have put paid to a number of attempted grabs.

The most high profile recent land grab attempt was at Maleme farm in Matabeleland South. Here a senior CIO (intelligence agency) officer tried to force his way onto the farm. There was local uproar. This was a farm that was being used by a number of groups for local outreach. The white farmer was hugely popular in the area, and the projects widely appreciated. The local chiefs got together and petitioned the government, and in local meetings villagers living nearby vowed to destroy the fences and the farm if it was taken over. The chiefs backed them, saying that they would not support the takeover and would sanction the protests. Meanwhile the case hit the press, and international petitions were launched.

This particular grab of course touched a raw nerve. This was Matabeleland, a place where massacres at the hands of a ZANU-PF led military force took place in the 1980s. And here was a Shona officer from the same group attempting to take land. The arrogance and insensitivity was apparent to anyone from the area. The Gukurahundi period is deeply etched in people’s memories, and the seeming peace in Matabeleland is shallow. While the chiefs are notionally servants of the state, and usually closely linked to the party, their allegiances are at root local, as are their memories.

After much obfuscation, in the end the Vice President – Phelekezela Mphoko, the lesser known of the two beneficiaries of the December putsch – came to the area, and talked with the chiefs. He announced that the offer letter – pushed through by the local land committee that included the CIO officer as a member – was to be rescinded, and the farm would be returned ‘to the people’ (or at least the former owner and the various groups that use it as a base).

This was a major victory widely celebrated in Matobo. We have a new study site in this area, and were working on its establishment with colleagues from NUST at the time. It was certainly clear who people – including those in positions of authority in the state – backed in this confrontation. This land grab was a step too far.

But this is not a single, isolated case, peculiar because of its prominence and international exposure. There have been a few others recently where senior, apparently very powerful, individuals have tried to take farms, and have been (at least for now) pushed back. One case in Masvingo, in another of our study areas, was Barquest farm, near Lake Mutirikwi. Here a minister tried to claim land on the farm, notionally as part of a ‘joint venture’ with the farmer who supplies day-old chicks across the province and beyond. The Masvingo authorities have since 2000 designated this as a strategically important farm, protected from take-over. Again the farmer is highly popular and well known in the area. When the attempted grab was highlighted everyone I talked to was outraged. This was a person who allegedly had other farms, including access to conservancy land. Some put it down to an attempt to present himself as a solid backer of the winning faction in December, casting off aspersions of links to the Gamatox faction. Others saw it simply as greed.

In any case, no doubt influenced by the complex political contours that shroud every move particularly post-December, the new provincial minister, Shuvai Mahhofa, asserted her new-found authority, and withdrew the offer letter, and referred the wider allegations of multiple land ownership to an investigation. For now the crucial day old chick operation is safe, and the many involved in small scale poultry production in the region breathed a sigh of relief. Had this happened in 2008, or almost any time in the previous 15 years, the outcome would have been different. Perhaps, some surmised, things have changed.

Across the country there are a number of examples where ‘protected’ farms have been under siege. These are usually commercially successful but strategically important operations such as at Barquest, where small-scale operations in the new resettlements depend on them, and cannot replicate them given the level of expertise and capital investments required. Dairy farms were the most common, where early in the land reform, agreements were made among government officials in the provincial technical implementing ministries that they would not be offered as part of the A2 scheme. Such local agreements among the technocrats however were often not heeded by those in the political-military-security elite, who went on a rampage at key moments, often grabbing, then destroying, these strategic farm businesses. However some have remained, protected in various ways, such as the case of Barquest, and remain important for agriculture in their areas.

Another case has been Centenary farm near Figtree, again in Matabeleland, where a long court case, with many twists and turns, continues to be fought over the farm, where a senior official from the President’s office tried to take it over. This is an important dairy farm in the region, run by a widely respected Matabeleland farmer, with enormous experience in the dairy sector. Unexpectedly, the court upheld David Conolly’s claim to hold onto the farm, and has requested the land grabber to abandon the farm. This dispute hangs in the balance, but just maybe here again common sense – and Zimbabwe’s collective long-term interest in supporting and rehabilitating the agricultural sector – will win out against individual political opportunism.

Land grabbers in Zimbabwe therefore do not always get their way. This is perhaps especially so in places like Matabeleland and Masvingo where local economic imperatives, as well as local politics and allegiances, hold sway. This is reinforced, especially in Matabeleland, by deeper memories of external interference by a violent state. Local voices against predatory land grabbing it seems are gaining the upper hand, and are fuelling alliances of resistance among local people, chiefs, technocrats and local politicians. As a new politics of the countryside emerges, this dynamic may well be important for the longer term.

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

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