Tag Archives: bill kinsey

New research on land reform in Zimbabwe

As mentioned last week, the University of Sussex hosted the major biennial UK African Studies Association conference. Around 600 delegates were registered, and there was a real buzz, with panels on every conceivable topic from every corner of the continent. Quite a few papers reported on new work from Zimbabwe, and land and politics was a recurrent theme. In the end we had a single panel of three papers (as several panellists had to drop out at the last minute). It was a fascinating session to a standing-room-only audience.

The three panellists all reported on new research in the now not-so-new resettlements, representing different geographic areas, and diverse methodologies. All looked at how new livelihoods are being carved out following land reform in A1 sites. This included in-depth reflections on the relationships between farmers and farmworkers, a quantitative assessment of production outcomes across sites compared to communal and old resettlement areas, and an analysis of how farm and off-farm livelihood opportunities are combined in a mining area.

The session kicked off with an excellent paper by Leila Sinclair-Bright who discussed the changing social relations between ‘new farmers’ on an A1 resettlement area in Mazowe and farmworkers. Through a deep, focused ethnographic approach she looked at changing notions of ‘belonging’, and the way livelihoods are negotiated. A case of a chief’s court dispute over land highlighted many of the dynamics. For, while the farmworkers were accepted as part of the farm community, and even incorporated into the cultural fabric of life through their as ‘sahwira’ at burials, when a group tried to claim formally the land that they had been cultivating this was rejected by the A1 farmers. ‘Belonging’ had its limits, and the new farmers tried to circumscribe this, arguing that as ‘foreigners’ (many had Malawian origins several generations back), their role was not as land owners but labourers. That the farmworkers had been bargaining hard on wages and opting for alternate livelihoods had played into this tension. Certainly the emerging forms of ‘belonging’ differ dramatically from that described by Blair Rutherford in the pre-land reform era, but the cultural politics of farmworker-farmer relations are as live as ever, often flaring up into disputes of this sort. Leila’s paper highlighted the value of really in-depth analysis of cases to uncover the textured dynamics of change on the farms. We have been subjected to far too much simplistic analysis, often based on spurious statistics, on farmworkers, but this sort of work really provides a much-needed qualitative insight that is immensely revealing. As the new social, political and economic relations are negotiated on the new farms, new bargains and accommodations will be struck, and this will require innovations in institutional and cultural practices; sometimes drawing on traditional norms, but in other cases requiring new deals to be struck.

Taking a very different approach, Gareth James offered an overview of some of his impressive survey work across three districts in Mashonaland/Manicaland, involving a sample of over 600 (here’s the powerpoint). This involved a large sample extending the classic work by Bill Kinsey and colleagues that tracked the fortunes of ‘old resettlement’ area farmers, comparing these to their neighbours in the communal areas (see our Masvingo work on this, in a recent blog series). Gareth has developed a sample in A1 farming areas, and looked at a range of factors. This presentation focused on ‘outcomes’ and in a series of graphs he showed how the A1 farmers on average outperformed both the old resettlement area and communal area farmers across a range of criteria. As younger, more educated, more capitalised farmers, they had higher outputs and yields of major crops (maize, cotton, tobacco), applied more inputs and achieved higher incomes. He offered a listing of the constraints faced too, which included a familiar array focused on the challenges of accessing farming inputs and labour. For those of us who primarily work in the drier south of the country, the production statistics were impressive. Across the two seasons studied (both of which were not good seasons), the A1 farmers achieved an average output of around 6 tonnes of maize. Taking the standard figure of annual consumption requirements of 1 tonne per family, this means around 5 tonnes could be sold, and contribute to a dynamic of investment and accumulation that Gareth described. This was of course added to by the often impressive outputs of tobacco. Averages of course only tell one part of the story, and as he pointed out there is much variation. As we have seen in Masvingo, these dynamics create new patterns of differentiation and associated class formation in the new resettlements, with major consequences for agrarian social relations and longer term change. There was insufficient time in the presentation to explore these issues, but the results are tantalising, and the overall output statistics impressive. Of course there are qualifications, and some of these were discussed. Is this a temporary boom, based on the ‘mining’ of the soil? Will the success attract more and more people to area, and so undermine per capita success as land and outputs are shared among more and more? Did the new settlers manage to outcompete their neighbours through preferential access to inputs, offered through political patronage? All of these factors are important, but do not undermine the overall story of a production boom, with major opportunities for accumulation in the new resettlements.

The final paper by Grasian Mkodzongi reflected on his work in Mhondoro Ngezi in Mashonaland West Province. Here A1 and A2 resettlement areas are in close proximity to the major Zimplats mining complex. Grasian’s paper concentrated on the relationships between farming and mining, as mediated through labour contracts, business opportunities and political connections. In addition to the large-scale mine there are many other smaller mining operations, for gold and other minerals that provide opportunities for others. The paper focused on the social and political negotiation of the farming-mining relationship, based on a number of cases. New farmers are able to insert themselves into the economic activity associated with Zimplats, supplying inputs (such as silica found on their farms) as well as profiting from upstream aspects of the value chain. Farmers have used the politically-charged debate around ‘indigenisation’ to their advantage, manipulating the rhetoric and demanding economic benefits. This sets up new political and economic relationships between the farms and the mine that are played out through local political dramas. The story is immensely complex and fast evolving, but it offers an insight into how, at the local level, new economic relations with capital are being negotiated, and how a very particular political dynamics and discourses influence this. Contrary to analyses that offer only a simplistic and generalised view of politics concluding that all is guided by top-down patronage, looking at local relations through in-depth research reveals a room for manoeuvre for those who have the resources and ingenuity to play the system.

These brief and rather partial summaries cannot do justice to the richness of the papers. If you want to hear more, there is a recording of the presentations and the discussions here. As noted, each in different ways contribute to our evolving understandings of livelihoods after land reform, and demonstrate the importance of diverse methodological approaches in capturing the nuance and diversity. These three papers, all emerging from PhD studies at the University of Edinburgh, are examples of a growing array of research on different themes in different places. They add together to an impressive dataset that has yet to be fully grasped by policymakers, donors and other commentators, including many academic ‘authorities’ on Zimbabwe.

A couple of years ago, I compiled a list of research projects on ‘fast-track’ land reform of different sorts, many deriving from PhD and MA degrees, and mapped them. The coverage then was impressive, and I am sure has extended much further since. Yet, despite this growing body of work, we hear again and again misleading commentary and inappropriate conclusions being drawn on land reform in Zimbabwe. But building on the earlier work, including ours in Masvingo, we now have an impressive set of insights, offering nuance and perspective on our overall assessment of Zimbabwe’s land reform. I hope this blog will continue to be a space for sharing these results with a wider audience. So if you are doing a study, and have some results to share, even if preliminary, do let me know!

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


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Comparing communal areas and new resettlements in Zimbabwe II: People and places

The communal areas are crowded places. The population density in Chivi district was for example 46 people per km squared in 2012. In a dryland environment (average rainfall in Chivi is about 550mm), land areas are not sufficient for extensive cropping and grazing areas are limited. Given their histories as ‘labour reserves’ – sources of labour for the mines and farms of the Rhodesian settler economy and dumping grounds for the retired, unemployed or inform – it is not surprising that their productive potential is limited. This is why before and since Independence the argument for land reform has been strong.

Some argue that the communal areas can be transformed, by investing in new technologies (conservation agriculture is the latest donor driven craze) or reforming property rights giving people private title (a solution which is of course much disputed) or creating alternative income opportunities in ‘growth points’ or nearby towns (again a set of interventions that has been tried many times). It is not that transformations of the communal areas should not be attempted; they should, as over 1.1 million households, most of the rural population, live there. But if a wider dynamic of rural economic growth is to occur, people need the land on which to do it.

The resettlement process in the 2000s was of course not the same as that which occurred in the 1980s and 1990s. Back then, people moved to resettlement areas often far from their homes, either through the government programme or spontaneously. This meant the links between old and new homes were severed, and on the formal schemes strict rules were applied as part of the permit conditions. In the 2000s, the A1 sites were invaded, occupied by villagers, people from towns and supported by war veterans. They came very often from nearby communal areas; sometimes people invaded the neighbouring farm, as in the case of our Serima CA site and Lonely A resettlement site.

In all cases connections could be maintained. In the years after land invasions, new settlers frequently maintained homes and fields in nearby communal areas, particularly in those sites where uncertainty over tenure prevailed, as offer letters had not been issued. In most cases, they were just keeping a home or field as insurance, and not making much use of it themselves. In 2011 around a quarter of A1 households maintained another home, and 4% and 9% kept a field. Only in Masvingo district resettlements were practically no homes and fields being held on to. For communal area households, there were no households having a home or a field elsewhere in the Masvingo and Chiredzi sites and only 3% in Gutu had a field elsewhere. By contrast in our Chikombedzi site in Mwenezi, 27% of the communal area sample had a satellite home in the nearby resettlement farms.

Even if homes and fields were not being kept, there were still plenty of other connections being maintained: through churches, social events, burials, transfers of food, sharing of equipment and animals, and movement of relatives as workers, for example. These are often tightly linked communities, as new resettlements often have substantial numbers of people from single villages, who joined invasions together. Of course over the decade since settlement some of the links have been formed. New churches have been formed, people are being buried in their new homes, and so on, but social and economic lives remain connected.

What about movements from our communal area sites to the new resettlements? Did ‘decongestion’ occur? From our comparator sites linked to our Gutu, Masvingo, Chiredzi and Mwenezi sites, there were 20%, 13%, 17% and 18% of households who had some household member move to a new resettlement site. These were usually younger men, looking to establish a new home. By definition, of course, the surveyed household remained.

There was a considerable movement of people. Indeed, government stats shows that across four districts in Masvingo province, a total of 32,500 households were established in A1 sites as part of the Fast Track Land Reform Programme, and many estimate that there was an additional 6000 involved in ‘informal’ settlement (some now regularised). Assuming that 60% came from communal areas, this represents about 12% of the communal area households in these districts as counted in the 2012 census.

Those who went to the resettlements tended to be younger and better educated than their counterparts in the communal areas. According to our surveys, the communal area household heads were on average 5-7 years older; in their mid 50s, rather than in their 40s (compared to being in their 30s a decade earlier during land occupation). While there is of course a distribution in both sites, the overall demographic pattern is different. This means that those in the communal areas have older children, have more likely worked off the farm, and have therefore access to other income sources. The educational level of the ‘household heads’ reflects the period of their youth. Those in the resettlements who are now in their 40s benefited from the post Independence education provision, and the biggest group is Form 4 (O level) graduates, while the biggest group for those older individuals in the communal areas is Grade 7 (basic primary).

However, while formal school education levels are higher in the resettlements, agricultural qualifications are not. In the A1 villagised sites, only 9% of household heads have the Master Farmer qualifications, while it is 27% in the communal areas. This reflects experiences of the past decade, when extension services collapsed. When people arrived in the new resettlements, they did not get the support, while those in the communal areas who were older probably got trained in the 1990s.

These age demographic differences are reflected in household sizes and composition. The average size of households in the A1 resettlements is larger, around 6.5 people, compared to 4.85 in the communal areas. This reflects the ageing of households in the communal areas, with fewer children at the parental homes, and greater deaths of older adults. Thus there are only 16% of households whose household head was more than 61 in the A1 villagised resettlement areas, while across the communal area sites it ranged from 37% (Chiredzi) to 56% (Chikombedzi). The generation of adults living in the communal areas was also more vulnerable to the impacts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with many mortalities occurring in that age cohort. With the decline of transmission we can speculate that this affected those who moved to resettlements less (although certainly the epidemic has not spared them either).

Another factor that explains the larger household sizes in the resettlement areas, is what Bill Kinsey and colleagues termed the ‘magnet effect’. Successful households in resettlement areas attract others, particularly relatives from poorer settings in the communal areas. They can gain food, some work and housing with relatives in the resettlements. Alongside these movements are of course workers who come and stay permanently and temporarily to work on the new farms. In our 2007-08 surveys, we found that household sizes had increased by on average 2.8 people, up from 4.2 on settlement in 2000-01. This pattern continues as family size increases through births, and other relatives come and stay.

What about the gender composition of households? The proportion of female headed households averaged 14% across the A1 sites in 2012, the same as when we surveyed in 2007. By contrast 37% of household heads in the communal area sites were identified as women. Of course the definition of household head is notoriously difficult, but we have tried to be consistent, including absent males if they are still regarded as ‘heads’. In such situations – and indeed when the husband is present – women take on many management and organising roles in the household, and so the term ‘head’ is often a misnomer. Be that as it may, we therefore only defined female household heads when the male was completely absent (through death, divorce etc.), and when a woman was the sole manager of the farm and home. The high proportion of such ‘female headed households’ in the communal areas is well known, but this figure is surprisingly high, reflecting an ageing, disease-susceptible population, which has suffered the brunt of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

So are resettlement households different? Well, there is much variation of course, but some generalisations hold. A1 resettlement households are (on average) younger, with more children at home, with adults better educated in school, but less in professional farming qualifications, and with more male resident household heads. These are not the classic ‘reserves’ – retirement places, or places where people grow up to get out for work. Instead, these are places where people have chosen to go at the prime of their working life, when they are younger, healthy and where they want their children to grow up. Partly this is of course because there are few other choices. There is no land in the communal areas to grow food and no jobs elsewhere, but it is partly out of choice.

Next week, I will look at how they are faring in terms of crop production on their new land compared to their communal area counterparts.

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

The on-going Masvingo study research is conducted by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge,

Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene.





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Comparing communal areas and new resettlements in Zimbabwe I: An introduction to a short blog series

One of the things people have asked us about our research on land reform in Zimbabwe is: are people better off in the new resettlements, compared to the communal areas? We made the case in the book by comparing our results with published data from nearby communal and resettlement areas, and argued that indeed the new settlers were better off: producing more, accumulating more assets, and investing.

But to probe this question in more depth, in 2012 Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene and I decided to undertake a survey in some nearby communal areas in parallel with the resurvey of the land reform sites. Exactly the same questions were asked of 120 households evenly spread over four sites, each of which were near the A1 sites we had been studying since 2000-01. With one exception, these were sites we had done surveys in during 2006, as part of a study of livestock production in the province, and we used the same sample. This was drawn to represent a range of households, with cattle ownership used as the main indicator. A ‘success group’ ranking confirmed an even spread of households in each of the 3 ‘success groups’. Although necessarily a small sample (due to budget and logistics), we believe it is broadly representative of the communal area settings.

The sites were in Serima (near our Gutu sites, in fact adjacent to Lonely A farm), Gutu South (close to our Masvingo district sites in Wondedzo), in Ngundu south (along the road from our Chiredzi sites at Uswaushava) and in Chikombedzi area (near our Mwenezi sites in Edenvale). The Ngundu site in southern Chivi is probably the least comparable to its paired resettlement site, as it benefits from a particular micro-environment, and regularly has better crops than the more dryland site along the Chiredzi road. But overall, the sites have many similarities in terms of basic agroecology, proximity to markets and so on.

The question was whether, a decade after people had moved – often from these very places – to the new resettlements whether they were doing better, worse or much the same. This is an important question for a number of reasons. Clearly critics of land reform argue that new, backward, hopeless communal area settings are being recreated in the new resettlements and that things are no better, perhaps worse. Some instead argue that the communal areas are not so bad after all, and investments should have been focused there, leaving the new land for more commercial, larger-scale endeavours – or indeed keeping the status quo. Others argue that there is a new dynamic emerging in the new resettlements, especially the A1 areas where access to land has provided the opportunity for people to move beyond ‘subsistence’ and move towards ‘market-oriented’ growth. Some thought that land reform offered the chance to ‘decongest’ the communal areas, and allowing those left behind further opportunities, moving the communal areas from ‘reserves’ to productive areas as land became available. Still others argue that we need to understand the relationships between communal areas and old and new resettlements, both A1 and A2 in an area if the real economic benefits of land reform are to be realised.

All of these debates are relevant as discussions unfold about how to support agriculture and rural development after land reform. For example, major investments by donors – including for example the UK’s Department for International Development in partnership with FAO and others – have premised their programme’s design on assumptions about agrarian structure, patterns of accumulation, and the opportunities for investment and growth between different types of farmers and different areas. So solid data on what is going on where and what the potentials are really does matter.

In the 1990s, Bill Kinsey and colleagues did systematic studies between the now ‘old resettlements’ and communal areas, and found that those given resettlement lands fared significantly better on most criteria, although there were some interesting contrasts too.

So, what is the story for the 2000s resettlements in Masvingo province? As ever, the story is complex.

There are clear limitations with our survey (sample size, comparability, lack of counterfactual of no exits to resettlements and so on), but we believe there is some interesting evidence that emerges. In our analysis we concentrated on the comparison between the communal area sites and the A1 villagised/’informal’ sites in our larger sample. These seemed to be the most relevant groups to compare, as 62% of new settlers in our sample in these sites came from nearby communal areas. This was less in the A2 and A1 self-contained sites which had 12% and 39% respectively.

In the next few weeks on this blog, I will present some of the headline results under some different headings: people and places, focusing on demography, household composition and movements; land and cropping, focusing on land sizes and crop production; asset accumulation, focusing on asset ownership and investment, including of livestock; and off-farm income and diversification, focusing on the range of other income activities people are engaged in, including reliance on remittances.

We are writing this up more formally as a journal article, but in the meantime we thought blog readers would like a taste of the results. So please do check in each Monday for the next month for an update.

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

The on-going Masvingo study research is conducted by Ian Scoones, Blasio Mavedzenge,

Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene.





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Land administration challenges after land reform: evidence from Masvingo

After a few weeks of commentary on wider issues relating to land and agriculture, this week I return to a focus on our field data, and the lessons this tells us for pressing policy issues in Zimbabwe. In this blog, the focus is on the implications of the complex outcomes of land reform for land administration.

As readers of this blog will know, we have been tracking 400 farms since the early 2000s across Masvingo province. One of the things we have been looking at is how plots change hands over time. This is important for a number of reasons. From this data we can examine the institutional mechanisms that have evolved for land transfer; we can look at patterns of land inheritance and the gender dynamics involved; we can identify emerging informal markets in land; we can identify the role of different authority structures in land allocation; and we can assess the level of turnover and the reasons for plot ownership transfer in the new resettlements.

All of these issues are important in thinking about new land administration and management systems in the new resettlements. With the land reform, such issues were not high on the policy agenda; the imperative was to distribute land and not think too hard about its longer term administration. But 14 years on, these issues are now significant, and ones that need to be addressed, as land administration systems are established. Understanding the existing situation and building on it makes much sense, but also future policies may wish to address anomalies and inequities that have arisen.

So in 2012, we looked at all households across the 16 sites (N=389), including in A2, A1 self-contained and A1 villagised (the former ‘informal’ sites have since been formalised as villagised A1 schemes), and compared the household listing made in advance of our mid-2000s surveys and the list pertaining in 2012. The period then relates to the time from establishment and ‘formalisation’ of ‘fast-track’ areas, including the issuing of ‘offer letters’, and 2012. This does not include the initial year or two of turmoil following land invasions when there was quite a bit of movement into and out of sites, as we described in our book (pp. 72-6). In this most recent survey, we asked about the reasons for the change in plot holder, what happened to the original holder, what relationships the new holders had to the previous one, the gender of the new plot holder, whether the new ownership arrangement had been confirmed in an ‘offer letter’, and the mechanism through which the new holder had got the land.

Overall, 19% of plots had changed hands over this period, with A2 sites seeing the highest change (29% of plots), followed by A1 self-contained (22%) and A1 villagised (15%). Across all sites, 57% of these changes were due to the death of the original owner. Exits for other reasons were 30% of transfer cases in the A1 sites and 75% in the A2 sites. In one A2 farm there was a particularly dramatic level of turnover, with a series of politically-motivated evictions occurring around the time of the 2008 elections. Overall though only 8% of all plots in the sample had changed hands during this period for reasons other than death (5% in A1 sites and 22% in A2 sites).

In nearly a decade this level of turnover is quite small, including when compared to previous resettlement experience. In 1983, for example, Bill Kinsey commented on the implementation problems of early post-independence resettlement, with many new settlers abandoning their plots due to inadequate planning and support. By the mid-1980s resettlement area populations had settled down and began attracting people, both kin and labourers, and there was a significant growth in household sizes. But after a long period of relative stability, old resettlement areas studied by Kinsey and colleagues have seen a significant out-migration in the period of economic collapse in the 2000s. In this period, people sought alternative options when agriculture became increasingly challenging, with shortages of inputs and absence of cash markets during hyperinflation, and household sizes shrank. This has included movement to new resettlement areas under the fast-track programme, often together with assets such as cattle which showed significant declines in the old resettlement areas.

In our ‘fast track’ land reform sites in Masvingo, death of the original plot holder (in all cases men) was the primary reason for change in ownership in 57% of all cases. In the A1 self-contained sites, death was the reason for 78% of changes, while in A1 villagised sites it was 68% and A2 it was 25%. Of the others, 28% left for other rural areas, mostly to original rural homes, although a few got new, better land in the resettlements. The remainder left for town (8%) or were evicted (7% – the A2 cases noted above).

Overall 31% of plots were taken over by women, very often the wife of a deceased husband. This varied between 44% (A1 villagised) and 17% (A2). There has therefore been an increase in women plot holders in the A1 sites. Yet few of these have been recognised in changes in ‘offer letters’, with only 23% of new holders being named in a new land occupancy registration document. Overall, 63% of all new plot holders were relatives, with 41% being immediate relatives (wife, son or daughter of the former plot holder). The remaining 37% of transfers were to people with no kin relation to the former owner.

49% of transfers were described as through inheritance, mostly to close kin (wife or children). A further 12% were passed to other relatives as ‘gifts’. 2% of transfers to relatives were mediated through a church or via the chief. There were a couple of cases in an A2 site where ‘purchase’ was identified, although no others admitted to money changing hands. However for some of those identified as ‘gifts’ of land, there were exchanges made for the infrastructure developed, with between one and four cattle being paid for such improvements. The remaining 34% of transfers were through other routes – 19% via the District Land Committee and 15% through Committees of Seven. However these patterns varied across sites with ‘inheritance’ dominating in the A1 sites (59%), while it was only the mechanism in 25% of cases in the A2 sites. Here the formal District Land Committee process was the most important at 58% of all cases. The local site based Committee of Seven was important in 29% of A1 villagised cases, but much less so in other sites.

So what are the implications of these data?

  • Turnover in plot holding arrangements has been surprisingly low in the A1 areas in particular. This indicates a strong commitment to the new land, with only about 15% of all transfers involving people leaving for their former rural homes, and even fewer back to jobs in town. When a plot holder’s death occurs, transfers are usually to close relatives.
  • The A2 sites show a different pattern, with higher turnover. There was a pattern of evictions (in one site, due to politically-motivated grabs), and in others death followed by kin-based inheritance was not the dominant pattern. Instead there were reallocations by the District Land Committee on vacation of the plot.
  • The possibilities of effective transfer of underutilised land to new settlers seems more possible in A2 areas, where some indications of incipient ‘vernacular’ land markets are evident (probably underreporting of this due to illegality). By contrast in A1 areas transfers tend to be within families, and the opportunities for government to reallocate are relatively smaller.
  • Despite the fact that District Land Committees are supposed to have control over land and oversee transfers, this is less important in A1 areas, where ‘traditional’ inheritance (or ‘gifting’) arrangements generally apply on the death of plot holder.
  • The ‘offer letter’ system of land registration is not keeping up with land transfers, partly because so many are outside the formal system. Women are gaining land through inheritance on the death of male plot holders, and through transfers to daughters and aunts (relatively few). However women’s new ownership arrangements are largely not recognised in changes in ‘offer letters’, raising questions about the security of such tenure.
  • The Committees of Seven, established soon after land invasions for local management of new resettlements, seem to be on the wane, particularly outside the A1 villagised areas where they seem to hold some land administration function for transfers outside kin-based arrangements.
  • Chiefs, churches and other institutions for land administration seem to have a limited role, although ‘traditional’ leadership (sabhukus etc.) are often part of Committees of Seven in many sites, so there is an overlap in both people and roles.
  • Outside the one A2 case where evictions occurred, conflicts over land transfer were very rare, and in most sites none were reported. This is surprising given the intensity of competition over land. We can expect such conflicts to increase over time, however.
  • Across all land transfers identified no subdivisions of plots were recorded, and all were recorded as being handed over in full. This again is surprising given growing land competition and the need to inherit land by the next generation. However subdivisions are occurring in land still held by the original holder who is still present. Sons are allocated portions of a field and have their new homes within or nearby the original home compound. As described for the earlier phase of resettlement, such ‘vertically extended’ household arrangements are becoming increasingly common as a form of de facto subdivision.

Overall, as the Government of Zimbabwe attempts to define a new land administration system in line with the Constitution, these findings are clearly pertinent. There is a need for more effective registration of land and ownership, and also a need for a mechanism to keep this up to date. Ensuring registration of women as plot holders is essential. To encourage turnover and the making use of underutilised land is key, especially in A2 areas, transfers can potentially be facilitated through introducing some form of land market, assisted by land taxation; although again close monitoring and transparent registration (perhaps through leases) will be vital, especially to avoid the sort of evictions seen in one site.

Subdivision is always a controversial issue, as the thorny question of what is a ‘viable’ farm is raised. However this varies considerably and as demand for land continues to increase, there are potential subdivision options within sites, and indeed between them, including moving A2 farms to smaller A1 self-contained arrangements. In our sites, as witnessed by the lack of subdivision on transfer, and the limited amount of conflict (outside the particular site that was subjected to external grabbing), this may be a next-generation challenge, but clearly something that must be responded to.

As Marleen Dekker and Bill Kinsey argue in relation to the first round of resettlement, the direct benefits of land reform are significant in the first generation, but as things unfold, there are new challenges requiring different forms of responsive innovation. They note patterns we are already seeing in our sites, including the growth of household size through attracting labour, for example, as well as the de facto subdivision through ‘vertical extension’. These result in new land uses associated with new demographic patterns and changing social relations.

Trying to plan everything and imposing a narrow ‘straitjacket’ of rules and regulations only undermines potentials, they argue. There are, as Thomas Sikor and Daniel Muller note, serious limits to top-down state driven land reform. While new systems for land administration in Zimbabwe are clearly needed, they must be flexible, responsive and adaptable to new circumstances.

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

This work has been carried out together with the Masvingo field team: BZ Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba and Jacob Mahenehene





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Know your constituency: a challenge for all of Zimbabwe’s political parties

In the bad old days of one party rule, rural constituencies knew their place. They voted for the ruling party and in exchange they were offered the basics: some improvements in infrastructure, an education and health system that were an improvement on the past, and critically food in times of drought. There were exceptions of course – notably in Matabeleland in the 1980s when terrible vengeance was wrought on those deemed to be supporting ‘dissidents’. But elsewhere, in exchange for compliance and consistent voting, a social and political contract was struck between the state (in essence the ruling party) and rural people. And, yes, when there was wavering, violence was meted out, as has always been the way with the party of the armed struggle, ZANU-PF.

This then was the post-independence deal which persisted until the emergence of the MDC in the late 1990s and a tangible opposition with clout (of course there were precursors, but these never changed much). Since then voting has been much more divisive. The constitutional referendum of 2000 put it all into sharp relief, and the parliamentary, presidential and senatorial election that followed presented a similar pattern. The MDC won the urban areas and ZANU-PF won the rural. Again there were variations, especially in Matabeleland and Manicaland, but ZANU-PF’s pact with the rural populace stuck. Of course in 2008 it became more frayed, and the pattern of violence rose to new, more horrifying heights. But even then civil society recorded voting patterns show that largely the rural population continued to back ZANU-PF. Land reform of course helped, as did intimidation and violence, particularly in Mashonaland East, but the sense of loyalty, commitment and a recognition of strong leadership was apparent too.

As we and others have argued extensively, over the past dozen years land reform has radically reconfigured the rural landscape. New resettlement areas now make up nearly a quarter of the land area of the country, representing a population of 170,000 households, over a million people. Perhaps even more significant than this significant demographic and geographic shift, is the pattern of class-based differentiation that has resulted.

In a recent paper published in the Journal of Agrarian Change we argued that, due to the process of ‘accumulation from below’ by a significant proportion of new settlers who are producing surpluses and investing profits in rural areas, a new class of ‘middle farmers’ is evident. Perhaps 30-40% of the A1 farmers in our Masvingo sample sites could be classified in this group. They are entrepreneurial farmers, connected to increasingly sophisticated value chains and market outlets, selling crops and livestock regularly, hiring labour and investing in their farms. This group is most prevalent in the so-called A1 self-contained farms, where a farm block was allocated to individuals, in comparison to the villagised scheme where people are resident in villages and grazing areas are communal.

Such accumulators are also evident in the A2 farms. Fewer proportionately have made it, however, due to the challenges of finance and credit constraining their abilities to invest. But some have, and are doing well. Some of these include those who might be regarded as ‘accumulating from above’, deriving patronage from the state or political favours from the party. Even some of the ‘cronies’, it seems, are keen to accumulate from agriculture, perhaps knowing that their sources of patronage are likely to be short-lived.

In the past when accumulation through agriculture was available to only very few in the communal or old resettlement areas, as land areas were small, capital scarce and opportunities for market engagement constrained. Even in the boom time of communal area agriculture soon after Independence only around 20% of communal area farmers in the Highveld areas regularly sold maize to the market. This smaller group of communal area accumulators persist, and remain important in terms of overall production nationally, even if they are scattered across wide areas.

As Bill Kinsey and his team have shown over the years, in the old resettlement areas there were processes of differentiation similar to what we have observed in the new land reform areas. Some beneficiaries did indeed do well, producing surpluses and attracting others to their homesteads. But in terms of overall numbers the old resettlement areas were never going to make inroads into a broader political dynamic in the countryside. The same applied to the small-scale farming areas. These former Purchase Areas were established by the colonial regime to create a yeoman class of middle farmer, an attempt to buy off resistance to the regime, and provide a buffer to the large-scale commercial farming areas. This rural black elite had its own political trajectory, but it never really influenced national politics in any big way, beyond the impact of a few individuals.

So why is this new class dynamic unleashed by land reform potentially significant for Zimbabwean politics and the next election? An important factor is the sheer scale of numbers. A rough calculation done by Ben Cousins and myself for a forthcoming paper suggests that the new accumulators in new land reform areas amount to a substantial potential adult voting population. Add to these the accumulators in the communal areas, the old resettlement areas, the small-scale farming areas, and the remnants of the commercial farming sector, we are talking of about a million rural voters seriously reliant on and committed to accumulation through agriculture. This is perhaps around 18% of the total electorate, a quarter of rural voters: a significant number in any electoral calculation (although who is on the voters’ roll is yet another debate).

Large numbers of people can of course be bought off or intimidated to vote, as has happened before. There are after all around three million potential voters in the communal areas, perhaps more (the 2011 census will tell all soon hopefully). However, this group of accumulating middle farmers are more vocal, educated and organised than the standard image of the rural electorate, especially in the new resettlement areas. All the studies done to date show how the land invaders were generally younger and better educated than their communal area counterparts. They are also better connected: to towns and markets, to the bureaucracy and to political leaders. This makes a difference in terms of negotiating social, political and economic space for their farming activities, but also in terms of lobbying, influencing and organising. While the new settlers are not formally organised, they are certainly engaged in a range of organisational activities, whether organising cotton buying or livestock trading at a local level.

Geography helps too. The rural areas are not in the same configuration spatially as they were before. A1 schemes abut communal areas which are connected to old resettlements and A2 areas. And everyone meets in new rural business centres, bus routes or market places in town. Because A1 areas were largely invaded from nearby communal areas and urban centres, people are connected socially too. They are friends, relatives, sharing churches, totems, ancestors and religious sites.

Any political party should take heed. This middle farmer group is potentially an important constituency. In the past, as Jeffrey Herbst and Angus Selby have shown, white farmers organised effectively and managed to capture the colonial state, bending policy after policy to their advantage. They were pretty effective after Independence too, striking important deals with the new government. Can the new accumulators, centred in the new resettlement areas, and particularly the A1 schemes, form such a politically strong group? It will of course be far more difficult, as they lack the collective economic muscle and financial backing for a strong farming union, but politically they may become significant if they can bring others with them. Would any government be able to resist the demands of such a group if they allied with the rest of the communal area population demanding attention for rural and farming issues?

A strong narrative about land, agriculture and economic development is an essential precursor. No political party offers this now. ZANU-PF resorts to its tired nationalist rhetoric, while the MDC formations seem unable to create a convincing rural policy position at all. There is a political opportunity here. Whoever can respond to the new politics of the Zimbabwean countryside will, I reckon, win substantial backing. Rural people can no longer be fobbed off with empty promises and a commitment to provide drought relief. As up and coming entrepreneurs committed to rural businesses, they want more: finance, investment, infrastructure and strong state backing. Let’s see if the political parties respond during 2013.

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


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