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Land and tenure in Zimbabwe’s communal areas: why land reform was needed

Access to land is central to the livelihoods of rural people, but in the communal areas this is highly constrained outside the land-extensive Lowveld site of Mwenezi. Even in dryland Chivi average holdings are only 2.1 hectares, while in Gutu North they are as small as 1.4 hectares on average (see table below). The communal areas of course were established as labour reserves in the colonial period, and were never meant to afford the opportunity to accumulate independently. The aim was to provide some level of social security in old age, and a place for women and children to live, while men migrated to town or to the farms and mines to work. This wage labour was then the source of income and agricultural production just complementary subsistence.

  Mwenezi Chivi Gutu West Gutu North
Average land area owned (ha) 6.5 2.1 1.6 1.4
Cultivated in last year (ha) 4.4 2.1 1.5 1.0
Rented in land (%) 4.1 2.0 1.0 0.0
Rented out land (%) 2.1 2.0 4.1 3.6
Households with members with land in A1 resettlements (%) 17.1 5.0 3.1 3.6
Households with livestock in resettlement areas (%) 11 0.4 3.1 `1.8
Women’s independent control of land (%) 48 43 48 21
Gardens near home (%) 35 26 30 6
Gardens away from home (%) 1 57 36 0
Irrigated land (% of households) 2.8 0.5 10.4 0
Trees planted in last 5 years (%) 25 46 41 58
Conservation measures added in last 5 years (%) 25 21 8 25

Some managed to break away from these strictures in the past, and there were always a few communal area agricultural entrepreneurs – the hurudza – who ran large herds or farmed large fields, often through polygamous family labour. But for most, the colonial system of land use kept the reserves poor but surviving, and purposely so. Following Independence this did not change hugely. The post-independence resettlement schemes provided opportunities for a few, but most continued with patterns of circular migration to elsewhere in Zimbabwe or from some areas to South Africa, as part of a demographic cycle. With employment opportunities drying up in the 1990s this changed thanks to structural adjustment, with new patterns of land use emerging in the communal areas including some intensification (see below). Nevertheless, the basic patterns persisted within a dualistic agrarian structure, with the communal areas highly constrained.

Only with the major land reform did this change radically with the significant expansion of opportunities to gain access to land through the ‘fast-track’ land reform programme following 2000. But from our communal sites, despite there being resettlement areas nearby (which was the basis for the choice of study areas), relatively few moved from the households in our sample to the new areas. Even when they did, apart from in Mwenezi, connections between the old homes in the communal areas and the new resettlement areas have declined over time, although there still remains important exchanges of livestock, labour and food that continue. Those lucky enough to get land in the new resettlements are doing much better: having access to land, especially in the higher potential districts of Masvingo and Gutu, makes a big difference, and as our work has shown now over many years, there are opportunities for accumulation and livelihood improvement that are significantly greater than those in the communal areas.

Overall, following land reform the communal areas remained much as they did. There was of course some reduction in population density but not enough to make a big difference. The communal areas remain extremely land constrained, and this conditions the opportunities available. With low yields and limited inputs this is not enough to live from. Since the 1980s there have been loads of projects aimed to improve agricultural production and livelihoods in the communal areas, and these continue under various banners. When living in a communal area in Zvishavane district in the mid-1980s I got involved in some of these. They certainly improved things at the margins, but the historical constraints of these being ‘labour reserves’, not agricultural areas with potential, made opportunities limited. Only with land reform did opportunities increase, and then only for some. As argued in various blogs in this series, questions must be raised about these ‘development’ interventions: do they really make a difference?

Gardens and homefields: new patterns of agriculture in the communal areas

In addition to their main land holdings many people in the communal areas also have gardens. As more intensive areas of production, these have often been the focus for intervention but usually as group efforts rather than individual enterprises. Gardens can be near the home or further away near a suitable water source. Apart from Gutu North, where gardens seem to be (surprisingly) few, between 83% and 36% of households have such gardens. These tend to small, usually less than 0.1 ha, and irrigated mostly by hand, with most vegetables for home consumption (see other blogs). Most are managed by women, and such gardens are an important source of relish year round.

With the exception of Gutu North, where land is especially constrained, about 40-50% of lead women in the households have access to land in their own right. This is not necessarily because of being the household head (because a husband is deceased or they have divorced), as so-called female headed households make around a quarter of the sample, but through household level arrangements as part of the marriage bargain. In most cases, this is in relation to the allocation of certain land – including gardens – to women for sole management. Very often this involves particular crops, including groundnuts, Bambara nuts and so on.

The availability of irrigation plots depends on the proximity of a government scheme or an organised ‘group garden’. Unlike in the resettlement areas, particularly in Masvingo district, people have not invested in small-scale irrigation, but if there is a scheme some from a household may get a 0.1 ha plot. Overall the numbers are small, however, and this is not a big part of land use or production, despite these being dry areas. Irrigation schemes have long been a central pillar of investment in the communal areas, but they have tended to be focused on giving a larger number of irrigators just enough irrigated land, and this is not a driver of accumulation like the small, private initiatives in the resettlement areas, which have taken over the land along rivers, streams and around dams. Schemes are also prone to difficulties, as they are reliant on pumping equipment that often breaks down or ceases when power is not supplied. Many also resent the disciplining effects of scheme requirements, with specified rotations, crop choices and so on, under the control of an irrigation scheme extension officer.

Outside the Lowveld, there has been a shift in allocation in land in the communal areas, which has gendered implications. Very often the total land area is divided between homestead areas, often extensions of the home plot to include land around, and outfields which are the ‘traditional’ fields allocated way back in line with the Native Land Husbandry Act rules, where settlements (lines) and fields were separated in the land use plan. With more people and more land cultivated this separation has broken down and very often the outfields are seen as secondary. They are further away, more difficult to protect and require extensive production, which may not be possible because of lack of draft animals and labour. By contrast the homefields are a focus for more intensive production, using home waste, ash and labour from the home. These are often based on intensive garden production, often with hoes and hand irrigation, in small areas, and very often are the domain of women. Per hectare, productivity is much higher and from these small areas the main production is realised.

This is different to the nearby A1 resettlement areas that, in the villagised sites, have been planned in a similar way to the old ‘reserves’, with settlement separated from grazing. Here there may be small home gardens, but the main farming is done in the now cleared outfields. This is quite a different operation because of the scale, the level of inputs and the outputs expected, with different gender implications. While women are heavily involved in agricultural production, outfield farming is usually led by male heads of household, while women often focus on gardening.

Indeed, because of lack of inputs, notably labour (often because of age and infirmity) the outfields may not even be cultivated. For example, in the land-scarce area of Gutu North, on average 0.4 ha of a total of 1.4 ha, over a quarter, was left fallow across two relatively good rainfall years. In the resettlement areas there is also land left fallow, but this is usually because the land area is too big or it has not been completely cleared for ploughing by oxen or tractor.

These (relatively) new patterns of land utilisation in the communal areas, with the focus on a more garden-like form of production in the home fields, also affect the market in land rentals and sales (notionally illegal). In other parts of the country where production is more reliable because of better rainfall the emergence of ‘vernacular markets’ in land have been widely documented. You might expect that, given land scarcity, even if land exchanges are banned, these would emerge in these sites, with those able to make better use of land either buying up or renting in land.

The data show that this is not happening in the way that would be expected, as few rent out and rent in, and no one admitted to land sales. This may of course be a bias in the data, as people do not like to admit illegal activity, but based on our more qualitative research the data probably reflect the existing situation. Bottom line, as discussed in earlier blogs, people don’t have the resource to make a go of agriculture even on expanded plots, and so the demand for land, except at the margins (and usually around particular better quality patches near homesteads), is not high, and land markets are limited.

While areas are small and production limited, investment in particular areas continues. This is demonstrated by the planting of trees (mostly for fruit, sometimes for shade) and the expansion or rehabilitation of conservation measures (mostly contour ridges to reduce erosion). Tree planting, unsurprisingly, increases along the rainfall gradient from Mwenezi to Gutu North, with the most households recording planting trees where the land is most densely populated and the rainfall higher. Investment in conservation measures was noted by around a quarter of households, with the exception of Gutu West (for reasons that are not clear). This shows that there remains a commitment amongst a significant minority in sustaining production for the long term.

Tenure challenges

Investment, rental markets and so on happens despite these areas being under ‘communal tenure’. Some argue that a reform of tenure systems, and the offering of some form of private tenure will improve tenure security and increase production in the communal areas. I seriously doubt whether this will be the case. Despite this notionally being state land, these areas are held securely with usufruct rights, allocated through local institutions, usually a hybrid arrangement between local state officials (councillors etc.) and ‘traditional’ leaders (headmen, chiefs etc.), with allocation and inheritance processes mediated by close kin networks in extended household arrangements in family based villages. Through such arrangements land rentals are permitted, but sales are seriously frowned upon. This puts a brake on an acceleration of land sales and so land consolidation, although the odd corrupt local leader is not immune of course.

In the communal areas, therefore, a mix of de facto private and common property exists, which is recognised not formalised. A hybrid bricolage of informal and formal institutions supports this, which by and large serves the function of delivering land security to land holders, as well as resolving conflicts and disputes over land. It is not neat – there are no bits of paper to formalise it all – but it (mostly) works. The economists and planners who yearn for formalised systems will I fear be disappointed, as the constraint to production is nothing to do with tenure security, but due to structural constraints of finance, assets and land access. These will not be addressed by an expensive land tenure reform programme, which will, as so many places in Africa, be a wasted effort.

In the nearby A1 resettlement areas, the situation is different. There are fewer, long-standing local institutions and local kin networks to regulate land administration, and more formal systems are often required (although these are always hybrid combining resettlement committees of seven, war veterans, party officials and traditional leaders, sometimes involving the same people), to address land allocation, subdivision and inheritance, particular where there disputes. Unlike in the communal areas, where the land is being held as ‘home’, and production is limited, there are different stakes in the resettlement areas.

Here land is more extensive and valuable, and often significant levels of production are realised. Ensuring security for this is essential. For the A1 areas, this is less of a problem, but for the A2 medium-scale farms of, where finance for investment is vital, having a more formal arrangement so that land can be used as collateral, even through a lease agreement with the state, is important. For A1 areas, ‘offer letters’ or permits to occupy are issued, but their status remains unclear, especially in regard of financing.

The failure to address these land tenure issues comprehensively, but in a nuanced and differentiated manner, post-land reform has been a major policy failing, as discussed before on this blog. The priorities though must be addressing A2 leases, not communal area tenure reorganisation, where lack of land makes opportunities for development extremely limited. Communal areas still act in many respects as ‘the reserves’, but now without the labour in the wider economy. Beyond some marginal improvements, communal area livelihoods are not going to improve without an improvement in the wider economy. The focus for land-based interventions therefore must be elsewhere where the prospects are better.

This post is the third in a series of nine and was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland.

This field research was led by Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene. Data entry was undertaken by Tafadzwa Mavedzenge

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Livelihoods assets: differentiated development in Zimbabwe

Last week’s blog introduced this blog series on communal area development in Zimbabwe, and the comparisons with resettlement areas. This week’s blog continues the series with a look at the distribution of assets people have and their importance in building livelihoods.

Our four communal area sites across Masvingo province each have highly differentiated populations. We undertook a ‘success ranking’ in each, where local informants allocated each of the 608 households in our sample to a group (doing well, doing OK and failing), and explained the reasons behind their choice. In each case there was a majority in the bottom two categories, with relatively few in the top success group.

What were the criteria they used? These varied between sites. In the dryland areas of the Lowveld, cattle ownership was the key, alongside off-farm work, reflecting the importance of migration to South Africa in household economies. In the Gutu sites, crop production became more of an indicator, alongside remittances and formal jobs. In all sites ‘a good home’ (usually meaning a brick house, with a tin roof) was an important criterion.

What then are the characteristics of the households in our four sites? The table below offers some basic information.

  Mwenezi Chivi Gutu West Gutu North
Sample size (N) 150 251 97 110
Since 2011, % left and abandoned farms 6.3 13.4 14.9 9.8
Average household size 8.0 (4 under 16) 6.2 (3.1 under 16) 6 (2.3) 6.1 (2.3)
Female headed households (%) 23 27 36 34
Households w members who went to resettlement areas post 2000 (%) 11.3 1.9 3.1 3.6
Households with someone working elsewhere 55 25 45 21
Households with children aged 21-30 working elsewhere 63% (half in SA) 27% (inc. 13 working abroad) 27% (only 5 away from area) 41 (8 away, mostly SA)
Lead women in household with access to land (%) 48 43 48 21
Average age of household head 41-50 41-50 41-50 41-50
Household heads attending school above Form 2 (%) 29 26 32 37
Master Famer certificate (%) 14 13 27 26

Since our original studies, there has been a turnover in households, with 11.2% of our cases (N=77) from our original sample of 685 households having left over six years, with no one replacing them. Various reasons for exit were recorded. In rank order these were: death, moving to live in town, moving to other communal areas, moving to South Africa, abandonment and moving to a resettlement area. Ageing communal area populations are not necessarily being replaced on death, as the younger generation does not take up the homestead or plot, and the land remains abandoned. Due to old age, some parents, especially if one has passed on, will go and live with children in town or the new resettlements. Younger inhabitants may also abandon plots too, finding better alternatives, for example with work in South Africa or in town, or through the allocation of a resettlement plot. The highest rate of exit was seen in Gutu West, followed by Chivi, Gutu North and Mwenezi. In Mwenezi, some maintain two homes and fields in the communal and resettlement areas, which is reflected in a lower exit rate.

For those remaining, the data show a pattern evident in many communal areas. Household heads have a mix of ages, with an average in the mid-late 40s. Quite a few household heads have passed on since we last visited in 2011-12; although some farms have been abandoned, others have been replaced by younger people through inheritance or reallocation. 23-36% of the households are recorded as female-headed, where husbands have died or are absent for long periods. Outside Gutu North, where land is especially constrained, 43-48% of women, either because they are in charge or through the marriage contract, have access to their own land.

As is the case throughout Zimbabwe, and especially for those who benefited from the post-1980 educational provision, schooling is on average quite advanced, more so in the mission influenced areas such as Gutu, where 32-37% of household heads attended secondary school. Master Farmer certificates are indicators or engagement with agricultural extension training provided by the state, particularly in the past, and 13-27% of households have a certificate, with more in the higher potential Gutu areas. As discussed in a later blog in this series, engagement with projects – by NGOs or donors or the state – is patchy, with intensive activity in some areas, but almost complete absence elsewhere. These data show that external interventions overall are limited, and very few people indeed benefited from the Presidential inputs scheme or ‘command agriculture’ in this period.

Asset poor, but differentiation

Across our communal area sites in Masvingo province, there is a broad similarity in average levels of average household asset ownership, as the table below shows. Not surprisingly, livestock ownership is highest in the drier areas, as is investment in well digging. Within the sites there are large variations, with asset ownership patterns being highly correlated with the success ranks discussed above. Some assets are widely owned, such as a brick house with a tin roof, as well as ploughs, cell phones and bicycles. Others differentiate the group more, including cattle, tractor and car ownership.

  Mwenezi Chivi Gutu West Gutu North
Land owned (ha) 6.5 2.1 1.6 1.4
% households dug well in last 5 years 14 2 2 8
Cattle owned (nos) 7.6 4.0 3.1 3.7
Households with brick/tin roof house (%) 89 80 69 86
Plough ownership (%) 52 45 30 37
Harrows (%) 10 34 22 65
Cultivators 12 23 26 16
Cart ownership (%) 50 21 10 24
Wheelbarrow owned 41 50 21 25
Car ownership (%) 13 5 10 8
Tractor ownership (%) 13 0 0 0
Bicycle ownership (%) 45 32 36 43
Solar panel ownership (%) 75 57 69 47
Cell phone ownership (%) 87 92 89 91
TVs owned (%) 23 25 44 30
Pumps owned (%) 5 1 2 2
Spray equipment owned (%) 22 35 21 15

Levels of asset ownership are lower on average in the communal areas compared to the nearby A1 schemes, although there are exceptions in both directions. The key difference of course in the A1 schemes is land ownership, where households cultivate 4.0-6.6 ha of land in the sites nearby, and there is much more extensive grazing. This is associated with accumulation from crop and livestock production and so investment in other productive and service assets. Again, this is not universal, but whereas perhaps 5-10% of households in the communal areas (the top of our success group 1) are able to accumulate from local production, this increases to 30-40% in the A1 areas next door.

People’s capacities are broadly similar (A1 resettlement area populations are on average slightly younger and a bit more educated), but it’s access to assets that make the difference. Land redistribution in particular has made a big difference for many. While in the communal areas there is a long tail of asset and income poor households in need of external support, through remittances, off-farm work and state/donor aid, with only a few able to accumulate through farm-based production, in the A1 resettlements this pattern is reversed and there is much more development potential driven by ‘accumulation from below’ for at least a third of households. For them, a positive upward cycle is generated, as agricultural surpluses allow reinvestment in productive assets, and so potentials for greater accumulation, while others aspire to create such opportunities.

As discussed in later blogs, this has important implications for rural development options, with investment in productive, agriculture-based development possible in the resettlements (focused on ‘stepping up’ livelihoods), but much less so in the communal areas, where a focus on exit to non-farm livelihoods (‘stepping out’) and social protection (‘hanging in’) must dominate.

This post is the second in a series of nine and was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland.

This field research was led by Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene. Data entry was undertaken by Tafadzwa Mavedzenge

Lead photo credit: Tapiwa Chatikobo

 

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Are communal areas in Zimbabwe too poor for development?

Communal areas are where the majority of rural people live in Zimbabwe. With an estimated population of 1.1 million households and a land area of 16.4 million hectares, these areas far exceed those allocated land in the resettlements. This blog has largely focused on what has happened in the post 2000 land reform resettlements, which amount to around 8 million ha with about 175,000 households across A1 and A2 areas. But what about the relations between these areas; what are the implications for development?

This is the first in a series of nine blogs that will run over the next weeks that reflects on the situation in the communal areas, and compares this to resettlement areas, based on our on-going research in Masvingo province.

As argued on this blog before, Zimbabwe’s ‘second republic’ must focus on rural development if the economy is to be regenerated and livelihoods are to be sustained. In 2018, rural people voted en masse for ZANU-PF (outside parts of Manicaland and Matabeleland North), so the party must deliver. So far it is failing. But in order to deliver, policymakers need to understand the constraints, challenges and opportunities of rural settings.

In the past, this blog has identified a range of policy priorities, and suggested some key requirements for land policy in particular, mostly focused on the ‘new’ resettlements. Too often politicians and those based in urban areas or the diaspora dismiss rural areas as backward and desperate, mired in poverty. Alternatively such places are idealised as ‘the village’, where traditions are sustained. But these places are complex, with diverse populations, and with different needs.

A1 resettlements vs communal areas: big contrasts

To shed light on some of these issues, I have been delving into the data we collected in 2017-18 in a number of communal areas in Masvingo. Each site is close to one of our long-term A1 sites that we have been tracking since the early 2000s. Our sites therefore range from dryland areas in the Lowveld to relatively higher potential areas in Masvingo and Gutu districts further north.

As discussed in an earlier blog series, we are interested in whether the land reform areas, with larger land allocations, more assets and a different population profile, are doing better than their communal area neighbours, or whether the A1 areas are essentially an extension of communal area poverty and underdevelopment.

Our earlier analysis found on nearly all criteria that the A1 areas were doing better. Significant numbers of people were accumulating, and investing in productive assets on their farms. Six years on, what has happened? We returned to the same sites and households in Mwenezi district, Chivi, Gutu West and Gutu North.

The blogs that follow will look at a sample of 608 households (excluding 77 farms that had been abandoned since 2011-12). In particular they will examine land and its use, crop and livestock production and marketing, differentiated asset ownership and investment, labour hiring and employment, as well as the range of off-farm income earning activities in these communal areas, comparing them with our findings from the adjacent resettlement areas in our core study.

The data reveal variations across and within sites, showing differentiation by location and across social groups. The characterisation of these areas as poor holds up, but we also see great enterprise and diversity of livelihoods. Some are able to invest relatively limited returns in new assets (the numbers of cars purchased in some areas was a surprise, as was the number of tractors in Mwenezi) and, despite the state of the public education system, many prioritise paying for school fees as a core expenditure from crop and livestock sales.

Comparing the data to those in the A1 areas nearby, however, we do not see sustained accumulation from farm production, and reliance on external support, including remittances and off-farm work, is the norm. Hiring of labour is limited and a dynamic economy driven by agriculture is not evident. For sure, there are a few who are doing well – those with large herds of cattle in the dryland areas, or those able to produce significant quantities of maize in the higher rainfall areas. These are the ‘hurudza’ of contemporary times and are important people within kin and village networks, supporting others. But the data show these isolated cases and, in everywhere but Mwenezi, not part of a wider economic dynamism.

Because of large land areas, Mwenezi is in some ways more like a resettlement area, with opportunities for accumulation seen if rainfall is good (as was the case in the two years we have recent data for), as crop yields on the relatively good Lowveld soils can be substantial. With grazing plentiful, livestock production is possible too, and proximity to the border with South Africa means trading and jobs across the border is also an option. As the data show, Mwenezi is in some respects a different economic system – more variable, but with greater opportunity – compared with the more conventional, highly resource constrained communal area sites to the north.

Links to the resettlement areas: a territorial perspective

In our interviews, we discussed the links between the four communal areas and the resettlements nearby. The results are interesting. They highlight both cooperative and conflictive relationships. The land reform areas are seen as sources of food (to purchase or via support from relatives), grazing (either through loaning arrangements of animals from the communal area to relatives or others in the resettlement or where surplus grazing can be made use of by communal area cattle) and work (through labour hiring practices of the new farmers). These areas, reclaimed through land reform, are also important for culture and identity. In all cases people identified sites where people have been reconnected with religious and grave sites, previously protected as part of private land under the control of large-scale commercial farmers.

Conflicts also occur, and disputes over grazing access and boundaries were highlighted most frequently. Given that there are many people in the resettlements who originally come from the nearby communal areas, conflicts are usually resolved easily. When things escalate, local councillors, and even the police are drawn upon. Many resettlement sites originally had surplus resources, with fewer people and large grazing areas. This is changing as populations grow and more people settle (often illegally) in the resettlements, so disputes are increasing, people say.

Seeing the communal areas as part of a wider economic system is important. These areas were established originally in the colonial era as ‘labour reserves’. With the collapse of the wider economy and the change in the employment market since structural adjustment in the 1990s, the relationships between the rural and urban, and the role of circular migration has changed.

Today, communal areas now must be seen more in terms of their relationships with surrounding land use and economic activity – notably the linkages with both A1 and A2 resettlements, and the small towns, now often booming, that are in rural areas. With the removal of the stark separation between large-scale, mostly white-owned commercial farms and the communal areas removed, the racial, political landscape has changed. This has important implications for economic development.

As several blogs in this series argue – and as has been discussed here before – thinking about local economic development is key. The communal areas may be too poor to develop by themselves, but as a source of labour, markets, service needs and some production, they are important in local economies. Development planning and investment needs to take a wider view, and not just invest in small agricultural projects in communal areas in the hope of a transformation, but think about linkages, synergies and connections, in ways that connect communal areas with resettlements and small towns.

In the forthcoming blogs, I will discuss these questions in relation to particular themes. The bottom line is that investing in production, marketing and economic growth in most communal areas is severely constrained. Where these opportunities open up is when we look at the communal area in relation to the land reform areas nearby, as part of a spatial, territorial approach to economic development. Communal areas are certainly poor, but not too poor for development: thinking more broadly about linkages and connections across a territory is essential.

This post is the first in a series of nine and was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland.

This field research was led by Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene. Data entry was undertaken by Tafadzwa Mavedzenge.

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South Africa’s land report: Zimbabwe lessons?

South Africa’s land panel finally produced its report at the end of July. At 144 pages it’s an impressive document, making all the right noises. South Africa, like Zimbabwe, left the land issue for too long. 25 years after freedom, at least now a serious move is being made in South Africa. But will it make a difference?

The report documents the sorry tale of land reform in South Africa since 1994. The misuse of funds, the corruption, the inappropriate technical designs, the focus on a misplaced ideal of ‘commercial’ farming, and the lack of focus on redistribution, with restitution taking up so much effort. The lack of a capacity of government, and the paltry funds allocated, as well as the reliance on often poorly equipped consultants, are also pointed to. The hopeless state of land administration systems outside freehold private property is also highlighted, as most South Africans still have no formal recognition of their rights. The report makes it very clear that action on land reform is long overdue, and that the failures to date lie substantially at the door of the state and the ANC as the ruling party over this period.

Expropriation and redistribution: new and old debates

Much of the public and media debate has been about the mechanisms of expropriation, and in particular the recommendation that some redistribution should be without compensation. A couple of representatives of white commercial farming on the presidential panel did not sign up and issued an alternative report in protest. AgriSA and the usual suspects made a lot of fuss in the media on the report’s release. But, as many more level-headed commentators have noted, the debate about expropriation without compensation is a diversion. Expropriation was possible under existing rules; the issue was that the state had failed to act. The report recommends only ten circumstances where no compensation should be paid, including where land is not being used or being held for speculation. In other settings, compensation of different levels will be required. This makes complete sense.

Perhaps the most important element in the report in my view is the policy shift towards equity as a goal of land reform. Land reform is cast in its wider sense, as around justice as well as production, recognising the multiple social and economic roles of land in society. This is crucial. Leading from this is a recommendation for shifting the focus of land reform funding towards redistribution, and focusing on three groups: poor, smallholders, commercialising small-scale farmers and medium-scale commercial farmers. Only 10% of funds should be allocated to large-scale, black-owned commercial farming, the rest split between these three priority groups. This is a big, important shift, and could see meaningful land reform with a redistributive focus. Further, the report makes the case for substantial (at least half) allocations to women, and for a focus on urban/peri-urban land, a key issues for South Africa.

Adding to redistribution, restitution and land tenure reform, the report also recommends adding a fourth pillar to the land reform programme: land administration. Given the parlous state of land administration in South Africa, this is an important move, and will give rights to many marginalised people in ‘squatter’ settlements, as workers on farms, or farmers in the homelands. This will also provide an important route to assuring accountability, and insisting that the land reform programme is targeted properly. This will not be an easy undertaking, and must avoid a process of land privatisation, instead emphasising the allocation of rights, including communal rights to land.

There has been much bluster in the South African media and Twittersphere, since the report’s release, but for a good overview of the report’s findings, see this SABC interview from the brilliant Ruth Hall of PLAAS, one of the report authors, as well as some balanced commentaries in the South Africa press (for example here, here and here). International press coverage seems to have been muted, but, recalling its (mostly) appalling coverage of Zimbabwe, the BBC of course couldn’t resist the use of the words ‘land seizures’, even if qualified with ‘limited’!

Zimbabwe lessons?

What are lessons for and from Zimbabwe? Zimbabwe’s experience is not even mentioned in the report (even the bibliography, although it’s good that Mandi Rukuni is acknowledged as attending some meetings). This is rather surprising, given the lessons learned since 2000. Perhaps the fear of the Zimbabwe bogey-man being raised by opponents was the reason.

I think there are important lessons both ways, and regional neighbours really ought to collaborate on important issues like land. The equity focus has certainly been a central tenet of Zimbabwe’s land reform since 1980, but how to balance different interests, with different political clout remains a challenge. The importance of A1 resettlement in Zimbabwe is clear (encompassing the first two groups in the South African priorities) and the real potentials for providing food, employment and income, alongside welfare and support, are evident across the country. South Africans could learn a lot from the Zimbabwe experience for any new programme south of the Limpopo.

A lesson from Zimbabwe is that moving from land reform to wider agrarian reform is crucial – and this means changing the agrarian structure and with this the agrarian economy. This must be the ambition in South Africa, but through a more deliberate, slower process with less disruption. Redistributing land is only step, as the report recognises. However, Zimbabwe has so far failed to provide the post-settlement support that is required. This will be a big issue in South Africa, as, like Zimbabwe, technical capacities are not geared up to supporting this sort of farming.

The importance of medium-scale farms as a complement to the smallholder sector is also recognised in Zimbabwe, but again the tension between A1 and A2 farming has been an issue, and the failure to capitalise on the potential synergies between small and medium-scale farming as part of territorial development remains an issue. Redistribution of land in an area, seeking linkages and complementarities with on and off-farm based activity is vital, and remains a big unmet challenge for Zimbabwe, as I have long argued. Hopefully South Africa will think more strategically and invest for local economic development with land reform at the centre. These sort of practical, wider development questions are largely absent in the report, focused as it is on land, and in particular the legal ramifications of reform.

The highlighting of land administration is however a vitally important move in the South African report. Similar issues arise in Zimbabwe, as I have pointed out before. The dangers of aiming for comprehensive registration rather than a more flexible rights allocation is present too, and Zimbabwe and South Africa share the dilemmas, and long-inherited biases of the freehold tenure model.

So, yes, there are many important lessons for and from Zimbabwe. I hope the biases – even among progressives who should know more – about Zimbabwe that are deeply held in South Africa can be shed, and the region as a whole (including Namibia) can learn together about how to deal with the appalling inheritance of settler colonialism at last.

Beyond policy-speak to political action

What next? How to move beyond a well-argued report to action on the ground at scale? The report is full of legalistic proclamations and policy-speak in true South Africa style. Zimbabwe of course had many of these before 2000: well argued, costed, policy plans for reform. The faith in state action apparently remains in South Africa – perhaps surprising given the track-record. The report assumes implementation will follow forthcoming policy approval.

The report’s authors are not naïve, however. Many have struggled for action on land reform over decades. Everyone knows that political action – from diverse sources within and outside parliament – must follow. The big question will be: will the South African state, with pressure from big capital, international investment, influential ‘tribal’ leaders and political parties not committed to land reform, actually – at last – commits to land reform on the scale and with the support that is needed?

We will have to watch carefully as funds are allocated, and capacity built. It seems President Ramaphosa is committed, but he has also got other problems on his plate. There are plenty of routes to blocking progressive action, and civil society will have to be ready to put pressure to realise the vision of the report.

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

Photo credit: The Presidency of the Republic of South Africa flickr library: https://www.flickr.com/photos/presidencyza/47841232031/

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Mining farmers and farming miners: what opportunities for accumulation?

This blog starts a short series of reviews of recent papers on Zimbabwe. First up is an excellent paper by Grasian Mkodzongi (from the Tropical Africa-Land and Natural Resources Research Institute in Harare) and Sam Spiegel (from the University of Edinburgh) in the Journal of Development Studies, entitled “Artisanal Gold Mining and Farming: Livelihood Linkages and Labour Dynamics after Land Reforms in Zimbabwe”.

In the post-land reform setting, the relationship between farming and small-scale artisanal mining is increasingly important (see an earlier blog). This is especially so in areas where there are large mineral deposits, such as along the Great Dyke, as in the study area in this paper in Mhondoro-Ngezi near Kadoma. Sam Moyo described the land reform as ‘liberating’ natural resources, and those who took the land have exploited mineral resources as a complement to farming, either through opening up new areas or mining old deposits.

Gold is a key mineral resource and mining takes many forms, ranging from exploitation of alluvial sources along rivers and streams, or digging below ground to seams below. Small-scale artisanal mining, however, very often remains illegal and criminalised, making the negotiation of access to new mineral resources tricky.

A complex network of actors

The paper explores three neighbouring farms, which are now A1 settlements and examines the different associations with mining among a complex network of actors. In particular, the paper explores differential accumulation dynamics in artisanal mining, and the complex links between farming and mining. Based on qualitative interviews, the paper offers some interesting profiles of people who combining mining and farming in different ways. There is huge differentiation in roles and opportunities for accumulation.

Young men in particular are involved in the hard labour involved in mining. Many come from other areas, and work in the land reform farming areas, often in cooperative groups. Those with land in the resettlement areas may hire in groups of labourers to exploit deposits in their areas, working out a share of profits. Farmers may provide equipment, or they may join up with others to supply the range of digging and processing equipment required. Key players are ‘sponsors’ who allow the sale of gold. They may have contracts with the government-sanctioned buyers, or they may engage in illegal trade, linked to smuggling networks to South Africa.

The ‘sponsors’ include a mix of politicians, security personnel, civil servants and others with political connections. Able to manoeuvre through the system (or avoid it), they are able to extract significant surpluses from the growth of artisanal mining. That much of it remains illegal is to their advantage, as they can exploit the system. Joining the local group of ‘sponsors’ are others too. Chinese entrepreneurs are involved, either in the buying trade or in support for extraction through the supply of equipment and contract arrangements with farmers with deposits or labourers digging or panning. The paper offers some insights into the murky networks of sponsors, illegal trade and political patronage, but – for obvious reasons – much of this remains opaque (see discussion in another blog).

As a result of this complex set-up, the relationships between mining and farming livelihoods are varied. Unlike their counterparts in the cities who have no jobs and increasingly limited opportunities (as seen with the riots in January), rural youth can migrate to mining/gold panning areas in search of work. Operating in cooperatives, they may be able to bargain, but the terms are poor. Work is harsh and dangerous too, and returns are small. This is survival labour rather than offering any opportunity for improvement. However for their livelihoods, and for those of their immediate kin, living either in the area, or often in the areas to the north, where mining has long been a key part of livelihood activity, these meagre earnings are important.

For those with land, the benefits of land reform include not only the opportunity to farm on larger plots, but to exploit the mineral resources below ground. Many do not have formal permits, but illegal operations continue. In areas, such as the study areas reported on in this paper, the land is pock-marked with old shafts and mining pits, often long-abandoned. These have may have been rehabilitated by farmers, although certainly not to any approved safety standard. New deposits have also been found in many farms, both on the surface and below ground, and these too have attracted investment to ensure exploitation. This involves the mobilising of resources for equipment, as well as labour.

The relationship between farming and mining is complex. Some shift towards mining but keep their plots going for subsistence food, including feeding mining labour. Others see mining as a complement to farming, which remains the more stable, secure income source. As interviews in the paper noted, mining requires patience. You may not find anything for ages, and so need other sources of income, and food, to keep going. But sometimes it pays dramatically, and this new source of funds can be vital for new investment – both on and off the farm.

Pathways of investment and accumulation

As the paper outlines, the way mining revenues are invested varies between different people. For labourers, immediate consumption items may be the most important, notably food. However, for others, particularly with mining windfalls, there are opportunities for investing in farming, housing or other assets, such as livestock, or alternatively in off-farm businesses, including in local towns. Who invests in what, the paper suggests, depends on their origins. The new resettlements include people from all walks of life. Most came from other rural areas, and they see farming as the best route to livelihood improvement. Others came from town, and they have aspirations and connections to allow investment in businesses and other urban-based enterprises that become linked to their farming and mining operations.

Across the gold value chain, there are varied accumulation opportunities. Some are able to move up the value chain, buying equipment, establishing more formalised arrangements, and moving into dealing. Others, as mentioned, invest their resources in improving farming or setting up off-farm businesses. Unlike in other cases of mining booms elsewhere in Africa (or indeed in Zimbabwe, such as the early Marange diamond rush), there is less ‘hot money’, involving ostentatious consumption and purchasing of flash items. It happens, but for most involved, the focus is on improving livelihoods, investment and accumulation.

Those in these rural settings are thus ‘accumulating from below’, making use of local resources to invest and improve livelihoods through different pathways. However, there are also those ‘accumulating from above’, engaged in what the paper sees as ‘primitive accumulation’ through direct exploitation. The use of political patronage networks to capture trading opportunities means that the ‘sponsors’ – the king-pins in the value chain – can call the shots, and make serious money.

Here investment is focused in bigger business investments – from networks of shops to transport businesses and so on – with some having connections outside the country, making sure new mineral wealth is protected from the chaos of the Zimbabwe economy. This trajectory of accumulation is not available to anyone. You can move up the value chain only so far, as these key positions are protected through networks and connections. These of course shift with the political winds, but those involved in production rarely get a look in.

Complex mining-farming intersections

The paper therefore paints a diverse picture of social differentiation and patterns of accumulation, linked to complex intersections of farming and mining. This is a poorly understood, yet important, dynamic.

Moves to legalise and formalise artisanal mining through the offering of permits and licenses are afoot, but it will be important to have more studies of this sort that examine the complexities of mining-farming relationships and the economic, social and political dynamics of gold value chains to assess whether such moves will have the desired impacts.

Given Zimbabwe’s mineral-rich geology, mining and farming (as happened before on the large-scale farms) will always be intimately connected, at least in some parts of the country. Thinking about the use of resources – both land and minerals – in an integrated way, and how their use affects different livelihoods, is an essential task. This paper is an important contribution towards this aim.

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

Photo credit: Business Daily News, Zimbabwe

 

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Zimbabwe’s challenges for 2019

This time last year there was an excitement in the air. Things were going to change. Investment was on its way. Zimbabwe just might get back on track after the Mugabe years. I was getting numerous enquiries from potential investors in agriculture who had come across this blog, for instance. Not that I had much to offer, but I encouraged them to explore options. Today they are silent. The uncertainties in the economy have meant that people are seeking other alternatives. Zimbabwe may be losing its moment. A year is a long time in Zimbabwe.

What then needs to be done in 2019 to turn things around? Many options can be implemented if the government is brave and confident. Others require outsiders to be convinced that change is afoot. In 2018, there have been important moves. The mood music is right, and the post-election cabinet is slimmer and more competent. But actions must follow words.

Many Zimbabwean commentators are offering their advice for the new year. Hopewell Chin’ono for example identifies the need to get agriculture moving again as a key priority. I agree. The 10 priorities I spelled out a year ago still apply. Chin’ono also highlights the importance of paying compensation to former farmers, and seeing through the land audit. Again, I agree, as also discussed many times over the last years. While he suggests there is masses of underutlised land, I suspect much of this is the result of failures to invest because of lack of financing, rather than an unwillingness or disinterest. The rhetoric around underutilised land in Zimbabwe has a long history, as I have pointed out before. But the issue remains: particularly in the A2 areas, there needs to be a step-change in investment and production, and command agriculture is only part of the solution.

As argued on this blog before, the land audit needs to address these issues, and head on; no matter what the political sensitivities. The Land Commission has indeed initiated the audit, but only 500 A2 farms are expected to be issued with 99-year leases this year. This is too slow. And because funds have become available only for elements of what is required, the audit is not necessarily being connected to galvanising other areas of land administration and investment. My suggestions of last year – the need for a comprehensive, district based approach – still stands. But this needs to be done quickly and comprehensively to show that it is possible and successful, based on pilot areas. This will generate the confidence that investors need to engage in the post-land reform setting.

Eddie Cross has some good recommendations for the president on wider policy change, all of which I agree with. The emphasis was on implementing the agreed Constitution and ensuring key institutions are functioning. Growth and investment follow from effective institutions, as trust increases. His ideas echo those of prolific commentator, Alex Magaisa, in his most recent BSR, and in an earlier one on the problems – for both capital (such as Delta) and labour (such as the junior doctors) of having a parallel currency arrangement. Along with many others, I would add in security sector reform to the list, but the key elements are there. Much will flow from such actions aimed at legitimising and reinforcing key political and economic institutions, including positive consequences for the agriculture sector.

Cross’ six suggestions are worth repeating:

“Firstly, please bring the market chaos under control – not by dictate because that would just make matters worse, but by allowing market forces to sort out supply and demand and set values. Take the Reserve Bank out of the market for currency, stop stealing hard currency, allow our banks to trade and float the local dollar. And do not delay, do it like we did on the 17th February 2009. You will be very surprised by the market response.

Secondly, set a clear timetable and list of targets for the reform of our legal system so that we implement the 2013 Constitution in full in three years. Do not do it by subterfuge, like indigenisation, but do it openly and properly so that the world can see we are at last putting our legal and political house in order.

Thirdly, start the process of cleaning up our politicized and compromised Judicial system. Begin with the Chief Justice and the Judge President and then allow them to review the entire bench down to Magistrate level. Give us a powerful and totally independent Prosecutor General who will take no prisoners when it comes to fighting corruption and enforcing the law.

Fourthly, respect our property rights. Start by fulfilling your commitment to pay compensation that is fair and affordable to all those who have lost property to the State – and it’s not just the former farmers – it includes Mawere. Stop all those who are using their political connections to abuse the rights of others. Insist on the Courts enforcing contracts and the Police in following Court instructions – to the letter.

Fifthly, if taking your comrades to the cleaners over past violations of the law or corruption is too much to ask, draw a line in the sand and say that all who did those sorts of things before the recent elections are given a blanket Presidential Pardon and protection from prosecution. But then, demand that all such activities stop immediately or else those who are continuing to abuse their posts will face severe penalties and the full weight of the law for both present and past violations of the law.

Finally, insist on everyone making decisions on all outstanding matters, even if in the process some mistakes are made. No decisions are much more damaging than poor decisions. The present situation where nothing is moving ahead, no Parastatals are being privatised, new investments are being held up by Officials and Ministers who have no stakes in the outcome….. This has cost Zimbabwe billions of dollars in new investment and GDP, even exports.”

I have just one quibble with Cross’ list. I agree that respecting past rights is essential – and that includes compensation for expropriated property – but this is not of course the same as advocating private title for the future; an issue on which I diverge significantly from Cross’ prescriptions. This however does not undermine the argument for addressing the compensation issue, even if future land tenure arrangements should be different to the past.

More generally, as Hopewell Chin’ono argues, a new attitude in government is required, one that grabs the opportunities and does not blame outside forces for all ills. This was the narrative of the Mugabe era. It is true that on-going sanctions, even if directed only at certain individuals, are hampering investment indirectly. ZIDERA in particular is a big blockage. But the government needs to address the conditions squarely, while not conceding everything.

A more confident, pro-active stance on land, agriculture and investment, combined with an acknowledgement of the need for compensation for former land owners, will go a long way towards convincing outsiders – maybe even the United States government – that Zimbabwe is serious, and the second republic has a chance of flourishing with external support.

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

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Zimbabweland’s top 20 posts of 2018

The most popular blogposts published in 2018 are listed below.

Debates in Zimbabwe have been dominated by the July election and their aftermath, and several popular blogs covered this period, both before and after the elections. The deepening economic crisis and the drive to encourage investment have been covered in other blogs, making the case for a focus on agriculture and rural economies and a locally-led economic development, rather than a blind neoliberal rush.

South Africa’s ongoing debate about ‘expropriation without compensation’ continues as a hot topic in the region, and is reflected in a blog in the number 1 spot. Many commentators in South Africa and beyond make lazy comparisons with Zimbabwe, arguing that Zimbabwe’s ‘failed land reform’ will be repeated south of the Limpopo if South Africa opts for a major land distribution. Our work over many years has attempted to counter the persistent myths about Zimbabwe’s land reform, but despite everything they continue to be trotted out.

A number of blogs this year have summarised findings in relation to big policy themes, such as compensation for expropriated land and the need for an effective land administration system in the hope of moving the debate forward with the ‘new dispensation’. A popular blog, as with many others subsequently published in quite a few outlets, lists ten big priorities for agriculture and rural development, while another challenges simplistic notions of ‘viability’ in land reform debates.

Early in the year there was an extended series of blogs covering research published by Zimbabwean researchers on a range of themes, from labour to mining to gender relations to rural authority. The extent and quality of scholarship on land issues in Zimbabwe remains impressive, and younger researchers are emerging as important commentators on Zimbabwe’s future, drawing on solid, empirically-based research. This work will hopefully have a cumulative effect of dislodging some of the pervasive and misinformed narratives, and provide the basis for more informed policy debate.

The Zimbabweland blog will resume early next year, with more commentary and analysis, and further summaries of new research from the field. In 2018, there were more views of the blog than ever, numbering around 90,000, with many more engaging when the blogs are published elsewhere. Many readers find blogs from years past useful, as there are now nearly 350 in the archive. If you want a selection of past blogs collected together by theme, and with new introductions to each, then the low cost book, Land Reform in Zimbabwe: Challenges for Policy is available from Amazon and other online booksellers. It’s only £1 for the Kindle version, and £5.50 for the paperback!

The frequency of posts has declined to once every other Monday this year. This is because I have launched another blog linked to another research project, and just don’t have the time for a weekly offering. The new blog doesn’t involve Zimbabwe, but for anyone interested in pastoralism in different parts of the world, and wider debates about livestock, rangelands and the challenges of living with uncertainty, you may want to sign up to the PASTRES (pastoralism, uncertainty and resilience) blog at www.pastres.wordpress.com, which appears on alternate Fridays, and also check out the website at http://pastres.org, where you can sign up for newsletters that appear twice a year.

1 Panic, privilege and politics: South Africa’s land expropriation debate
2 Reconfigured agrarian relations following land reform
3 Mining and agriculture: diversified livelihoods in rural Zimbabwe
4 New book: Land reform in Zimbabwe: challenges for policy
5 At Davos, can Zimbabwe re-engage with the global economy on its own terms?
6 Zimbabwe urgently needs a new land administration system
7 Zimbabwe’s 2018 election: what do the manifestos say about land?
8 Zimbabwe’s latest crisis: it’s the economy – and politics, stupid!
9 Race and privilege in Zimbabwe: a rural and urban divide
10 Land invasions in Zimbabwe: a complex story
11 Ten priorities for getting agriculture moving in Zimbabwe
12 Settling the land compensation issue is vital for Zimbabwe’s economy
13 Morgan Tsvangirai: a leader and a fighter
14 What is a ‘viable’ farm? Implications for land reform and investment
15 Hopes dashed in Zimbabwe as the economic crisis deepens
16 Open for business: what does investment look like on the ground?
17 Reconfiguring rural authority after land reform
18 Zimbabwe election round-up
19 New paper – Medium-scale farms in Africa: history lessons from Zimbabwe
20 Post-election round up: what now for Zimbabwe?

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

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