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What prospects for the next generation of rural Zimbabweans?

After the brief interlude last week, this blog concludes the series of five pieces on youth in the new resettlement areas. Our studies across Zimbabwe have shown how school leavers imagine their futures, but also how in practice these visions are often not realized. The research highlights fundamental challenges of both social reproduction and accumulation, constraining livelihood options and life courses. Today, in the context of a crisis economy, there are few options, even with a decent education.

The informalisation of the economy means the route to a standard job, perhaps open to their parents, is not often an option for most youth today. In Masvingo, everyone seems to struggle to get their O levels, but often to no avail. Interestingly in the tobacco areas of Mvurwi, where agriculture is more of an option, education seems less of a priority. In the past, the route to becoming established as an independent adult was often marriage and getting a piece of land. Men would be allocated plots by a local traditional leader, while women would marry and move to their husband’s area, farming on the plot. Today, the certainty of marriage or gaining land is not there. Many must just wait, in a limbo living with parents, maybe having a ‘project’ on their farm, doing piecework locally, or migrating elsewhere in search of temporary jobs.

The ‘waithood’ – an intermediate stage between childhood and adulthood – has been commented on in a number of settings, including in the global North, where austerity, a changing jobs market and economic decline have meant that transitions to a working life are more challenging. Reliance on parents for housing and support into adulthood is common. Through different circumstances, this pheonomenon is common in Zimbabwe too.

The stress of waiting, not getting a job, not having land, not being able to set up an independent home, not being able to afford to marry (for men) or being pushed into early marriage (for women) is a common theme in young people’s testimonies. For many this is a challenge to self-esteem, to identity and personhood. Without recognition according to the norms of society (and the elder generation), a feeling of failure, generating stress, is apparent. I was surprised how many male youth reflected on their drink and drug habits.

Support networks become important, and beyond immediate family and kin networks, the new evangelical churches especially are important according to young people’s reflections. Embedded social relations therefore become key, not only for gaining access to assets (notably land), but also for moving on via marriage, as well as providing a sense of safety and support, improving wellbeing. But these are fragile too. Not everyone is born into a family that can offer such help.

The emerging ‘communities’ in the resettlement areas often are riven with conflicts, as people came from different places and the sense of kin-based solidarity found in the communal areas is often not found. Those born in the resettlement areas, or who moved there when very young, do not have associations with the places that their parents call ‘home’ in the communal areas. These new areas are home, and often quite challenging places in terms of community cohesion.

As young people recount, making a living in today’s harsh economic climate in Zimbabwe is tough. The kukiya kiya, zig-zag economy is one that offers few opportunities, and they are always short-term. Moving between trading, migrating for farm work (sometimes to South Africa), small-scale mining, and so on requires ingenuity, persistence and hard work. Some of these options can be dangerous too: many returned with tales of violence, police intimidation and fights at small-scale mining sites; although the money was good temporarily, this was not seen as worth it. Reliance on the informal economy also requires moving. I was struck by the mobility of young people, particularly men: spending a month or so in Harare, then to a mining area, then to South Africa, and back home in short periods in between. Women are heavily involved in cross-border trading, particularly in Masvingo, and this can mean many weeks camping out, and on the road. Lives are harsh, sometimes dangerous, and never offering much more than survival incomes.

Today’s youth are part of what Henry Bernstein calls the ‘fragmented classes of labour’, making a living on the margins, and across a wide diversity of livelihoods that belie standard descriptions of class and identity. Such livelihoods present real challenges for basic social reproduction. These are not conditions that allow for a successful bringing up of a family. Stability in relationships are threatened, and children are often looked after by parents or other relatives in rural areas, as the domestic care economy is restructured. It is no surprise that many of our informants argued that it was better to return home and farm, even if this meant just getting a small plot on their father’s farm. This was seen by many as the only route to a better life, and the stable bringing up of a family.

As the testimonies from Masvingo show, the main focus is starting an irrigation project, for maize and vegetables. Engagement with agriculture may be across the value chain, and involve intensive production, but also running poultry projects, selling inputs at an agrodealer shop, providing marketing services, and so on. In the tobacco growing areas of Mvurwi, young people know that a well managed 1 ha plot of tobacco can yield some serious income, far outstripping what is available from informal work, except perhaps from occasional, risky and illegal mining forays for gold or diamonds. Thus from small beginnings, usually with reliance on land from parents, young people can begin to accumulate, establishing homes and families from a rural, agrarian base.

Getting land independently though is more of a challenge. The resettlement areas are ‘full’, and getting new plots requires close connections and reliance on patronage from local leaders, party officials and others. Most therefore rely on their parents’ land, clearing new areas, extending plots illegally into grazing land, or intensifying through digging wells, creating irrigation dams or buying pumps. The pattern of subdivision of allocated resettlement plots is a phenomenon we have only just begun to look at, but as with the Purchase Areas discussed in earlier blogs, the process of ‘villagisation’ of plots is a phenomenon we see widely, both in A1 and A2 schemes. Land inheritance in the resettlement areas is contested. Very often the expectation is that multiple sons, sometimes daughters, will inherit, causing family wrangles. As parents pass on, the next generation must enter caring relationships for surviving relatives living on the farm, adding further burdens to a stressed domestic economy.

Thus the imagined futures of those still at school, many of whom saw a possibility of a professional job (lawyer, teacher, nurse, extension worker), or at least a self-employed business, have not been realized by their immediate seniors. In part this is because this age group (now 20-31) have lived through the worst economic crisis in living memory, when the formal economy collapsed, the state ran out of resources, and the options for waged employment shrank to almost zero. But while Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has an extreme character, jobless growth, declining opportunities for employment by the state and austerity economics are features in richer, more stable economies, whether South Africa or the UK. Thus even migration abroad, a feature of recent life trajectories for many especially from the late 1990s, is not an option. For this generation, educated in the last 20 years, the premium of the post-Independence Zimbabwean education no longer exists. While many scraped a few O levels, the competition elsewhere is today much more intense, combined with the closing of borders and anti-immigrant policies in Europe or the US.

Our studies on ‘youth’ in the resettlement areas in Zimbabwe have revealed some important dynamics, and pointed to some real challenges. The standard support mechanisms are clearly insufficient, and interventions need to take account of the wider processes of agrarian transition, attending to issues of land access, agricultural support, and so on. They must also take more account of the real stresses of life for young people today. We sensed a loss of identity, confidence and esteem among many we talked to, with genuine stress-related illness and behaviours affecting wellbeing. While the overall picture was far from positive, we also had in some ways a biased sample. We talked to young people who were living in the resettlements or visiting between spells of work. We didn’t talk to their brothers and sisters who were elsewhere, which as the data highlights includes quite a number.

Therefore, in new work we will trace some of them, tracking the courses they have taken. A number are living in nearby towns – such as Mvurwi, Masvingo and Chiredzi – and engaging in new businesses linked to agriculture. The resettlement areas have resulted, as we have shown through our work, have generated local economic growth and possibilities for accumulation, not only among farmers as producers, but in small towns and among entrepreneurs of different sorts. Young people without access to land have seized this opportunity, and many are making a go of it. Future blogs will cover such stories, and we will continue to explore the generational implications of agrarian reform as we look at how land is subdivided and elements of farms intensified, with young people taking the lead.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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Diverse life courses: difficult choices for young people in rural Zimbabwe

 

To get a sense of how livelihoods are composed, we must look over time, and get a picture of emerging life courses. Across the 25 detailed interviews we undertook there is huge variety, just among the 20-31 year olds who were sons and daughters of those whose parents had gained land in the Wondedzo A1 resettlement areas. The in-depth interviews were of necessity biased towards those who were around, but included resident and non-resident individuals, as they were interviewed when they came home. As mentioned last week, the lives of many of these young adults is incredibly mobile, with movement between places continuous.

Across the cases, I have tried to draw out some major themes, and illustrate these below with excerpts from the life course interviews. I start with three themes linked to men, and continue with a further theme more linked with women.

From rural to urban and back again

My name is PM and I was born in 1985 in Charumbira Communal lands before we moved into Wares farm in 2002. I am the second born out of six children. I went to Wondedzo secondary school up to form 4, but I failed to get all the needed ‘O’ levels, and my parents, could not manage to raise funds for retakes. I then left home for Harare to look for a job. Sometimes I got a job just for a short time but most of the time I was not employed. Sometimes I get a job welding, next I can work on construction and so on. I have no fixed job, and I am always looking. Jobs are so scarce. Life after school is so painful if you are in a big city like Harare where industries are not functioning. I always think of getting back to school, but there is a challenge of school fees. I am thinking of coming home to till the land, but again without irrigation, farming is not all that attractive. Mid-season droughts are common in our area.Without irrigation I am not interested in farming.

My name is WM and I was born at Mt Selinda Hospital. I am the second born in a family of two boys and two girls. I grew up in Masvingo urban where I stayed with grandmother as my mother had passed away in 2003. I did my primary at 4.1 Infantry Battalion where my father worked as a soldier before his death. I did my secondary education at Nyamhuri High School from Form 1 to 4. After O level I looked for a job in Masvingo but could not manage to secure one. My father had by then acquired land in Wondedzo extension farm, so I opted to leave the urban life for farming. In 2003 my father passed on, but then conflicts started to develop amongst ourselves with family squabbles centered on inheritance of the cattle and the plot. I have my small piece of land but it is still not secured, but I want to drill a borehole and start irrigation for year-round production. In the last few years I did broiler keeping with my brother, but it didn’t work out. We had a few hundred birds, but the project failed. Earlier this year, I decided to leave this place and look for work again in town.

Precarious lives in the kukiya kiya economy, and return to irrigated farming

My name is PC and I was born at Nemwanwa near Great Zimbabwe National Museums and Monuments in 1986. I am the sixth born in a family of 9. I did my primary education at Nemanwa Primary school (grade 1 to 7). I stopped schooling in 2002 at Form 2 as my father could not afford to pay fees for my secondary education. To assist my parents I had to be independent from 2004. I was doing piece work. Kiya kiya, vending and tin smithing (the family trade – although destroyed by cheap Chinese imports. I belong to the Johane Marange apostolic church, and I got married in 2006. By 2010 I had 2 wives, and I thought the best thing was to return to farming. It’s a better way of making a living. My father got a self-contained plot at Wondedzo Extension farm in 2000, where I am staying with my brothers and mother (he is now late). Currently I have four wives and 7 children. I am now a farmer practising intensive market gardening. My mother allocated me a piece of land (1 ha) in her dryland field which I can use. But you don’t get much from dryland farming. The Councillor had also allocated my family a small garden near the dam on state land. I irrigate 1.5 ha, growing cucumber, maize, vegetables (rape) and tomatoes. I sell in Masvingo at kuTrain market. My whole life is now centred on farming. I started in 2010 by using buckets, then in 2012 I bought a 5.5 HP irrigation pump which I use to irrigate my crops all year round. With my four wives, we grow tomatoes, green mealies, cabbages and butternut. But there are uncertainties about the land. It’s state land, so I don’t know how long I can stay. I must move to my own field and get a borehole for the pump to irrigate there. The soils are good. I want to enlarge my business supplies by growing vegetables for export, and I want to buy a delivery truck so that we can deliver of produce to the market in a timely way.

My name is IM and I was born at Rarangwe village 17, in Mushagashe in the year 1989. My parents came here in 2001 as part of jambanja. I did grade 7 at Wondedzo primary school. After grade 7, I failed to go further with education; in fact I did not want to continue with education eventhough my parents had the capacity and were willing to pay all the fees. In 2004, I snipped out of the country for South Africa as an illegal immigrant. I had no legal documents. I evaded the police and border control as I went through the notorious Limpopo River. We were five on that pursuit, and fortunately we all survived   the jaws of the crocodiles in the river. I stayed in South Africa for 6 months, and did piece work on the farms. I started on 300 R per month, rising to 1000 R when I left, but the job was not secure. I found work through my uncle who went there in 2002. Hunger was a menace as I survived on handouts from fellow Zimbabweans who were employed. I then decided to go back to Zimbabwe where I started farming. I helped my parents for two years doing all the farming activities. Thereafter I again tried my luck, now in Zimbabwe. I went to Chiadzwa diamond mine in Manicaland and later Shurugwi to do gold panning. I also worked in Nema mine near Bulawayo. It was processing mine dumps, but there were disputes and the place was closed down. In many ways, life was rosy as I could manage to buy what I wanted. However I encountered a lot of fighting with fellow gold panners. The police were also a menace since they used to lock us up. I was later engaged in some vices which were against my religion like beer drinking. Having realized the disaster ahead in my life, I decide to go back home to do farming. In 2010 I got married and am now blessed with two children. I am now a full time farmer doing market gardening alongside my father. I started with 0.1 ha, given by a relative, and I worked together with my father, in 2015 1 ha allocated by the village head, and I have 5.5 HP pump, and can work independently. I do cabbages, tomatoes and green mealies all year round and sell in Masvingo. I hire a motor car from one of the local farmers, including my brother. I also have 1 ha dryland, given by my father in 2011 after I got married in 2010. The challenges are petrol costs. When you don’t irrigate, the crops get burned and fail. I saw the possibilities of farming in SA. There’s plenty of land, good soils and water here.

Waiting at home, engaging in projects

I am EM and I was born in Zaka district -Bvukururu area under Chief Muroyi in 1989. I am a third born in a family of 5 girls and one boy. I was born and bred in a family that do peasant farming in the rural areas of Zaka. My parents got land here in 2000, and I was enrolled at Wondedzo to finish my primary and complete my secondary education to Form 4. In 2014, came out with three “O’ level subjects passed at grade C or better. Currently I am staying at home studying ‘O’ level supplements that I am intending you write in 2017. I am helping my parents to till the land and do some household chores. I also do part time jobs like moulding cement brinks with one of my neighbours. Life after school is tougher than being at school. After leaving school my parents are no longer paying particular attention to my needs especially in clothing as they are looking for those children behind me. They are also saying that I should work for my supplementary subject fees, so I have to run around looking for piece work. I want to train as a nurse after completing the ‘O’ levels with success. I want to be a commercial farmer as basic/ primary occupation and nursing being a secondary job.

I am TC and was born at Masvingo General Hospital in 1989. I am born into a farming community in Nerupiri-Madzivadondo in Gutu South constituency. My parents got a piece of land here at Wares farm in 2001 when I was still very young. I completed “O” level in 2013, but I dismally failed the examinations. Ever since I had been at home helping my mother to till the land. Last year, my father bought me a water pump to do market gardening. There is a small garden on his plot, near the home. I also run my father’s grnding mill. My father works in town, but I live with my mother, and we do dryland farming together as a family. I have not married up to now, and am not thinking of that now till I am completely self-dependant. I spend most of my time in the garden where I grow tomatoes, cabbages, butternuts and leafy vegetables. In future, farming should be my source of livelihood in my life.

The importance of education

I am RK and was born in 1995 at Morgenster Mission Hospital, when my parents were staying in near Nemanwa growth point. Since we were staying in already resettled farm as illegal settlers (squatters) our family was forcibly evicted from Longdale farm in 2003. Fortunately, my father had already been allocated a piece of land in our present site in Wondedzo extension. I had to restart grade 1 all the way to grade 7 at our new school Wondedzo primary school, which was then a satellite school of Rufaro school. Later, I did up to Form 4 up to 2013, but I did not make it at “O” level. Hence I had to repeat form 4 in 2015, where I came with 3 subjects passed with C or better. This year I am again attempting more subjects. My wish is to get the entire needed subjects before I qualify to enroll at a teachers’ training college. Meanwhile out of study I assist my parents on the farm. I don’t have any plot of my own. I’m interested in working with cattle, doing ploughing, planting, cultivating and craftwork. I even train draught animals. At times I drive cattle to the dip tank and on to grazing lands. I also help my mother to process grain, millet and oil seeds after harvesting. I never thought that when one is at school life is so rosy. I now have the experience that staying at home while others are at work or school is so boring. You become loaded with all the house chores. At times I can think of getting someone to marry but again I think other ways. Getting a job is very difficult more so when you do not have qualifications. My ambition is to marry someone who loves farming. I have been raised up to this age by parents who are both farmers. All the family income is raised from farming and our livelihood again is based on farming. This has inspired me to become a farmer by practice, supplemented by teaching.

I am DM and a second born in a family of 8. I was born at Masvingo General Hospital in 1996. Our family is composed of 5 boys and 3 girls and is the eldest daughter. I grew up in resettlement areas of Mushandike and Victoria East Respectively. The family left Mushandike as we had acquired a piece of land at Wondedzo extension farm. I did secondary education at Wondedzo secondary and came out with seven subjects after two sittings. I had to repeat form 3 and then form 4. My parents faied to pay fees in time and it was so embarrassing, especially when teachers sent me hopping. At this time, my mother became ill – almost for 4 years – and this also affected my performance at school. After “O’ level I worked as a domestic worker at Chikarudzo Primary school for 1 year (2015). In 2016 I enrolled for ZESA training centre as a trainee Electrical Engineer, where I am now for the first hear out of a 3 year training programme. I wish to become a class 1 Journeyman in Electrical Engineering, and later develop my own engineering company to employ at least 20 people with relevant qualifications.

Marrying into a resettlement household

I am NM and was born in Zaka District, Nyika Village under Chief Nhema in 1996. I am the first born in family of two girls. I grew up under the care of different relatives, as both my parents had passed away in 2001 and 2002 respectively. I had been staying with different relatives but mostly with my grandmother, mother to my father. I did my education at Rusere Primary school in Zaka from 2002-2009, but I could not go further as my grandmother could not pay. I used to assist her in farming and all other household chores like washing, cooking and field work. I also did manual work in the neighborhood in order to feed my grandmother and myself. In never enjoyed my life then, it was hard. In 2012 I got married here in Wares farm when I was only just 17. We are staying with my husband’s mother. In 2015, we got a portion of my in-laws’ field, about 1.5 ha. Here there are better crop yields compared to Zaka. I also am involved in a women’s coop garden project. I am a mother of one boy. My husband is here too, and he concentrates on farming, although does some occasional gold panning in the dry season. We look forward to having our own land in the future, and to be good farmers.

Remittance income and off-farm businesses

I was born at Masvingo General Hospital in 1991. I originated from Madzivanyika village, under Chief Mutema in Gutu district. We are 11 in our family (5 boys and 6 girls) and I am the tenth born. I grew up in the rural areas of Madzivanyika near Masvingise Business Centre, Nerupiri in Gutu District. I did my primary education at Mundondo School. I later enrolled for secondary education at Mundondo High School up to 2008. I was staying with my parents till I completed form 4. I tried luck for a job in South Africa, but the following year after schooling I got pregnant and so had to marry in 2009. Currently, I am a farmer as well as business woman running a shop at Wondedzo Business centre. Together with my husband who is working in South Africa, we managed to invest and build our own shop. I am the manager and the operator of the shop, and I go there to supply the shop. My husband’s mother is sick, and we cultivate the land together. Dryland farming though is failing to pay back investments. In the future I want to be a large scale commercial farmer if I could get a bigger piece of land. I also want to drill borehole for irrigation purposes at the farm, so as to intensify farming.

Challenging lives

Life has been challenging for all these young people. These stories, with many variations, are repeated across the in-depth interviews we carried out. The precariousness of work, the challenges schooling and getting qualifications, family disputes and illnesses, the lack of land, the poor productivity of dryland farming, and the difficulties of establishing businesses without capital, are all recurrent themes. Routes to accumulation, and establishing themselves as independent adults, are limited, and irrigated farming seems by the far the best option given the challenges elsewhere.

In the concluding blog in this series, next week I will discuss some of the emerging themes, and their implications, as well as the proposed next phases of our work.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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How are the children of Zimbabwe’s land reform beneficiaries making a living?

How have young people who grew up on farms allocated to their parents as part of the ‘fast-track’ land reform fared in the period after leaving school? In our studies, we have explored the life courses of those who are now aged between 20 and 31, and whose parents were in our study sample on A1 farms in Mvurwi, Wonedzo and Chikombedzi areas.

I want to share some of the results from one site – Wondedzo, a set of A1 land reform farms in Masvingo district, not far from the provincial market town of Masvingo. We are working in two resettlement sites – Wondedzo Extension (a ‘self-contained’ A1 model, where plots are 20-30 hectares) and Wondedzo Wares (an A1 villagised model, where original arable allocations were around 6 hectares, and where grazing areas are communal).Across these, we had a sample of 57 women and 65 men for a survey, and subsequently we carried out in-depth biographical interviews with 25 of them. This week, I want to share some of the findings, mostly from the survey data; next week I will explore some emerging themes and share some of the life histories interviews.

Where are people living?

As the table below shows, around half are living at home, mostly with parents, although some (see below) with independent homes. Others are living elsewhere in Zimbabwe. Most women in this category are married, and living with their husbands; most men are in towns trying to find jobs in the informal economy, often working for a few months, coming home, then returning. There are very few in stable employment or training in Zimbabwe. Some have left the country, mostly to South Africa, where they are working, again in often temporary jobs on farms or in towns; unlike in the past this involves both men and women.

  F M Overall
At home 53% 46% 49%
Elsewhere in Zimbabwe 33% 34% 34%
Overseas 14% 20% 17%

 

Education, education, education

In Wondedzo, education is seen as key to successfully leaving home and getting employment. This is especially so for girls. In our sample, 65% of women and 78% of men had continued to Form 4, with many doing multiple re-takes. 16% of women identified education (i.e. retakes) as their primary occupation (see below). The commitment to education, both among young people and adults, is tangible, but it’s costly. Many poorer parents cannot afford the fees, and kids drop out, either to seek local jobs in the informal economy (mostly men), or help with farming (men and women) or to get married (mostly women).

What are people doing?

In answer to the question of what individuals were doing now, the primary and secondary activities are listed below (secondary percentage in brackets). Most identify themselves as being ‘at home’, and helping parents or farming on their own. Very few are employed ‘in a job’ in Zimbabwe or overseas (although slightly more of the latter). For women the most common is various forms of domestic work, while for men it is more varied, but in our sample mostly low paid, manual jobs. More are ‘self-employed’, being a secondary activity to farming or hanging around at home. This is characterized as informal, temporary, low paid and insufficient to sustain a livelihood. Some will leave home to do this, but many try their luck at a range of activities in the area, ranging from piece work laboring to gold panning to vending and trading.

  Female (N=57) Male (N=65)
At home, unemployed, helping parents 35% (12) 32% (8)
Employed in a job 7%(2) 2% (8)
Employed overseas in a job 9% (0) 14% (0)
Self-employed 4% (18) 8% (23)
Farming on own 33% (53) 17% (55)
In education 16% (12) 3% (6)

Life cycles

Following a period in the kukiya kiya (zig-zag, informal) economy, many return home following getting married. It’s easier to make a go of it at home, with the support of family, especially when there are kids to look after. Overall, 63% women and 57% men in our sample are married. Women tend to get married earlier (average age 19.7 years, compared to men at 23.2 years). Earlier marriage among women is common, especially when alternative livelihoods are scarce. Most move to live with their in-laws, so for girls in our sample out of the area; but interestingly there are some cases where husbands come to live with their wives’ parents in the resettlement areas, as there is land available for farming unlike in the communal areas. Men delay marriage in order to try to find jobs to establish themselves, and only later come home. In our sample, a quarter of women and 15 % of men are both married and farming independently with an established home. Compared to earlier generations this is a relatively low proportion, showing how many are struggling to become independent, existing in an intermediate state between dependent childhood and independent adulthood.

The average number of children is 1.5 for women and 1.2 for men; and of those with children, the average is 2.1. First children are born at the age of 19.7 (women) and 23.2 (men), average, 21.7 years, although 34% of individuals in the sample have yet to have children, showing how ‘waiting’ affects reproductive careers too. As people establish families, priorities change. The informal economy in town is difficult to navigate with a family involved, so as a result for those with children, ‘farming’ as a primary occupation doubles (from 14% to 30%), while being ‘self-employed’ triples (mostly complemented with farming at home), while overseas work nearly halves.

And what about farming?

Just over half of the women in our sample were farming (usually with parents, until they married) and 58% of men were farming, nearly all with allocations in parents’ plots. Land allocations usually move from sharing with parents to allocation of 1-1.5 ha plot within the A1 farm (a few inheriting the whole farm on the death of parents/grandparents). Inheritance of land results in the sharing among brothers (and sometimes daughters); rarely is land handed only to eldest son as is ‘custom’. Some of our sample of young people had grown up with grandparents, and were in turn sharing land/inheriting from them. With relatively large amounts of land in the resettlement areas, those who benefited were often asked by other poorer relatives from the communal areas to take on children. This ‘magnet effect’, seen both in the 1980s resettlements and in the post-2000 scenario, has resulted in a particular demographic composition in these areas, which we are now seeing the consequences of. The net result is lots of subdivision across these A1 farms as the next generation makes claims, especially as many of those who acquired the land in 2000 are now passing on. The implications for land ownership and livelihoods of the next generation are only just now becoming apparent

Challenges faced

In the survey we asked men and women to identify the main challenge they faced.

Challenge Women (%) Men (%)
Lack of jobs 23 43
Family tensions/disputes, illness 14 14
Land/water access 9 9
Education quality/failure 26 11
Cash/finance for inputs, etc. 14 18
Food insecurity/drought/climate change

 

12 6

The lack of jobs and finance is the dominant theme, especially for men (43% as against 23% for women). The absence of any job or other source of finance restricts access to inputs for agriculture or other businesses. Educational access and quality and failure in exams was repeatedly mentioned, particularly for women (26%), as passing O levels was seen as a route to a better life. Despite many emphasizing the importance of farming as a source of livelihood (and particularly irrigated agriculture), it was perhaps surprising that land and water access was not highlighted as the primary issue by most (only 9% identified it as the major challenge). Some however highlighted drought and climate change, and the consequences for household food security, which was emphasized in particular by women (12%). Most individuals managed to secure some land and/or water, even if borrowed from a parent/in-law. The key constraint is capital and inputs for on-farm investment (14% for women, 18% for men), rather than underlying natural resources it seems.

As young people emphasized in discussion, they don’t want large areas, just small irrigation plots. As people move between work and home, often failing to get a job that sustains them for long, or in the period when young people are retaking school subjects, stresses at home are frequently mentioned. As young adults being dependent on parents and living in close proximity can create tensions. Those marrying into homes where the husband does not have a separate residence can also result in difficulties and conflicts. Combined with other illnesses, deaths and other personal issues, these less tangible, but nevertheless very real experiences were identified as the major challenge by 14% of both men and women.

Limited opportunities and the importance of land

With work in the wider economy, and even in South Africa, highly risky, challenging and precarious, carving out options at home is a choice made by many, particularly after marriage and having kids. As the life histories show, there is much moving back and forth from home to places of work, often with very short-term contracts, coming back to help parents on farms in between. This is very far from the old migrant labour economy of the past. Without stability and ‘proper’ jobs, this is stressful, unrewarding and a perceived as a challenge to self-respect and identity.

Those who are resident in Wondedzo thus combine farm production, mixing some risky dryland maize growing with a more secure focus on small-scale horticulture, on a combination of land allocated by parents or accessed through various routes, sometimes illegally, along riverbanks and by dams. This is combined with what many refer to as ‘projects’. The life histories show a huge array of examples, including running a: shop, doing local hairdressing, running a grinding mill, brick moulding and selling, vending of everything from clothes to mobile phone juice cards’ to vegetables etc.

Across all the options that people are trying, there are vanishingly few opportunities for accumulation, and, with a few exceptions, full-time wage employment in a stable job (as imagined by so many of our Form IV school leavers) is simply not an option, given limited means, poor education and lack of access to key networks. This means in practice, small-scale irrigated agriculture is seen as the most viable option by many, and the one that many – men and women – are trying in Wondedzo, making use of their (grand)parents’ land.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

 

 

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Imagined futures: what will rural school leavers being doing in 20 years?

What do young people imagine they will be doing in the future and what obstacles lie in their way? These were questions we posed to a total of 84 Form IV students in 3 schools in or very near to A1 resettlement areas across the country, from high potential Mvurwi to medium potential Wonedzo in Masvingo to low potential Chikombedzi, as part of a series of Q sort exercises, a quant-qual technique for extracting ‘viewpoints’ from participants’ sorting of a range of options.

Through a series of informal focus group discussions with Form IV school goers living in each area, we came up with a long list of activities that could be imagined as potential future livelihood options for both boys and girls. After much debate, and quite a few changes (some activities combined, others split, some removed, others added), we ended up with 49, with some linked to farming (as different types of farmers, others linked to professional and formal jobs, others in the informal economy, and others focused on reproductive/care work). The basic criterion was that could they imagine themselves in these jobs (astronauts and others were thus excluded), but they included a massive range from maricho piece work to lawyers.

Next we turned to the potential constraints to realizing these imagined futures. For this list, we ended up with 36 for sorting. These included macro factors (from climate change to sanctions) to relationships with the state (corruption featured prominently), to personal and family matters (including illness, family disputes and so on) to education/training qualifications, to social relations and connections (via family, church, political parties).

In each of the schools, students sorted these options on cards on a grid. We haven’t analysed all the results yet of the many individual sorts (with a mix of boys and girls, aged between 16 and 19), but we convened discussions at the end of each session to review results and think about implications. Students discussed in small groups and reported back. The discussions were fascinating, with a number of themes emerging:

  • Alongside imagined futures as professionals, service providers, self-employed business people and wage workers, engagement with agriculture featured surprisingly prominently, running counter to some of the literature that assumes that young people are just not interested in agriculture and don’t see it as a future. For example, perhaps surprisingly from one of the lowest potential agriculture areas in the country: If you are a farmer you are rich. Growing own food is like growing money (Alpha Mpapa). There are of course particular circumstances pertaining to Zimbabwe, with its depressed economy and opportunities opened up due to land reform, but jobless growth in the context of relative land abundance is not after all completely unusual in Africa. However, the young people didn’t emphasis just any old farming, but they had a clear focus on intensive irrigated agriculture, notably horticulture, but also tobacco in Mvurwi. Both were seen as a route to accumulation and future prosperity. Engagement with farming was also seen in other ways: farm management as a job was emphasized, and farming as a business, with engagement across value chains via markets. Across discussion groups, there was lots of enthusiasm for these trajectory, from both boys and girls. For example, from a Wondedzo report back: Youths do not have land. If they access land they lack inputs to buy agricultural inputs – fertilisers and machinery. Youths are poor and lack funds to carry out farming projects.
  • Gaining access to irrigable land – even initially as very small plots – was seen as essential, combined with a small pump and access to markets. Discussions, for example, emphasized: Youths should be considered for resettlement – especially in irrigation schemes. Bank loans should be extended to youths to engage in farming projects (Wondedzo). Old people were seen to be holding on to land and being wasteful and unproductive. So there is demand for land for youth, but less interest in extensive dryland farming it seems. For example, unproductive land in the hands of old people who cannot use it should be given to youths, and there’s need for dam construction and expansion of irrigation land (Lucknow) They’ve seen their parents fail too often. Drought, climate change and poor soils were mentioned frequently in all sites (it was after all in the midst of an El Nino year). For example, on discussion group at Alpha Mpapa commented: Most young people do not have land. Those with land lack capital to set up farming business. They also lack farming knowledge and skills. Land should be availed to youths. They should have access to agrobank loans.
  •  Education was seen as vital all discussion groups concurred. They were after all at school – and getting O level results crucial (they were going to sit in a few months, and there were a few teachers present perhaps influencing the discussion!). Especially in the two schools in Masvingo province, there was a real sense this is the route to getting a ‘proper job’, while in Mvurwi the focus was on making money through tobacco, in a setting where accumulation from agriculture has been highly successful in recent years. I wonder if the views from Masvingo are perhaps a bit of a throwback to the past, and the influence of parents views, where post-independence education, or colonial mission education before that, really did deliver jobs, whereas now the number of those with O levels in the ranks of the unemployed is huge. In Mvurwi the pattern of early marriages of girls was highlighted. Failure at school, with parents unable to support, and the need to find an independent income, often results in young women marrying older man. While only mentioned in more private conversations, the ‘compound culture’ of the farms was also mentioned. In the former labour compounds, but also seemingly in the nearby A1 areas, there is a pattern of multiple divorces and fragile relationships, bearing heavily on young women, making seeking a secure independent income essential after school.
  • In terms of constraints, many were listed in the discussions. For example, from Lucknow: Farming is hard work, no farming resources, climate change, land degradation, low commodity prices, expensive farm machinery, limited land, deforestation, siltation, soil leaching – soils become infertile. It’s low profile work, no loans for youths, no land for youths, corruption at the market place, poor roads, no capital, few extension workers. There was the continual refrain that there are no jobs (with multiple people to blame, but mostly politicians), and they have all seen their parents, older siblings and others struggle. Many themselves do small jobs, such as piece work, panning etc., and so are well aware of the limited opportunities for accumulation. However, many saw themselves leaving home and trying their luck in the job market, at least while still young, gaining as they saw it the ‘freedom’ to be away from school and parents. Those in Chikombedzi saw the opportunities of South Africa beckoning, despite plenty of experience that it is not always such a land of plenty across the Limpopo.

Reports from these discussions demonstrate a mix of naivety, hope, aspiration, but also an impressive realism and groundedness. While some aimed high (I will go to the UK, will become a lawyer etc.), there was also a realization that farming is a genuine option, if intensified and capitalized (even at a very small scale, with a $200 pump), and that there are many ways of engaging in agriculture beyond tilling the land (marketing, being employed in input supply businesses, farm management, all featured prominently). They know there’s land in the A1 smallholder resettlement areas where they livre, and it could be used better. Ambitions are relatively low – a hectare or less to get going, they will then market the produce, invest in better pumps for irrigation and later by a truck to take produce to market. Just as they’ve seen their parents doing on the A1 resettlement areas.

These are the perceptions of school leavers about how they imagine the future, and what constraints they think will impinge on their ambitions, but what actually happened to those slightly older than them, who left school 5-10 years before? Next week I will share some of the results of our youth cohort study from one site from the A1 resettlement areas of Wondedzo, Masvingo.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

 

 

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Young people and agriculture: implications for post-land reform Zimbabwe

‘Youth’ have recently become the centre of development debates, particularly around African agriculture. A poorly defined category of young people – maybe adults, sometimes children – youth are presented in relation to a dizzying array of policy narratives. To get a sense, just dip into recent reports by AGRA (the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa), FAO and IFAD (the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation and the International Fund for Agricultural Development), the ILO (International Labour Organisation), the World Bank or IFPRI (International Food Policy Institute). Building on earlier commentary, in this series of five blogs I want to unpick some of these, and reflect on them in relation to new data from Zimbabwe, grounding the often very generic debate in context.

A central policy concern, in Zimbabwe and beyond, is who will be the next generation of small-scale farmers. This is particularly important in relation to land reform. With a major redistribution to one generation, what happens to the next? Are they going to do what their parents and grandparents did? Or will they leave agriculture for other livelihood options? Or are they going to transform agri-food systems, in ways unimagined by their parents?

Competing narratives

In this hot policy debate, narratives compete with each other, depending on the positioning of the commentator. A doom-and-gloom narrative of exit is a frequent one articulated in policy debates. Admonished for not being committed to agriculture, young people are seen as a problem – creating a demographic ‘threat’, a ‘youth bulge’ of the unemployed, migrating to towns or abroad, and becoming a burden on society, and in some cases a potential source of disruption through civil upheaval or even terrorism. Other narratives present youth as victims of accelerating scarcities – of land and livelihood options – prevented from getting on by ‘tradition’, ‘elders’ or state policy that is failing to provide for them. This in turn leads to a ‘wasted generation’; often of educated youth, unable to contribute, limited by structural constraints of society, economy or politics.

Contrasting these pessimistic narratives are others that offer a positive spin. Here the ‘entrepreneurial’ youth is celebrated. Tech-savvy, business-oriented, educated young people can, so goes the argument, contribute to agriculture in new ways, across value chains. Rather than their peasant parents, enslaved to a life of drudgery in agriculture, the new generation can make agriculture a business, and unleash the economic value of land and agriculture, especially in areas where land is abundant. As a route to modernization and technological transformation, youth are seen, in these narratives, as the vanguard.

Many influential organisations supporting agriculture in Africa – as in the reports highlighted earlier – adopt the positive, young person as entrepreneur narrative, while at the same threatening the worst (migration, civil strife and more) if nothing is done. As with all narratives – possible stories about the world and its future – there are grains of truth in each. However, too often in the current policy debates they are not located in context, and so broad, high-flown policy proclamations are too often floated without grounding.

In a number of important interventions, colleagues at IDS and across the Future Agricultures Consortium have critiqued and nuanced these positions, offering a more sophisticated perspective on youth and agriculture, including foci on youth aspirations, perspectives, opportunity spaces and imagined futures. Other work has looked at the ‘life courses’ of young people, showing how varied and non-linear young people’s life trajectories are. Still other work has tried to locate a rather narrow ‘youth’ debate within a bigger picture of economic and demographic transition, with changing opportunities for accumulation influenced by shifts in the political economy of rural, agrarian spaces and wider economies.

Changing life courses in Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe the ‘youth’ debate is especially heated, but also conditioned by a particular context. What will happen to the next generation post land reform? Will they demand their rights to land as their parents did in the land invasions of 2000? Or can they find off-farm employment in a highly depressed economy? Which farming areas and what types of farming – and linked activity – can support more people, and how will youth be involved? These are the sort of questions that have been exercising us in our work in Mvurwi, Masvingo and Matobo over the last few years, as we seek to explore the consequences of land reform on people’s livelihoods across the country. There are some major changes afoot, and our understandings of livelihoods after land reform must certainly take generational questions into account.

Past patterns of demographic transition, linked to a classic southern African pattern of circular migration, have changed. In the past, a young man would leave home (often after marriage following the establishment of an independent home, but still economically reliant on parents); they would send remittances home to their wife/parents, and build up assets (notably cattle); and then return home later, following a period of stable employment in towns, in the mines or on the farms. Some women would follow the same route, but patrilocal marriage arrangements, and a highly gendered labour economy would restrict options, and women would move on marriage to their husband’s home, often remaining in the rural communal area, committing to social reproduction and farming.

Today, things are totally different. Patterns of migration have changed, both in terms of destination and who goes when. Men and women migrate, but often only to temporary, more fragile employment, with just a few gaining access to stable employment, often abroad. This is highly dependent on education, and so the resources of parents, restricting social mobility. Otherwise, the local economy, at least since the mid-1990s, has been precarious, offering only short-term work. The so-called kukiya kiya economy involves trading, panning, vending, and overall dealing and hustling. This is the new form of jobless work of the informal economy, as described by James Ferguson for South Africa, with multiple, fragmented classes of labour, as observed by Henry Bernstein. Such work is for survival. It creates vulnerability and precarity, and so little opportunity of accumulation. In the last 20 years, and particularly recently, this is the alternative to farming and land-based livelihoods for most.

New questions

In our on-going study across our sites, we have been interested in exploring how young people have been responding to these conditions, and asking what difference land reform makes. Those who were born at the time of land reform in 2000 are now in secondary school, approaching ‘Form IV’, when the majority leave. What are they thinking about what the future holds? Those who were at school at land reform, between around 5 and 16, are now in their 20s and early 30s. How have they fared after school in practice?

We have been looking at these two groups of ‘youth’ in A1 resettlement areas in three sites across country – Mvurwi (an high potential commercial hotspot), Wondedzo (in Masvingo district, but with reasonable rainfall and not far from a medium-sized town) and Chikombedzi (a remote location on the border of South Africa, in the marginal, dry far south of the country). These are areas we have been working in for a while, so we know the areas, and have been researching the lives and livelihoods of those who gained land through land reform.

So what have we done so far? First, we explored the perceptions of today’s Form IVs – nearly all aged between 16 and 19 – in three schools in or close to A1 resettlement areas, asking about what they imagined they would be doing in 20 years, and what constraints they thought were in the way. This was done through a combination of a ‘Q sort’ exercise and focus group discussions. Second, we sampled a cohort of those now between 20 and 31, who were kids of people in our long-standing sample. This group has (mostly) left school, and allowed us to explore what actually happened to a group of people (half men, half women) in the age group immediately above those we discussed with at school settings. Through a simple questionnaire we examined what happened to all children in this age cohort in the sample households, and pursued in detail their experiences, perceptions and life stories through a series of in-depth interviews, mostly of those who were resident or visiting their parental homes.

Aiming to go beyond the simplistic narratives, with this data we have an opportunity to explore not only imaginaries of the future but also emerging life courses, and examine how outcomes related to, for example, gender, location (high to low potential areas), the wealth status (including asset ownership) of their parents and the educational qualifications, both of the young people and their parents. In turn, we explored what our sample of young people were doing, how they had been surviving, and how they were establishing homes and families, and how they were striking up relationships with land and agriculture, including what opportunities for accumulation existed, and how the prospects for and experiences of entering adulthood appeared.

The analysis is on-going but in the coming weeks, I will share some of the emerging findings, and begin to explore some of the implications. Feedback on our emerging in analysis will be much appreciated.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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Underutilised land in Zimbabwe: not a new problem

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There has been a long debate in Zimbabwe about whether the nation’s arable land is being properly used. After land reform, this has reached fever pitch, but it has a much longer history.

In the early colonial era, as European farming was being established, there were many complaints about the poor use of land by colonial officials. Methods of cultivation were deemed ‘inefficient’, and there was major concern that too many farmers were going under, supported as they were by substantial loans backed by the government. Protectionist legislation tried to prop up European agriculture, most notably the Maize Control Act, in order to get more land used.

The Colony’s governor, Cecil Hunter-Rodwell, commented in 1930 that European farmers were “at last awakening to the necessity of proper methods of fertility, rotation, and green manuring, but awakening has come too late. Thousands of acres of the best soil in the Colony have been robbed of their productivity and the owners cannot face the expenditure necessary to restore it”. Many farmers he observed “are at the end of their resources and are being carried by the banks” (Letter from Hunter-Rodwell to Thomas, quoted by Robin Palmer in his book, Land and Racial Domination in Rhodesia, 1977: 235).

In the economic crisis precipitated by the global depression in the early 1930s, tobacco farming took a hit too. A farmer’s memoir, Rhodesian Mosaic, published in 1934 commented on his journey from Salisbury (Harare) to Umtali (Mutare):

On either side stretched abandoned lands, cultivated and prosperous before the tobacco slump four years before. Here and there among the kopjes stood houses, fallen and decayed, once homes of planters who had left them to the mercy of the elements. No sounds of life could be heard, the gay prattle of native labourers having long since departed those melancholy fields (Rawdon Hoare, quoted again by Robin Palmer, 1977: 234).

So extreme was the problem that in 1936 the Native Commissioner for Insiza rather heretically argued for land reform: “large tracts of land are held by Europeans but nothing is being done with it… It seems to me….that some of the land now held by Europeans should be given to the natives who will use it, whereas the Europeans have held the land for years without making any use of it” (also quoted by Robin Palmer, 1977: 236). As Ian Phimister described in his 1988 book, An Economic and Social History of Rhodesia, a lot of this land was held by large land barons, often as part of land speculation, with a highly skewed distribution emerging amongst ‘white’ commercial farming, ranging from smaller individuals farms to massive estates; a pattern that persisted through the next decades to Independence. As Colin Stoneman pointed out in Zimbabwe’s Inheritance, at Independence in 1980, only 736 farms represented 60 percent of all white-owned land.

Even with the revival of the fortunes of European large-scale agriculture, especially after the Second World War, according to a major survey carried out by the university-based agricultural economist, Dunlop, the area under cultivation was just 17 percent of the total arable area of ‘European’ farms in the higher potential regions of the country (regions I-III) by 1965. This was causing major concern about under-utilisation, as well as about the concentration of land among relatively few owners who could afford to let large land areas lie idle. Dunlop noted that in 1965, 42 percent of the nation’s farm area was concentrated in just 246 farms, including a number of absolutely massive ranches in the south.

With some minor changes at the margins, this pattern persisted. Roger Riddell argued in the 1978 book, The Land Problem in Rhodesia, that only 15 percent of total arable area in large-scale commercial farm areas was being used in 1976. In the early 1980s, following Independence, an important analysis of land-use by Dan Weiner, Sam Moyo and others showed how 10.2% of the area large-scale farms in Mashonaland was cultivated, or 22.9 percent of arable land in 1981-82. This rose to 33.7 percent when a net arable area was calculated, assuming square fields (for mechanised use), conservation-protected areas, roads and settlement. In other words, in the highest potential area of the country two-thirds of prime arable land is not being was not being used for cropping.

A decade on, in 1990/91 the World Bank undertook a major review of agriculture in Zimbabwe and again came to similar conclusions, with a background report by Michael Roth, Analysis of Agrarian Structure and Land Use Patterns in Zimbabwe, arguing that 65 percent of large-scale commercial land was underutilised. Many in the white commercial farming community took umbrage, and assumptions were challenged, and counter-claims presented.  As Angus Selby describes in his excellent thesis on European farming in Mazowe, land productivity varied by scale, with many of the smaller, family-run farms showing greater levels of utilisation, compared to the large farms and estates.  Yet, things varied across the country, and in some parts, as described by Jos Alexander in Manicaland, many moved onto underutilised land as ‘squatters’, often staying there for many years.

Certainly by the 1990s, much large-scale commercial agriculture was more efficient and profitable, but it was not necessarily using large areas. In the context of more globalised markets, and change cost structures and a decline in state subsidies, farmers had to up their game. Profitable horticulture/floriculture enterprises boomed, for example, but these were reliant on small land areas, and very intensive greenhouse production. Other crops were also intensified, with investments in centre-pivot irrigation systems, including maize and tobacco, again boosting yields but also requiring smaller areas. Across the high potential cropping areas of the Highveld, other parts of farms, designated as arable, were left for wildlife (an increasingly lucrative business by the 1990s) and beef ranching (made profitable by the EU preferential trade arrangements). For example, in Mazowe district, a prime agricultural area, only 20 percent of total farm area was being cultivated, based on a survey of 275 farms in 1996-97, although of course much of this very intensively with tobacco and maize (see SMEAD report: p 12).

As the demands for land reform grew through the 1990s, a policy and political focus on land utilisation intensified. In November 1997, the government published a list of 1471 farms targeted for redistribution, based largely on assessments of utilisation. Reflecting the size structure of large-scale farms, inherited from the colonial era, much of the area was concentrated in relatively few farms. About 200 owners had more than two farms, while farming companies, including multinationals, held many farms in consolidated holdings, representing 1.6m hectares, 40 percent of the identified area. As Sam Moyo pointed out in his SAPES/UNDP report on The Land Acquisition Process in Zimbabwe, 1997/98, the government could acquire 60 percent of the proposed five million hectares from less than 300 owners, or three million hectares from only 10 companies and 100 farmers. Indeed, by the time of the 1998 land conference, the Commercial Farmers’ Union, recognising the issue of under-utilisation of land offered, rather belatedly, 1.5 million hectares for redistribution.

The 1997 listing of farms was not surprisingly highly controversial. Debates raged on the economic impacts (via declines in tobacco production), on food production (and production of maize, although much was feed maize for the cattle industry by that time), and as to whether wildlife ranches and conservancies were legitimate use in higher potential areas, for example. There were multiple tussles over what and was not listed, and a process of delisting proceeded, resulting in 625 farms and 1.65m hectares being removed from the proposed acquisition.

Of course the events since 2000 have overturned this attempt at planned transfer and rationalisation of land use to enhance utilisation – as well as spread ownership and reduce multiple holdings. But the issue of land utilisation has not gone away. Some of the descriptions of A2 farms today recall earlier admonishments of the white farming community in the early colonial period. While overall land is being used more extensively today, particularly via the A1 resettlement model, this does not mean that land and agricultural resources, notably irrigable land and water supplies, are being used optimally, especially in the A2 areas. Issues of multiple ownership and underutilisation persist, just as they did in the past.

Today, a significant policy challenge is the provision of incentives to improve use and productivity, while at the same time preventing multiple ownership in line with the law. This debate, as we’ve seen is not new. As Selby argued in relation to the debates in the 1990s, “debates about utilisation and productivity were clouded and misinformed on both sides, squandering opportunities for consensual or practical solutions” (p. 219). Let’s hope such solutions emerge today. This will require a comprehensive audit process, under the newly established Zimbabwe Land Commission, but, discussed next week, this presents some major technical and political challenges.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

 

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The future of medium-scale commercial farms in Africa: lessons from Zimbabwe

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Important changes are afoot in the size structure of farms in Africa. The rise of ‘medium-scale’ farms is often pointed to. From studies in Kenya, Ghana, Zambia and elsewhere, carried out by Michigan State University, a pattern of consolidation of land holdings is observed, with an increasing proportion held in medium-sized farms, owned often by ‘outsiders’ to local peasant farming communities – including retirees, local investors and urbanites wanting a foothold in the countryside.

These people are investing in this new farmland, and sometimes (but far from always) making it more productive, and commercially-oriented. In Ghana and Zambia, for example, such medium-scale farms now account for more land area than small-scale (under 5 ha) farms (see new work by Thom Jayne and colleagues, for example here, here,  here and here). Land concentration in such farms, under new ownership and land tenure arrangements, occurs through different routes – either through accumulation of land by those who earlier had smaller plots via local land markets, or acquisition of land by ‘outsiders’ through political and other connections.

Patterns vary across countries and locations within them, and the MSU studies are rather crude relying as they do on existing datasets, taking a huge range (from 5 to 100 ha) to constitute ‘medium-scale’. Farm size survey data too can only tell us so much. While such data indicate an important shift in overall pattern, the implications for the dynamics of rural class formation, labour regimes, gender relations patterns of dispossession and displacement, markets in land and agricultural commodities, for example, are not revealed. This is why complementary in-depth analysis is required, that probes the implications further.

In our studies in Zimbabwe, we are examining the fate of A2 farms, where allocations of land following the 2000 land reform ranged from 20 ha to upwards of 500 ha in drier parts of the country, with an average of around 70 ha. As discussed in previous blogs, this has resulted in a major restructuring of farm sizes and overall agrarian structure in the country, with this category of ‘medium-scale’ farm being significant, and by comparison to the old dualism of the large-scale and small-scale communal sector a new phenomenon. Although as the previous weeks have discussed, while not on the scale of A2 farming areas (representing now nearly 2 million ha or about 6 percent of the country’s land area), former ‘purchase areas’ or small-scale commercial farm areas (around 1.4 m ha or 4.4 percent of total land area) offer some hints as to some of the future challenges of broadly-defined ‘medium-scale’ commercial farming.

In our studies, highlighted in the case studies covered last week, we found four possible outcomes emerging over time in the former Purchase Areas, highlighted to varying degrees in the case studies presented in the last blog in this series.

  • The ‘villagised farm’. Here the land is seen as belonging to a family, across generations. Children can establish homes, often across several families, and a village area is created. Sometimes these family units operate independently and have their own patches within the farm where they cultivated; in other cases they contribute collectively to what is usually the fathers’ farm. His brothers, sons, and their wives and children, all provide a collective labour force. Some members of these families may not be resident, and may work elsewhere, but they regard the farm as ‘home’ and do not have other residences in the communal areas (although some joined land invasions and gained land through land reform). These villages – formerly seen as ‘squatter’ settlements – may include others, incorporated into the farm over time, such as labourers, or other relatives and their families. Over years, numbers can increase significantly. In our study areas in Mushagashe, we estimated that on one farm of this type there were perhaps nearly 50 living there, including at least 8 ‘households’, and several families of workers. Some sons without jobs stay on the farm with their families, while others who are working away have homes where sometime wives and children stay.
  • The commercial farm. This is the imagined ideal, and sometimes occurs. But often only in certain time periods, linked to generational changes. As mentioned in a previous blog, in the late 50s and early 60s, some Purchase Area farms operated as serious commercial enterprises. Their owners were resident, often retired, but not too old to run and manage a farm. In subsequent years, the commercial orientation died off, as older parents no longer could manage the farms, and sons and other relatives were not around to reinvest. However a generation on, these sons are now moving back to these farms. The economic crisis of the 1990s and accelerating in the 2000s meant that abandoning jobs in town, such as poorly paid civil service employment, and taking up farming was attractive, even if the family farm was remote and often by this stage run down. Limited retrenchment packages may have assisted, but after a period in the doldrums some farms are seeing a revival. Commercial farming in this scenario is not a life-long investment, but something that happens at a certain life stage, and is intimately linked to fortunes in the world of urban work, or patterns of income from remittances, now spread across an increasingly global diaspora.
  • Subdivision. Rather than reinvesting and scaling up, some choose to subdivide and sell off. This may prevent the possibilities of villagisation, and the often troublesome reliance of potentially endless relatives, sometimes with remote connections seeking out a ‘family’ farm as a place of refuge and support – and a place to farm. If sons (usually, rarely daughters in our case studies) are not able to come ‘home’ and farm commercially, then raising income through the land market can provide a source of income. This mirrors the period in the 1950s when fragmentation of farms occurred and squatters were evicted. This also happens today and, although there are often family disputes over whether the farm can be sold (either completely or in part), the use of title deeds (very often not touched for decades, and often formally invalid because not updated in the registry) can provide a route to realise the value of the family asset. Disputes emerge among family members especially if there are some siblings who are resident at the farm, and do not have jobs. Many Purchase Area farmers’ children however are well-educated, and part of the increasingly international Zimbabwean middle class. Like their parents, they were educated in the elite schools of the late colonial/early Independence area, which were as good as any in the region. With such qualifications, access to skilled job markets were plentiful and they ended up comfortably in jobs in Harare, but also Johannesburg, Cape Town, Gabarone, London and Birmingham (with not a few academics amongst their number). While the family farm has an emotional appeal, the idea of going to farm there like their parents did is not on the radar; and their children ion turn may have visited for a few Christmases as kids but have no intention of starting a rural life.
  • Projectising the farm. For those who are absent, and with parents still alive and living on the farm, there is one common option that emerges, as we have seen in the case studies profiled last week. This is to ‘projectise’ the farm. Discrete projects are envisaged, and invested in. These commonly involve livestock, with dairy, piggeries and poultry projects common in our study areas. Sometimes these projects are financed by NGOs and aid projects, as part of ‘development’ activities; more commonly they are self-financed, with funds coming via Western Union from the UK or elsewhere. These remittance investments need some management and if the parents are not up to it, local people are employed as resident farm managers. Some are able to raise external loans and finance by virtue of their jobs, and in a few cases joint venture/partnership arrangements are brokered with external investors. The trouble with most Purchase Areas is that road and market infrastructure is poor, and the costs of marketing is high, making commercial agriculture tough going. The projects that we have seen break even just, but are backstopped by external finance if the going gets tough. This allows sons, but in this case also daughters, to have a stake in the family farm, but without committing to run it. The areas used and the scale of operations invested in are often very small. They provide a small supplement to keep their now ageing parents in groceries and allows for the paying of school fees of some poorer relatives who may be resident at the farm. Most importantly such projects keep a psychological link with ‘home’, and a sense of commitment and belonging, however limited. This is far from the image of the commercial farm, merely a collection of projects, with focused investments, on a farm that otherwise has limited activity – with some mixed farming and some gardens, but little else. Similar in many ways to the Purchase Area farms of the past that were accused of not being the images of modernity that were planned.

There may be other patterns and trajectories that we have not yet picked up, but these four are repeated in varying combinations across the study areas where we have been working in Masvingo Province. Are these potential scenarios for the A2 farms, and for the much touted medium scale farming more broadly across Africa? In many ways, I suspect they offer important glimpses of potential futures. As the diagram below, at least four different scenarios could be envisaged, depending on patterns of financing and farm productivity.

a2-futures

Only one of these is ‘proper’ commercial farming, as envisaged by planners and policymakers. The others respond to changing life cycles and demographic shifts, as well as the inevitable shift to urban and even diaspora life as people become educated, and gain opportunities elsewhere. In many ways these are more realistic, and represent accommodations between farming, life cycles and livelihoods. The Zimbabwe case is of course peculiar as the economic hardships over several decades – from structural adjustment (ESAP) in the 1990s to the economic crisis of the 2000s, returning again today – have meant that urban employment as a focus for accumulation and social reproduction is often not feasible. Many flee the country in search of a better life, but this does not always turn out well. So perhaps unusually the attraction of a farm – a place to live, to call home, to invest in and be part of – is more prominent for Zimbabweans today.

Although the A2 farms have failed to take off in ways that were hoped for, maybe this is because of false expectations and misplaced assumptions about what land is for and what farming entails. Farming has always been part of diversified urban-rural livelihoods, now increasingly internationalised. Of course this applied to so-called ‘white’ farming too, but in different ways. The imagined ideal of the sole owner-operator of an individual farm, always resident and doing nothing but farming was very rare indeed.

My guess is that, if like the SSCFAs, the A2 farms are neglected in policymaking and not made the focus of local and regional economic growth strategies, with secure tenure, finance and basic public good investment (which currently seems likely given the lack of policy imagination in government, the failure of donors to grasp the challenge and so a complete lack of finance), then in 20 years, these scenarios seen today in the former Purchase Areas are quite likely in the A2 areas. If you go to visit the farms in a former Purchase Area today, you could be seeing the future of the A2 farms in a generation’s time.

Indeed, nearly 17 years after land reform, we see many of these patterns already – with small villages of relatives, large under-used areas complemented with small, intensive projects, and informal subdivisions, rentals, and joint ventures/partnerships emerging attempting to get things moving. Perhaps by reversing the policy neglect, and getting the A2 farms moving (and this will require a shake out with a politically-contentious audit process), more vibrant, productive commercial trajectories will be possible, but these too will have to accommodate changing demographics, diverse livelihoods, and shifting aspirations.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

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