Tag Archives: aid

What will Brexit mean for Africa?

June 23rd saw the UK vote for Brexit. A populist rebellion was provoked by an internal dispute in the Tory party, and chaos has been unleashed. We don’t know the full consequences yet, but it’s not going to be good.


Commentaries before the vote speculated on implications. First there’s trade. The UK is an important trading partner with Africa, and deals with the EU govern much of this. Only this month an EU Economic Partnership Agreement was agreed with the Southern African Development Community, allowing free trade access to Europe for some countries. Now all these arrangements have to be renegotiated bilaterally through the World Trade Organisation, and its 161 members. It will be a slow and costly readjustment, creating much uncertainty. Baffled by this madness, Chinese official commentary put in nicely: Britons were “showing a losing mindset” and becoming “citizens of a nation that prefers to shut itself from the outside world”.

Then there is aid. The UK has been a substantial contributor to the EU aid programme, providing 2 billion euros, including 14.8% of the European Development Fund. While I would be the first to admit that not all of this was effective or efficient, it does allow a broader mandate than the increasingly narrow focus of the UK aid spend. And the UK influence on the portfolio has always been important.

But perhaps more important than the flows of cash is the influence of the UK on European development debates. Whether the UK government or NGOs, think tanks or research institutes, adding to the discussion about, for example, the impact of EU domestic farm subsidies on African agriculture, or providing input into the framing of development efforts, has been really important. This has been particularly so since the establishment of the UK Department of International Development in 1997 and the G8 Gleneagles agreement in 2005, and a commitment – amazingly across governments of different political hues – to a progressive aid agenda, particularly in Africa. This role in European positioning globally will be much missed.

The Brexit campaigners argued for ‘taking back control’ of aid and trade. But in a globalised world, this small island mentality is absurd. Britain thankfully no longer rules the waves, nor has vast swathes of the globe as colonies under its control. But sometimes the rhetoric suggests we do – or should do. This is of course naïve and arrogant, and betrays an extraordinary lack of understanding of contemporary global political economy.

The UK’s diplomatic ‘soft power’ has been often exercised most successfully through the EU, as part of a joint commitment to change – whether around issues of conflict, migration or development. This allowed a common voice, and a more measured position. This was certainly the case in Zimbabwe. With, until recently, serial failures of UK diplomacy, the EU has provided a useful bridge and a more effective approach to engagement, through a succession of EU ambassadors to the country, who did not carry the colonial baggage of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office. This will be sorely missed, and not only in Zimbabwe.

The UK voters who pushed for Brexit were worried about jobs, livelihoods and immigration. Those who will lead the country as result do not have these concerns at the centre of their agenda. They have a vision of free trade and further economic liberalisation: exactly the processes that will undermine yet further the poor and marginalised who voted to leave. This is the tragic contradiction of the ‘democratic’ result, and will lead to more strife into the future.

A cross-party and sustained commitment to internationalism, social democratic freedoms, human rights and inclusive global development, as enshrined in the Sustainable Development Goals, may not survive this sea-change in political fortunes in the UK. The racist slogans and posters and the narrow nationalism that dominated the campaign reveal an uglier side to British (perhaps English) politics; most shockingly shown in the political murder of MP Jo Cox – a passionate campaigner for more progressive views on social justice and development.

Who takes over in the UK following the resignation of the PM, David Cameron, really matters. Not just in the UK, but in Africa too. At the last election in 2015, I argued on this blog that we should “be scared, very scared” about the prospect of a shift at the top of the Tory party. Now this is certain, everyone should be very worried indeed. We don’t yet even know the candidates, but the political opportunist Boris Johnson is at the head of the race.

Johnson’s attitudes to Africa can only be described as backward and colonial. His slur on Barack Obama revealed much. His tales of his holiday in Tanzania frame Africa as a last wilderness, threatened by growing African populations, and could have come from a colonial explorer from the nineteenth century. His rants on Zimbabwe betray a shallow understanding of history and politics, and as one commentator described it, an “obnoxious and overbearing British imperialist mentality”. His close links with a certain section of the UK political elite (many in the House of Lords), who have consistently prevented a sensible debate on Britain’s relationship with Zimbabwe, show his political prejudices. It is not good news.

With the pound collapsing, remittances to Zimbabwe will be more expensive for the diaspora, and the prospects of investment will decline. The chaos in the global markets provoked by this crazy populism will take time to stabilise, and will affect the poorest more than the rich. And the nasty side of British politics, rejecting a progressive internationalism, will undermine the UK’s standing in the world. We all will be poorer because of Brexit, including in Africa.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland



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Does land reform increase resilience to drought?

The Hazards and Opportunities book, reflecting on the impacts of the 1991-92 El Niño drought, had a few things to say about how to boost resilience to drought shocks. Key features included taking account of changing livelihood systems, reducing vulnerabilities through improving assets, and the urgent need for land redistribution, in particular. Commenting on the increasingly challenging livelihoods in the communal areas, the book commented:

“As production has become more constrained due to declining field areas and reduced land quality and local storage levels have become more limited due to shifts in cropping patterns and greater crop sales, farmers in Chivi are increasingly reliant on off-farm income sources, particularly during drought. In examining drought response policies, the role of local markets, the importance of removing burdening restrictions and the significance of trade and exchange should not be underestimated….

Policies that ensure that markets work effectively and exchange entitlements can be realised are vital….social networks, especially those based on the extended family, remain central to coping strategies in Chivi. Access to remittances, opportunities for food sharing and other linkages appear to be key to survival strategies….

[Yet] the pressures of macro-economic reform were being felt particularly acutely during the 1991-92 drought with high inflation resulting in the reduced buying power of money received from trading, piece work or remittances…..[Therefore] external support – from the state, local networks or rural-urban connections – will almost certainly remain key in sustaining livelihoods…..

….The reduction in people’ asset levels over time has increased vulnerability and added to the ratchet effect of poverty…. A more complete understanding of local responses to risk in drought conditions is clearly essential if more effective drought relief, mitigation and proofing strategies are to be designed. Appropriate policies for coping with drought must therefore take the dynamics of local response into account…..”.

Well, much the same could be said 25 years later. But one thing has changed, and that is the distribution of land. In 1996, Hazards and Opportunities commented:

“The pace of resettlement since Independence has been very slow. It has not really had an impact on places like Chivi. Most people resettled from Chivi have been moved to similar drought-prone areas within Masvingo province. Although settlers have larger land areas than they had before, they often do not have sufficient draft power, labour or inputs to invest in ensuring high productivity. The result has been the disappointing performance of most resettlement schemes. The response has been to change the criteria for selection, with more `qualified’ farmers now being favoured. However without good soils and reliable rainfall, agricultural production will continue to be a risky enterprise…. New models for resettlement are urgently needed that are low cost and flexible…

Back then we asked: “What are the policy alternatives to entering a spiral of poverty and dependency in the communal areas?”. And the answer, we offered? “There is no better way to reduce rural vulnerability and ensure the viability of people’s livelihoods than to increase the productive base. Proofing the system against drought (and other risks) means strategic investments….

First, addressing the land redistribution with more flexible and imaginative approaches than in the past is a major priority…..urgent solutions to the problems of land scarcity will have to be sought in the coming decades. It may now be time to explore a wider range of land redistribution opportunities abandoning the strict adherence to a standardised, packaged settlement model and testing other options. If they are to address the fundamental problems of the communal areas, such options must offer new land of reasonably high potential and in sufficient quantities to begin to satisfy land needs. Such areas must be supported, perhaps through innovative credit schemes, but not constrained by excessive planning and intervention from outside. Settlement areas must have tenure arrangements secure enough to encourage investment. If these conditions are satisfied, evidence suggests that a vibrant small-scale sector can offer Zimbabwe a bright future, both satisfying food needs and entering cash crop production for export. However, if the challenges of land redistribution are not met, then the viability of communal area livelihoods will continue to be undermined with the associated costs of food aid, social disquiet and spontaneous migration”.

It was not until 2000 when Zimbabwe’s major land reform took place. It was radical, allowed opportunities in higher potential areas, and was flexible and pragmatic in its implementation. There have been many downsides, but in many respects it responded to the calls we made some years before. But has the land reform increased livelihood resilience and so provided a form of drought proofing, reducing underlying vulnerabilities, and so exposure to drought risks? Is land reform the best form of ‘social protection’ offsetting the need for even more humanitarian aid?

The answers are mixed. Certainly having access to land has improved production for most, particularly in the A1 resettlements. It means people have more assets to fall back on, and have a pattern of higher crop production that for grains has meant significantly higher storage levels prior to the drought than anything we encountered in Chivi back in the 1990s. The aggregate statistics of food production, as discussed a couple of weeks ago, are so inaccurate, we really don’t know how much food is circulating through informal markets and sharing networks within the rural areas. My guess is quite a lot. We know that people have moved livestock to the resettlement areas, as discussed in last week’s blog. But people are moving too, as households in the resettlements take on relatives from communal area who are in difficulty. This form of ‘moral economy’ is vital to drought coping, and usually massively underestimated. We have known for years that resettlement households are exporting food both to urban areas and to the communal areas, but this has accelerated during the drought. With remittance levels way down on those in the 1990s, reliance on local production and economies is much higher these days, although off-farm work, including illegal mining, hunting and other activities, is widespread. So at one level land reform has enhanced drought coping options, and offers a buffer of production in the food economy that we still know too little about. The details of this remain obscure, and we are currently collecting data on what is happening across our sample in Masvingo to find out more, and offer a more complete comparison with the 1991-92 story (watch this space for reports from the field later in the year).

But there have also been downsides of land reform for drought coping. The decline in irrigated production with the transfer of large-scale farms has had impacts on the larger picture. Large-scale commercial farms never produced huge amounts of food in the 1990s, focused as they were on high value export commodities. But irrigated maize (and wheat) were important, both for food and feed, and without these supplies, there is increasing reliance on imports (although as shown in the blog a couple of weeks back, imports of food were massive in 1991-92, contrary to popular views that food grain imports are just a recent phenomenon). With land being far more utilised than in the past, with many more people on the land in multiple small scale farms (again contrary to some popular opinion that emphasises underutilised land – this was a big issue in the 1990s too), there is now less of a buffer. As discussed last week, livestock would often poach graze in underutilised ranches, and this provided an important source of reserve fodder in times of drought. These options no longer exist, and the system has little slack, making shocks like drought more keenly felt. This makes having national strategic reserves, and a contingency planning policy, all the more important. Ever since the structural adjustment programme got rid of grain reserves, arguing that this was an inefficient and costly approach given the availability of cheap food on world markets, there have been limited centralised reserves. This makes coordination and payment of imports essential – something that plagued the 1991-92 response, and has done again today.

So, as ever, there is not a simple response to the question of whether land reform has improved drought resilience. The important point though is that with land and production reconfigured along with local economies, there is a need to rethink drought response policies, along with the way we monitor food production and livelihood vulnerabilities. With changes in system functioning, resilience has to be constructed in new ways, based on new forms of production, and social and market relations. Resilience planning, has not got to grips with the new situation. Unfortunately in 2016, we have more or less the same (late and poorly targeted) response we had in 1991-92. Partly this is due to lack of capacity, and the form of routinized, sometimes rather panicked responses we are seeing from the state, and partly this is due to the fact that much of the ‘humanitarian’ aid response – by WFP and the western donors – does not really even consider the role of the new resettlement areas, and their integration in the new food and livelihood economy, thanks to the legacy of sanctions. This is hampering sensible thinking and effective responses.

The sooner the post land reform land, livelihood and economic contexts is taken into account in the planning of drought responses, and so-called ‘resilience building’ programmes the better. Currently lessons are not being learned, money is being wasted, and effective responses are lacking.

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


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Zimbabwe’s poultry industry: rapid recovery, but major challenges

Zimbabwe’s poultry industry has shown massive growth since 2009. A range of sizes of units have sprung up everywhere – from the medium size units of 1000 birds to massive industrial scale operations. Chickens are big business.

Meat consumption has changed significantly in Zimbabwe over the last 20 years. Beef used to be the most consumed, with Zimbabweans eating on average 13kg per annum in the 1980s. According to a recent USAID report (see below), today this has dropped to only 3.3kg, the lowest in the region. Chicken and pork in particular have replaced this, with chicken consumption is now half of all meat consumed. Beef has dropped to only 35%. Meat consumption has rebounded since 2009 as the economy has improved, now estimated to be 11000MT per month, up by 20%. But the pattern of consumption has changed. This has been driven in part by taste, but also austerity as people looked to cheaper sources of protein. According to the USAID report, the retail price of economy beef which has the highest demand is between US$4.60 – US$5.00 per kg compared to the average chicken retail price of about US$3.30 per kg.

After the stabilization of the economy, many invested in poultry as a sure-fire way of making money. The data in the graphs below are from a recent World Bank report, showing the rapid increase in both broilers and layer production of day old chicks, according to Ministry of Agriculture (MAMID) data.

Day old chick production (layers)


 Day old chick production (broilers)


But there are significant challenges to these new producers.  These centre in particular on competition from cheap imports, including illegal dumping. ZIMSTATS shows that in 2011 chicken imports were 25,500 MT at a value of $13.644 million or an average of only $0.53/kg. The low price suggests much of this is offal (including ‘waste’ pieces), which is illegal to import. Additionally the volume exceeds the official quota by over 100%, representing 20% of the total demand for chicken nationally, according to a recent USAID report (see reference below).

In addition the costs of feed have escalated. Soya production has been slow to rebound in Zimbabwe, and imports are costly as only Zambia produced GM-free soya in the region. These imports are expensive as Zambia tries to protect its own growing poultry industry. This really took off when Zimbabwe was suffering outbreaks of avian influenza in the early 2000s, and then subsequently when the Zimbabwe economy collapsed, and along with it its poultry industry.

The 2013 budget statement laid out the challenges for the Zimbabwean industry clearly:

• Stiff competition from cheap imports for both table eggs and meat, threatening viability of producers;

• Rising input costs, particularly maize and soya meal, following poor harvests; and

• High volumes of illegal imports which are being sold in the domestic market at sub-economic prices

The USAID study highlighted the challenge of cheap and illegal poultry imports for the meat industry as a whole. Much of the imported poultry meat comes from Brazil which has a massive poultry industry. Products that cannot be sold in the Brazilian markets are often transported elsewhere in the world. Feet, skin, necks and other ‘offal’ are frozen and packaged and sold at rock bottom prices. Chicken pieces too are packaged and sold, again at highly competitive rates. Go to any Zimbabwean supermarket and you will find 1kg of chicken pieces being sold at $3, sometimes considerably less.

How these prices can be so low is beyond me. Maintaining a cold chain from Brazil to Zimbabwe must cost a fortune, let alone the cost of the product and its processing and packaging. While there are import quotas, many believe these are being exceeded through illegal imports. The import of offal is also illegal due to health and safety concerns. The USAID study recommended tighter import controls and the banning of offal imports, arguing that cheap imports were not only damaging the poultry industry, but also the beef industry as cheap meat alternatives were suppressing demand.

This is not just a Zimbabwean problem. In 2012, the South African government slapped on surcharges, provoking a row with the Brazil. Brazil responded by taking the dispute to the WTO, claiming that the South African’s protectionist actions were threatening the new friendship developed between the nations as a result of the BRICS partnership. It seems the diplomatic heat, and the threat of a WTO case that the South Africans have backed down, at least for now.

Undeterred by this dispute from across the border, Zimbabwe has now responded to the same problem. The 2013 budget statement noted:

“Due to unfair competition from imports of chicken, local breeders are increasingly cancelling orders for day old chicks as they fail to secure customers for their chicken as imports from outside the SADC/COMESA region retail at prices significantly lower than locally produced chicken, notwithstanding the 40% duty levied on imported chicken…. Investigations indicate that chicken imports are either smuggled or are grossly undervalued for duty purposes. In instances of smuggling, the necessary veterinary and health hazard permit controls are undermined….”.

From mid-November, the government introduced a higher customs duty “in order to level the playing field between imported and locally produced chicken”.

This is an important and welcome move. Let’s see if it has the effect it needs to. Hopefully the Brazilians will be less heavy-handed with Zimbabwe where the market is much smaller, and a trade dispute can be avoided.

Unfortunately, the issue is not just about formal trade. As already noted it is perhaps the illegal trade which is most significant, and damaging. This is well embedded in local Zimbabwean business networks, sometimes with high-level connections, and veterinary control and customs enforcement capacity remains weak. While chicken smuggling is perhaps less dramatic than drugs or diamonds, it has just as devastating an effect on the economy, lives and livelihoods.

Sukume, C. and Maleni, D. (2012). Beef CIBER Study. Constraints to Competitiveness. Unpublished report to the Zimbabwe Agricultural Competitiveness Program, DAI/USAID

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



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Tractors, power and development. Mechanising Zimbabwean agriculture

What is it about the allure of tractors? They seem to be the archetypal symbol of development and progress. Everyone needs one. But are they worth it? Tractors can plough fields, pull equipment and even be used to drive around time. But they are expensive, difficult to maintain and not much use on small plots where they often do substantial damage through compacting soil.

Tractors of course are also a symbol of power. And I am not talking of their horsepower ratings. They show status, prestige and access to the places that matter. In the mad-cap mechanisation scheme of the mid-2000s organised by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe, they were handed out to all and sundry. With hyperinflation raging, the ‘loans’ could be paid off for as little as US$20. Every chef worth their salt got a shiny new red Chinese tractor. Hundreds of tractors were distributed, representing a considerable amount of generous Chinese loan money. Were these funds really helping to keep the country afloat during a time of austerity due to sanctions?

In the 1980s tractors were all the rage too. A symbol of modernity they could not be missed from the standard development package. A new, modern Zimbabwe had to have agriculture which was mechanised; the ox plough was from the old era when Africans did not have access to resources and the opportunity to practise modern agriculture like whites did.

Joseph Rusike did an important piece of research back then showing how in most circumstances in the communal areas tractor use through individual ownership was far from economic. The tractor hire schemes run through the District Development Fund served some with the cash, and were especially useful in times of drought when cattle were too weak to pull ploughs. And as cattle numbers were hit by drought mortalities in the early 1990s, tractors again became useful as herd numbers were not sufficient to form spans. At a similar time, Rusike’s work was backed up by a major historical survey by then World Bank economist Hans Binswanger.

And now again there is more talk of tractors. This time from the Brazilians, who are offering nearly US$100m worth of farm machinery as part of a solidarity deal with the Zimbabwean government, channelled through the ‘family farming’ and agrarian reform ministry, the MDA. This is supposed to assist in particular the land reform programme, increasing efficiency and reducing the underutilisation of land through the expansion of cropped areas.

The Chinese too are showing off their tractors, and in particular the industrial machines produced by Minoble, the company that runs the new Chinese Agricultural Demonstration Centre at Gwebi College near Harare. There is also apparently a John Deare representative based at the Centre, apparently posted to Zimbabwe from China. Even the Iranians are offering tractor aid too. A large plant, jointly run and built by the Iranian government was being mooted recently.

The Brazilian tractors have not arrived yet, and the Chinese ones remain in the courtyard at Gwebi. Representatives from both country’s agencies genuinely believe that tractors will make a difference to Zimbabwe’s agriculture. After a few news reports, the Iranian initiative has not been much mentioned. So it is not clear what will happen next. Will Zimbabwe be flooded with tractors, of different makes with different spare parts and repair needs? Will this really help Zimbabwe’s agricultural revitalisation? Or will it be another source of patronage, with tractors blessing people’s homesteads as shining, then decaying, examples of misspent development money.

Of course agricultural mechanisation helped transform the large-scale farms of northeast China, and Brazil has pushed agricultural mechanisation to a new peak in the mega farms of the Brazilian cerrado. But these are very different contexts to Zimbabwean agriculture.

Arable area sizes today range from an average of 2-5ha in the communal areas to 10-15ha in the A1 schemes to 70ha and above in the A2 farms (although in many instances only a small fraction is cultivated. Shared tractor arrangements may make sense for A2 schemes, allowing farmers to increase cultivated areas. However it is probably not tillage that is constraining this expansion, but more credit and finance for increasing production.

The RBZ programme in the 2000s was a disaster and was simply an exercise in profligate patronage. But other schemes have failed too. But rather than shun the generosity of the Brazilians, Iranians and Chinese – and no doubt in the future many other donors wanting their farm machinery manufacturers to benefit from aid and investment programmes – it will be important to assess mechanisation needs and the institutional design of such programmes, taking account of the very particular political economy of tractors in Africa. A good starting point for those in the Ministry – currently called the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development – would be to re-read Joe Rusike’s and Hans Binswanger’s papers from the 1980s.

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


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The sweet smell of success: the revival of Zimbabwe’s sugar industry

A recent report by the USDA’s Global Agricultural Information Network has shown that Zimbabwe’s sugar industry is rebounding fast on the back of a 6% increase in area cultivated mostly by private outgrowers who are part of the A2 land reform allocations.  Sugar output in 2012/13 is expected to increase by almost 16% to 430000 tonnes from the 372000 tonnes in 2011/12 season, with 160000 tonnes expected to be exported, earning important revenue for the country.

Much of this is happening in the lowveld of Masvingo province, and in the large estates, including Hippo Valley and Mkwasine where we have been studying sugar production on A2 outgrower plots since 2000 (see video here). The Hippo Valley story reflects the wider picture.

Towards the end of last year the Zimbabwe newspapers carried a double page spread reporting the annual results of Hippo Valley Estates Ltd, which are wholly owned by the South African conglomerate Tongaat Hulett. The highlights were: revenue up by 30% at USD90m, with an operating profit of over USD17m. The commentary was upbeat: “The relatively stable operating environment continues to provide a platform for the recovery, growth and development of the sugar industry … The Company remains focused on its goal to achieve full milling capacity utilization of more than 300000 tons annual sugar production over the next three years”.

Although a way off the target in 2012 at just over 160k tons, total deliveries of cane were up 40% on 2011, with 1.349m tons of cane produced by private growers and the company. Private growers’ deliveries were up 55% on the previous year, and an additional 178k tons was delivered by Green Fuel Ltd, the biofuel company linked to the infamous Billy Rautenbach. With the integration of the once separately controlled estates at Triangle and Hippo Valley, the company envisages a total combined capacity of 4.8m tons of cane production, resulting in 600k tons of sugar.

With both company funds and external support, channelled through the EU, there has been considerable investment in cane production on ‘uncontested’ private land (mostly in the Chipwa and Mpapa areas). Private cane growing has expanded dramatically from the relatively small outgrower arrangements that existed in the past. The company report notes that “in the current season, 611 indigenous private cane growers, farming 11138ha and employing 5569 people will supply 772000 tons of cane generating for them US$50 million in revenue”.

The company estimates that private growing could increase substantially on the basis of existing mill capacity. They estimate an additional 661 growers farming 12742 ha could supply 1.4 million tons of cane each year to the Hippo Valley mill, creating employing for 12000 and additional revenue of US$150m. This would amount to a total employment in the sugar industry of 30000, and a revenue of around US$250m. This would surely be the sweet smell of sugar success.

The rebounding of the Zimbabwe sugar industry is attracting attention in the business press in South Africa clearly seeing the investment value for South African companies. Interestingly and typically, the Business Day report failed completely to mention that the growth of production is being driven by a revived partnership between South African capital and new land reform beneficiaries.

But to achieve such ambitious targets, and to continue the impressive growth, will require much new investment, not least in rehabilitating and replanting cane fields, and supply new water resources for newly cleared land. Sugar has long been a central part of Zimbabwe’s agricultural economy, providing stable revenues for the treasury, and earlier when part of ACP agreements, benefiting from a guaranteed and profitable market. Rather overshadowed by the success of the tobacco sector, sugar has not been much in the spotlight, but deserves to be. Just as in tobacco, but in a more organised, estate linked production system, an increasing proportion of production is now coming from outgrower areas allocated as A2 plots as part of the land reform.

As we showed in our book, production in these sites in Hippo Valley in the remote lowveld area of Chiredzi district (and also in Triangle and Mkwasine estates) increased over time from the establishment of A2 plots in 2002. In parallel these farmers accumulated equipment, transport and invested in their land. They also employed considerable amounts of labour. As we documented, they had at that time an uneasy relationship with the core estate. The estate management did not know how to deal with the new outgrowers. They had been used to dealing with a relatively few white and Mauritian outgrowers, but now there were hundreds (around xx plots are registered in Chiredzi district as A2 farms across Hippo Valley and Mkwasine). Many new farmers felt they were being squeezed, with low prices offered, quality controls dubiously applied and transport being supplied late. They thought, perhaps correctly, that the estate management was waiting for them to give up, so the old regime which was easier to manage and control could be reinstated.

From around 2007 when the economy was in freefall sugar production collapsed. Payments being offered in Zimbabwe dollars were meaningless and credit arrangements and cheque payments were wiped out by hyperinflation. Many did indeed give up, ripping out their cane and planting other crops, including maize and tomatoes. But with the stabilisation of the economy through dollarization in 2009, the situation changed. The incentives to reinvest in sugar production returned, and the estate management changed its tune. Now they needed cane desperately so they could break even running the huge mills and vast estates. They belatedly realised that they had to accept private outgrowers, and encouraged them to reengage. And in the period from 2009 they have done on a massive scale as the company figures show.

Now the company is more upbeat about the new outgrower model. It is not as if this is alien to them, as in other operations in the region, this sort of relative smallholder model is dominant. Indeed compared to operations in Zambia and South Africa the new A2 plots are large, average 20-30ha, enough to produce a substantial amount of cane, and some other crops besides. Cane farmers in our study sample in Hippo Valley are much more optimistic now. We are currently doing a resurvey of the small sample we investigated in 2007-08, and I will report back the results in due course.

However there are constraints. The company report alludes to these obliquely mentioning the performance has been “despite the prevailing liquidity and socio-economic challenges”. These are many of course, not least the on-going uncertainty over tenure arrangements in the outgrower areas. Leases have been promised, but only offer letters exist. More significantly there has been a rumbling of discontent among the Shangaan political elite from the area, complaining that ‘outsiders’ got the prime sugar areas. Some influential people have barged others out of their plots, asserting their ‘indigenous’ rights. Most A2 sugar farmers are indeed from outside the area; many are (or were) civil servants, many from the ministry of agriculture. In the scramble for A2 plots through a chaotic and patronage-influenced allocation system, sugar plots were seen as prime targets for those in the know, and they carefully filled their forms and ‘business plans’ to ensure they were successful. By the mid-late 2000s many regretted this move, but now they are much more happy, which is why the land is become contested again.

Questions of finance (or ‘liquidity’) are also significant, as the company notes. It is not cheap to farm sugar: you need equipment, significant amounts of inputs, a lot of labour, irrigation and expensive transport. And you need to replant on a sustainable rotation: crops planted one year may not yield significantly for several years hence. At the farm level cash flow is the perennial challenge, and without effective credit and banking systems in rural Zimbabwe, this is tough without company support. Yet reliance on a single company, just as any contract farming arrangement, puts the grower at a disadvantage in terms of negotiating a good deal. But there are also other pressing financing issues in the sugar sector. The infrastructure was originally built in the 1950s and 60s, and much of it is decrepit and in need of repair. Irrigation canals need constant attention, as do rail lines and mill machinery. Extending farmed areas requires clearing, levelling and laying of canals. None of this is cheap. With profits being scarce in recent years, the company has not invested. External strategic investments financed by the EU under the post ACP regime Adaptation fund are constrained. Euro 45m have been allocated, but only 10m euro have been released to date via the Canelands Trust, a body controlled by the company. Due to sanctions, only areas which were not part of the ‘fast-track’ land reform programme are eligible, meaning that most new private outgrowers – the largest producers today of Zimbabwean sugar – cannot benefit from the industry rehabilitation programme (at least officially – there is course there is considerable leakage and wider investments benefit everyone). These anomalies created by the political stand-off between the EU, and other western donors, and the Zimbabwean government, despite much evidence that sanctions do more harm than good, continue, and are likely to at least until after the next elections.

Meanwhile, and despite these constraints, the sugar industry continues to grow, providing livelihoods, income and employment for many, and much needed revenue for the government exchequer too.

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


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Aid to Zimbabwe: time for a rethink?

In a recent article in the Guardian, Alex Duval Smith argues that aid to Zimbabwe must support resettled farmers on so-called ‘contested areas’. These are the 8m or more hectares taken over as part of the ‘fast-track’ land reform programme from 2000. Around 180,000 households, about a million people live in these areas, yet aid – development and humanitarian – is not offering support despite the clear needs and challenges.

Many argue that the UK government and others should boycott such areas, as they are under dispute – sometimes with legal cases in Europe and elsewhere. The Zimbabwe Vigil group, based in the UK, is vehement that sanctions should be retained. The EU argues that the ‘targetted measures’ (notionally focused on individuals, but actually much broader in effect) should be sustained until free and fair elections have been held. But it has been 12 years since the land invasions and the challenges are very real – whether in the area of agricultural production, social services, health and education.

I offered a brief contribution in response to the (yet again) rather ill-informed comments being made on the Guardian’s website:

Alex Duval Smith is absolutely correct to argue that Zimbabwe is missing out on the benefits of land reform by failing to invest in the ‘fast track’ resettlement areas. For sure some areas are not being fully utilised, but our decade-long research study in Masvingo province showed how, particularly in the A1 schemes, most new farmers are producing, selling, investing and accumulating. Most new farmers in these areas are not ‘cronies’, linked to the ZANU-PF elite, but ordinary farmers formerly from nearby communal areas or towns. But equally, as Alex Duval Smith correctly points out, such farmers cannot do everything by themselves. They need support – from government, as well as donors. Their predecessors, the white farmers who occupied the land from the colonial period, received massive support over many decades, and new farmers need this too if the restructured agrarian economy is to thrive. Investment in schools, roads, irrigation, extension services, markets and so on are all essential. Of course the situation across the country varies enormously, as the array of studies now available shows, and thus it will be necessary to tailor support accordingly. But 12 years since the land reform, it must be time to reconsider the aid boycotts and ‘sanctions’. These provide political succour to elements of ZANU-PF, and all sides concur they do more harm than good.  Everyone agrees that land reform in Zimbabwe was necessary and, although the manner in which it happened resulted in unnecessary violence, disruption and loss, today Zimbabwe, and its development partners,  must look to the future, accepting the need for some compensation for those who lost out, but also supporting the new farmers. A more informed debate about Zimbabwe’s land reform is urgently needed, and this article is an important and timely contribution.

A rethink of ‘sanctions’ is clearly needed. Unfortunately the UK continues to sit on the fence. According to recent reports, the UK High Commissioner, Deborah Bronnert indicated that the UK government had no intention of changing their tune on land reform. “At some point I think we are likely to…support a future settlement but I think we are a long way from it and it will require quite a big political shift and a political settlement here for that to be taken forward,” she said. Farm families on the new resettlements may have a long wait for education and other services.


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China and Brazil in Zimbabwe

There is much talk – and even more hype – about the role of the emerging economies – the BRICS countries – in development. Aid programmes have been established by China, Brazil, Russia and South Africa, and others are following suit. In the G20 and in the Busan meeting recently, a whole new modality for aid giving was hailed. A new way of doing development cooperation is in the offing, and the hegemony of the western powers will be offset, some argued.

Well maybe, but not yet. As Jonathan Glennie pointed out recently, the Gates Foundation, run by a few very rich US citizens, provides more aid than China. But it is of course not the volume of aid that matters, but what it does – and in particular how it is linked to other forms of investment. This is where aid – seen by some (mistakenly) as a pure form of giving – gets messy. Aid is always tied in some way, despite the disclaimers from the likes of the British government. It is always linked to trade interests, investment opportunities, security and foreign policy agendas. Of course it is. And if this is what the US or UK does, why not China and the rest?

China is of course fairly explicit about this. They have a keen interest in Africa’s mineral resources to fuel their massively growing demand for primary resources. They will exchange access for aid, but it is often fairly transparent what the deal is. Brazil is of course different, but there are many who see Africa as a source for expansion of Cerrado-style agriculture and a source of investment for sugar, soy and other enterprises on other land frontiers away from the Brazilian Amazon.

But it is not all such brutal self-interest. Such relations are more complex and nuanced, and have to be understood in the context of history, as Deborah Brautigam argues effectively for China’s relationship with Africa. Both China and Brazil have an important sense of solidarity with Africa. This relates in China’s case to long-standing support for liberation movements. This may translate into some fairly dodgy political affiliations in the contemporary world (like in the case of Zimbabwe), but it comes from a genuine commitment to assist. Brazil of course dwells on the historic links with Africa via the slave trade, and the solidarity that emerges from the African connection. It also sees itself as linked geographically – part of the southern hemisphere, and a different zone of influence.

And of course both China and Brazil are proud of their achievements in reducing poverty and improving agriculture. And rightly so. China has seen the most dramatic decreases in poverty in human history, and they are keen to show others how to do it too. They have had big achievements in agriculture too, with real opportunities for sharing, as Li Xiaoyun and colleagues explain in their recent book. Brazil is a world leader in agricultural technologies, and through its agency Embrapa, and wants others to benefit, so have begun to establish offices in Africa, with the first opened in Accra, Ghana. Brazil has also created novel social welfare programmes (the Bolsa familia being the most famous) that have lifted many out of poverty, creating employment and growth.

With many donors shunning Zimbabwe over the past decade, China and Brazil have been knocking at the door. Much Chinese support has been in the minerals sector, although they have interest in the financing of the tobacco sector, and some interest in cotton. Chinese finance has been critical in the rebirth of the tobacco industry following land reform, and has created a rebound no-one was expecting, with now small-scale farmers leading the way where once only large white-owned tobacco estates dominated. In 2011, a major loan was offered by China, with US$342 earmarked for agricultural machinery. They have also built an Agricultural Technology Demonstration Centre at Gwebi College, recently opened by Vice President Mujuru. But, contrary to some NGO reports, they have not been involved in extensive ‘land grabs’. Meanwhile, Brazil has started an extensive exchange programme with agriculturalists in the ministry, with extension officials, researchers and policymakers travelling to Brazil to marvel at the achievements of Brazilian agriculture. Under their ‘family farm’ programme, support for mechanised agriculture involves the provision of tractors, and the support for mechanisation of smallholder agriculture, and a US$300m loan was offered in 2011.

The Future Agricultures Consortium is about to start some research, funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) looking at the changing relationship between China and Brazil and Africa in the context of new ‘development cooperation’ relationships in Africa. This work will include studies in Mozamique, Ethiopia, Ghana and Zimbabwe, and will focus on the details of the relationships emerging between African and Brazilian/Chinese players.

Clearly a diversification of support, and a sharing of ideas makes much sense. African countries have for too long been reliant on a narrow set of expertise channelled through aid and technical cooperation programmes from Europe and the US, or via the ‘international’ programmes of the CGIAR or the Gates foundation, which replicate such perspectives. But with new players on the scene, does this now mean that African perspectives, local knowledge and located experimentation will have more chance of breaking through?

I wonder. The top-down, expert led stances of past development interventions – from colonialism to the western aid era – are being replicated. Aid is about power, and sadly in Africa this remains skewed to the outsider, wherever they come from.


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Young people and agriculture

The Future Agricultures Consortium has just finished its annual conference, and the focus on was on youth and agri-food systems.  The big question is how is the next generation going to engage in agriculture? Will they repeat what their forefathers did and take over (part of) the family farm? Or will they abandon farming, seeing a brighter future in the city, working in industries or the civil service? Or will they engage in farming and food systems in new ways, not replicating what their parents did, but using their improved education, their technological skills and their business acumen?

There were no clear answers to these questions across the papers presented. Of course, it all depends. But the debates did highlight some important issues for the Zimbabwe context.

–          How does education help young people gain skills for engaging with agriculture?

–          What type of technology development will allow for added value creation?

–          How can agriculture maintain a labour-absorbing role in growing economies?

–          Will the consolidation of farms in large scale units create more opportunities for skilled labour for young people, compared to small scale farming?

–          How can young people gain access to land in settings where land is scarce and controlled by the older generation?

–          How are gender relations changing in the next generation, and how is this affecting demand for land and engagement in agriculture.

–          If agriculture does not provide gainful employment/livelihoods what are the risks of conflict?

Examples from across Africa highlighted the dangers of not addressing youth employment. The consequences can be dire, including mass violence exacerbated by ethnic and political conflict. We have seen this in Sierra Leone, where the youth joined armed gangs which helped foment a civil war. The election violence in Kenya many agree was also linked to youth dissatisfaction and land issues. Yet also the conference highlighted the opportunities unleashed by young people, with new skills and capacities, getting engaged in agriculture.

A review of policy issues from across Africa shows that, while everyone is happy to talk about ‘youth’ as a category, there are virtually no policies directed to the relationship between agriculture and food systems. The wider social, economic and political dimensions are simply not addressed. And young people’s own views, perceptions and aspirations are rarely taken into account.

What of Zimbabwe? In our Masvingo study, we found that younger people were critical in the land invasions of 2000. They were the people that were able to leave home, join the ‘jambanja’, set up camp at the bases, and endure the hardships that the land occupations entailed. The result was that the A1 farms had overall a younger, better educated profile than the nearby communal areas. The A1 small-scale farms contrasted too with the A2 farms which tended to have older households, as they gained land through application (and patronage) and were not involved in the invasions.

The A1 farmers demonstrate that there was certainly a demand for land among younger people living in the communal areas. Many had inherited vanishingly small plots from their parents, and were finding it difficult to make a living. Many talked of the difficulty of continuing to be reliant on parents, only having a hectare or less to farm, and the challenges of establishing a family (or even getting married). With the economy in decline, and options for jobs in town or in the mines shrinking, joining the land invasions made much sense. A new, if uncertain and risky, opportunity opened up, and they grabbed it in large numbers. And it was not just young men who joined the invasions. Younger women were also part of the invaders, eager to stake their claim to land as independent farmers. In the communal areas, the patriarchal institutions of land allocation and inheritance often only allowed them land through marriage. But those who sought greater independence, or who had separated or divorced, could seek opportunities in the new resettlements with their young families.

However, A1 farmers who established homes in 2000 may have been in their 20s, but now are in their 30s. With many ‘accumulating from below’ they have invested in social reproduction and accumulated assets. There is now a further generation wanting land. New land invasions in the past years have often involved younger people, eager to gain land before it is too late. Sometimes, it is reported, their parents have invaded land on their behalf, staking a claim for the next generation. With the youth absent, perhaps border jumping to South Africa or in a temporary job in town, those who are resident can grab the opportunity and join a new invasion.

But there are clear limits to this process. There are fewer and fewer opportunities for further redistribution of land, and the government keeps insisting that the process of land invasion must cease (although larger scale land grabs continue). The police are sent and evictions occur. So what hope is there for the new post-land reform generation, and the generations that will follow them? Are there new opportunities as new value chains are created, and new linkages between farm enterprises are made.

In our book, we argue that in the new rural economy, there has been a radical reshaping not only of land ownership and use but economic relations. This offers many opportunities for value addition, marketing, transport and service support for the new agriculture. Also, with a new rural economic geography, there are real additionalities to be gained by the connections between A1 and A2 and the new resettlements and the old communal areas. Trade, exchange and business opportunities can open up if a territorial approach to economic development takes place. This is happening at the margins, but needs greater support and impetus.

Perhaps it is in this context of a reconfigured pattern of economic growth that in the longer term ‘youth’ will make the greatest contribution. For, even if they do not own land, they can engage in a revitalised agricultural economy that is not controlled by large farms and enterprises and where value chains exist where new entrepreneurs with new skills can enter. To make this happen, not only must investment in economic planning and growth occur at territory level, but education and support systems for youth must be fundamentally regeared.

Here, then, is a fantastic opportunity for the reevaluation of aid efforts in Zimbabwe.


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The UK aid programme in Zimbabwe

DFID is one of the largest aid donors in Zimbabwe. It plans to spend £88m per year in the period to 2015 – and more if a political transition acceptable to the British government happens. The ‘value for money’ rationale, the Operational Plan for 2011-15 states:

“Political conditions permitting, there is a compelling argument for making development investments now, in order to repair the damage resulting from many years of under or mis-investment in Zimbabwe. Rather than making investments later to build again from scratch investing now has the potential to deliver significant VfM. The relatively high levels of human capital, the latent – albeit dilapidated – quality of the infrastructure stock, the abundant natural resource base and the geographical position in a stable region, all suggest strong potential for significant and rapid developmental bounce-back if the political and economic transition in Zimbabwe is managed successfully”.

Much of the plan is centred on the need for a ‘political transition’. It is clear that for DFID the GNU is unacceptable as an aid recipient. The UK government-imposed restrictions on aid delivery therefore mean that most support must be directed outside government. The plan states:

“The political context for our work in Zimbabwe restricts our current choice of aid instruments. At the moment all DFID resources are channelled through third parties: multilateral organisations, the private sector and Non-Governmental Organisations. We anticipate that following a successful political transition our choice of aid instruments would widen. We are investing now in activities which prepare the ground for the day when we can consider alternative delivery options, such as improving public financial management systems. We could then consider channelling money through Government systems and once the conditions were right, to provide budget support either generally or by sector”.

As noted in a previous blog on donor fads, this reliance on the UN and NGOs for delivery means that sometimes aid quality is poor. The example of the DFID support to ‘conservation agriculture’ as part of (conditions of) input programmes was highlighted. In addition, aid flows are not supposed to flow to the new resettlement areas. Most NGOs boycott these areas too. This means that ‘investing now in activities that prepare the ground’ for future support does not happen, and support to agriculture remains part of what is essentially a relief effort (formerly the ‘Protracted Relief Programme’ – see DFID project overview and details of recipients of the £49m of the second phase), narrowly focused on the communal areas.

The result of this aid focus is that donors, including the British who have a key role because of the size of the aid programme and the history of engagement with Zimbabwe, have often very little clue of what is happening on the ground. This is improving, but I have been shocked at donor meetings with some of the (mis)perceptions which are repeated – especially about the emotive subject of land reform. I am not sure what they get in the foreign office briefings, but a combination of the international press and the cocktail party circuit in Harare can lead to very distorting perspective indeed.

Zimbabwe of course comes into the ‘high risk’, ‘conflict’, ‘failed-state’ category of the UK aid programme, and all that comes with that. Sometimes it gets bundled up with Afghanistan, Iraq or Pakistan. A recent DFID/FCO/MOD strategy, Building Stability Overseas, noted: “in a range of states, from Somalia to Zimbabwe and Burma, weak and bad governance is entrenched”. Rather different contexts I would suggest. On lists of conflict countries Zimbabwe is always there – sometimes near the top – and according to criteria that often remain opaque. Here is a World Bank listing, for example, with a range of scorings.

The UK’s bilateral aid review, announced by Secretary of State Andrew Mitchell in March 2011, encouraged a focus on such countries, as part of a wider security-governance and conflict prevention agenda. This has its merits, but I wonder if this is the right perspective. Zimbabwe’s problems are rather different to other conflict areas, and while engaging with the current government has problems, DFID has bilateral aid programmes with many worse.

Donors have missed many opportunities to influence the direction of Zimbabwe’s development – in 1998 when a land deal might have been brokered or in 2009 at the beginning of the GNU, for example. Another opportunity is looming following following what will be another fraught election process in the coming year or so. This will no doubt produce another uneasy political compromise with a shaky mandate. Maybe, with the UK government itself an uneasy coalition, DFID will be able to engage in a pragmatic and progressive way, without being burdened by the ideological overtones of ‘sanctions’ (or restrictive aid measures) or the categorisation of ‘failed’ or ‘conflict-affected’ state, and all the often inappropriate baggage that comes with this.

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