What are some of the emerging challenges on the new resettlements? Here is a list pf six generated during discussions on a recent trip to our field sites in Zimbabwe.
- The next generation’s demand for land for land is growing. Those who were aged 16 at the time of the land invasions are now 27, maybe married and without a field. Some youth are mobilising and leading new invasions. Others remain discontented in the communal areas, or in the new resettlements. How to encourage turnover and new entrants, without the problem +of eternal subdivision?
- Boundary disputes while important from the beginning, are becoming more and more prevalent. With more people on the land, it is inevitable that boundaries are going to be contested. But who will resolve these as lines of authority in the new resettlements remain unsettled?
- Markets for land are emerging, as demand for land continues to grow. These are illegal, underhand and not widely discussed, but are definitely happening, involving chiefs, sabhukus, local government officials and others. A clear and transparent land administration is an urgent policy priority. Land sales, leasing and exchange may well be part of the future, but it needs regulation and clarity in policy.
- Soil fertility declines and the invasion of witchweed has been observed in some sites. Of course planting on virgin cleared land means for a few years, natural fertility can be made use of. But it does need replenishing. Fertiliser application rates remain low, and intensive manuring has not taken off, nor has effective crop rotation. It’s maize, maize, maize and more maize. And now with witchweed taking over, rotations and improving soil quality is important. Just as Alvord, and all the extensionists that followed him always said!
- With improved production, comes the challenge of marketing. There are now increasingly large gluts of particular products – notably horticultural produce – with resulting collapses of prices and incomes. Greater diversification, and more sophistication in timing in relation to particular markets will be required. This will need better market knowledge, as well as improved infrastructure. In several of our sites, the intermittent train service for example has really hampered marketing to Masvingo and beyond.
- One of the big demands for land was for grazing, and as we have documented, livestock populations grew rapidly with the new resources. But there are always limits, and particularly during drought times. At the end of this last dry season, animals were being moved to grazing reserves, but these are few and far between these days as the land is now occupied. In the past poach grazing on white farms was an option, but no longer. The management of drought cycles and grazing management in these dry areas is going to be an increasing challenge into the future.