Tag Archives: communal area

What does pro-poor rural development mean for Zimbabwe?

During last year’s election campaign, Tendai Biti from the opposition MDC, characterised the rural areas as ‘reservoirs of poverty’ in need of ‘liquidation’. Such a characterisation of course is a huge generalisation. Any rural policy must take a more differentiated view, and these blogs have offered some data from four communal areas in Masvingo province, contrasting them with their A1 resettlement neighbours. Given the insights offered, what are the implications for rural development policy?

The previous blogs have shown that, on average, communal area households across Masvingo province are asset and income poor, with little surplus produced on-farm, and with limited engagement in agricultural markets, even in relatively good years. Reliance on remittances, off-farm informal work and hand-outs from the state and NGOs is central. There are a few who are making it, but very few; most people are very poor, and with limited land areas and a lack of money circulating locally, no prospects for local level accumulation. For the next generation, without jobs and with no land, the prospects are bleak. This means that focused social protection measures on those most vulnerable will remain a priority for the communal areas.

What should development agencies focus on in the communal areas?

Given this, what then should the state and development agencies do? Should they simply be a site for humanitarian aid, keeping people alive, hoping that there will be an exit to other areas, ‘liquidating’ these areas in favour of the urban economy?

I am not so pessimistic about rural development, but communal areas’ futures rely centrally on the prospects of the wider economy. If this takes off again and jobs are created, money will flow back to the rural areas to support elderly relatives and younger children, and the need for external aid will decline. Even with aid, reliance on external sources of income, including remittances, is far more important, as our data show.

This has been the pattern since when the communal areas were created as ‘reserves’ through colonial legislation. They were never meant to be vibrant, productive places for entrepreneurship and accumulation; they were meant to be providers of adult (usually male) labour, and a cheap route to providing social security for those not in the workforce. But of course since the economic reforms of the 1990s, the labour market has changed, and there are no longer ‘jobs’ available, just work, often temporary, informal and precarious. Currently, there is very little even of that, as the economy tanks further. Turning the economy around is the most significant rural development intervention of all.

Rethinking rural development: a territorial approach

Beyond this, how to think about rural development? As mentioned in previous blogs, the land reform got rid of the divisive dualism of the old order, creating a new more mixed agrarian structure, with a mixture of land sizes and ownership arrangements. Communal areas must be thought of as part of this; indeed in area and population terms, the dominant part.

With A1 (smallholder) and A2 (medium-scale) resettlements next to or nearby all our communal area sites, their presence is felt. This is in relation to exchanges of food, labour, grazing, technology, skills and so on. There are much more fluid boundaries than before (although of course conflicts exist) and links to urban areas are often less to the large metropolitan centres of Harare, Bulawayo and Masvingo, but more to the smaller towns and growth centres embedded in rural areas, such as Mvurwi, Mazowe, Chatsworth, Gutu Mpandawanda, Ngundu and Chikombedzi.

It’s in the rural small towns where labour is being employed, crops are being sold, processing is taking place, services are supplied and shops and businesses are expanding. The growth is intermittent and fragile, and faltering currently with the latest turn in the on-going economic crisis. But looking to these areas is vital, along with the A1 and A2 areas where labour is employed, tractors hired and grazing and other contracts are issued.

Rural development investment that benefits the communal areas may have to be focused on these areas, supplying credit and finance, support entrepreneurs and training in new skills, as part of a wider territorial plan. Our data show that, in particular, the A1 areas are richer, more productive, investing and accumulating more, but, crucially, they can also drive development elsewhere through providing employment, services, natural resources, equipment and so on.

For development agencies, this means getting beyond the communal area project focus to a wider rural development strategy. There are too many chicken or nutrition garden projects in communal areas that are going nowhere. They may alleviate poverty at the margins, but are more palliative than transformative, and most collapse when the donor leaves. Beyond the clearly-needed social protection support for extremely vulnerable groups, and some of the basic infrastructure investment that’s sorely needed in the absence of state support, much communal area agricultural development is a waste of resources.

I say this reluctantly as I was involved in many communal area projects in the 1980s and 90s, but having seen how agricultural development can occur following redistribution of land, I now believe we were operating in such a constrained setting that it could never have made a difference. A wider view, with a post-land reform economic geography, however, opens up many opportunities.

The role of the state and donors has to be enabling: encouraging enterprises, facilitating linkages and improving basic infrastructure (roads, mobile phone signals and so on) that economic development relies on. Fewer chicken projects, more road building, and then let people get on with it. External assistance can also help with planning, and particularly the revitalisation of capacity in the local state.

This must link economic development to land administration and governance, for example, and focus especially on economic facilitation of hubs and growth poles where success is already bubbling up. This will allow local government, together with line ministries, to move from a role currently restricted to limited regulation, taxation and the running of beer halls to one with a greater economic role at a territorial level.

Moving to a local economic development focus however means allowing donor funds to be used in the new resettlements (currently prevented by ‘restrictive measures’ – aka ‘sanctions’). This would mean donors could engage in a wider, more meaningful approach to local economic development that connects areas and economies in new ways. This will create sustainable opportunities for poor people as part of a wider economic transformation. This is what pro-poor rural development means for Zimbabwe; not keeping people poor in the communal areas, trapped in a colonially-defined land-use and economic framework, and with development opportunities currently constrained by a narrow focus on projects in communal areas.

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

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

 

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Water, sanitation and energy supply in Masvingo’s communal areas

When we started our research on the new resettlement areas in the early 2000s, one of the things people frequently said to us was that they were happy about the new land and the opportunities is brought, but found the lack of basic facilities really challenging. Basic infrastructure was absent. There were no roads, and so no transport to town. There were no piped water supplies, wells or dip tanks, or at least only what was left by the former farmer. Electricity connections were few and far between. Toilets and wells had to be dug from scratch. And schools and health clinics were often several hours walk away. It was tough, and for some too much as they moved back to their communal areas. Better to live in poverty with few opportunities but with access to services, they argued. Some houses split, with kids living with grandparents in the communal areas, while the parents established the new homes in difficult circumstances.

Nearly twenty years on, things have changed. The hardships of the early years have not disappeared but the investment in infrastructure has been significant, mostly through private effort. Roads have been built or repaired, sometimes by community groups. Schools have been constructed and health clinics established, again with community input. They are poorly staffed and with limited supplies: but that is the case across Zimbabwe, such is the depth of the sustained economic crisis and the failure of the state to provide.

Today the difference between the new resettlements and the old communal areas is not so stark. Certainly in respect of privately provided services, the resettlements are in better shape, as people have invested surpluses from their agricultural production in well building, toilet construction and so on, as well as solar lights and diesel pumps.

The tables below offer an average picture across three of our communal area sites (Gutu West is missed out because the data was not of sufficient quality).

Domestic water

In terms of domestic water supply, the vast majority (around 80%) of communal area households have access to a protected water supply via a protected well or a hand pump. Piped water remains rare, but getting water from a river or dam is too. This is the consequence of decades of state and project investment in water supplies in the communal areas. Most of these facilities are communal and the original installation was paid for. This was a significant development achievement, particularly in the 1980s. I got typhoid and bilharzia when living in Mazvihwa communal area in the 1980s, when there was no borehole and only the river mifuku and an open well. This would be much less likely now: in these matters development does make a difference.

Although the level of coverage is approaching the same levels in the resettlement areas (unprotected, hand dug wells without a borehole are more common), these are mostly individual, private investments. Many started with a shallow well to get water at the beginning. These have been deepened, and many have had boreholes and sometimes pumps attached. Such private supply is important for domestic provision, but also small scale irrigation, which has really taken off in the resettlement areas (see earlier blog).

Such upgraded investments are expensive however, and not everyone can afford them, so there are some who have nothing and make use of shallow uncovered wells, streams or dams to provide for water. With the absence of the state, and donors and NGOs boycotting investments in the resettlement areas due to ‘sanctions’, the principles of universal provision of water supplies is not evident (the same applies to education). In service provision the dividing line between state (and donor/NGO) provision in the communal areas and private, individual provision in the resettlements is clear, with some left behind.

% households Mwenezi Chivi Gutu North
Piped 1 0 0
Hand pump 6 68 18
Protected well 77 9 72
Unprotected well 16 22 10
River/stream/dam 1 0 0

Toilets

A similar story can be told around toilet provision. Like protected water supplies there were many donor-funded and state-led programmes around toilet provision in the 1980s and 90s. The famous Blair toilet was built everywhere. This provided a safe, sanitary toilet for everyone, and many households were beneficiaries. I was surprised by our data showing that many still did not have a toilet in the communal areas, although many share in a cluster of homes, which may account for the results. That said, a majority outside Mwenezi have a latrine at their home, and most of these are closed latrines with a roof, usually of the Blair style that prevent the spread of flies, and one in Gutu North even has a flush!

% households Mwenezi Chivi Gutu North
Flush 0 0 1
Latrine with roof, inc Blair toilets 45 43 65
Open latrine 0 16 12
No toilet at household 55 39 17

In the nearby resettlements, toilet coverage ranged from 13% in sparsely-populated Mwenezi A1 areas to 77% in Masvingo district, in sites near Gutu West. Like the wells, these mostly started as open latrines, but many have been upgraded. All again through private investment.

Lighting

With very few rural electrification schemes, lighting sources are generally privately provided in both the communal and resettlement areas. The availability of cheap solar panels and batteries has revolutionised this. Outside Gutu North, which seems still to be more reliant on candles, lighting for 60-80% of households was electric solar, allowing also for the charging of the ubiquitous cell phone too. When I lived in a communal area in the mid-1980s, it was always candles for writing up PhD notes, or for the kids in our home to do school work by.

% households Mwenezi Chivi Gutu North
Electric 2 1 1
Paraffin 3 13 32
Candles 17 1 37
Solar 31 52 12
Battery/dry cell 29 32 6

Since the 1980s, energy sources for cooking have not changed much, however, and across our sites 100% of households rely on fuelwood for cooking. In the land scarce areas of Gutu this is a challenge, especially for women who often have to travel long distances to search for fuel. In the resettlement areas this is not yet a big problem, and again fuelwood is the near universal source of energy for cooking.

Services and well-being: the costs of state failure

Service provision in rural areas affects health and well-being. Better health through better water and sanitation makes a big difference. Having electric light in the evening, and being able to charge a phone, makes all sorts of things possible. This improves the lives of many. The public investments in the communal areas following Independence made a big difference, and reduced morbidity and mortality as the DHS surveys show over time.

This sort of public support has not been available in the resettlement areas due to lack of government capacity and the ‘sanctions’ (aka ‘restrictive measures’) from donors. Instead, private investments in water supplies, sanitation facilities and energy sources have replaced state/donor provision, although not for everyone. There are some living in the new resettlements who have not made it, and are living in very basic homes with no safe water and no toilet, with kids unable to go to school, as provisions for transport over overnight accommodation are not possible.

While it is good to celebrate the initiative and entrepreneurship of the new settlers, the costs of state failure, exacerbated by persisting resistance by international actors to work in what they deem to be ‘contested areas’, takes its toll on the most marginalised and deprived. Nearly twenty years after land reform, investment in basic infrastructure and services in the resettlement areas is long overdue. The state in particular has failed in its most basic obligations, while international players in the NGO and donor community are not upholding their own commitment to humanitarianism and universal development due to entrenched political positions.

Today, a major post-land reform effort must be combined with the rehabilitation and repair of the neglected communal area infrastructure, where investment has been minimal too over the past 10-20 years, except for the few favoured project islands where NGO and donors land. As the final blog in this series argues, thinking about rural development more broadly than isolated project interventions, and as part of local economic development at a territorial level, across communal areas, resettlements and small towns, is essential. Infrastructure and services, including water, sanitation and energy, must be at the heart of this agenda.

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

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

 

 

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Livestock production: the limits of extensive systems in Zimbabwe

As the previous blog described, the communal area sites we have been studying in Masvingo rarely produced sufficient crops to cover even subsistence needs, and then if so only very occasionally, as with the Mwenezi experience in 2016-17. So what about livestock production?

Given its drought-prone nature, Masvingo province is known as cattle-keeping country. Many of the former white-owned farms were large ranches, often covering vast areas with very few stock. Communal area people were able to make use of this to poach graze and supplement the limited grazing in their own areas. Now with resettlement farms surrounding them, communal areas are more hemmed in. Although in the early 2000s there was surplus grazing in the new resettlements as people settled and carved out fields, this is much less the case now. Indeed, in responses to questions about interactions with nearby resettlement areas, conflicts over grazing (and also thatch grass and fuelwood) came top in the ranking by our communal area respondents.

This means that extensive livestock production is constrained in communal areas, perhaps even more so than in the past. Before the 2000 land reform sometimes negotiations were made with nearby (white) farmers, especially during drought, for access to grazing, but more often herders risked poach grazing, and occasionally suffered the consequences of the confiscation of herds and arrests. However, given the scarcity of grazing in the communal areas, it was worth it.

What happens now? Of course poach grazing persists, hence the recording of frequent conflicts, but also there are quite a few loan arrangements that facilitate access to grazing as animals are loaned to relatives or friends in the resettlements. They then have the benefit of the draft power, manure and milk, and (sometimes) the occasional offspring in exchange, while the owner keeps the animals alive and breeding. This was a very common pattern in the first decade of resettlement after 2000; however as settlers have built up their own herds, and the connections to their ‘home’ areas have faded, they are increasingly reluctant to take on communal area livestock. From our sample, loaning out was absent in the two Gutu sites, but still persisting in Mwenezi.

As the table below shows, with the exception of Mwenezi, our communal area sites could not be described as major livestock production areas. Indeed, over a third of households hold no cattle at all, and are reliant on sharing of others’ for draft power (see previous blog). Outside Mwenezi, smallstock holdings are small, and donkeys, pigs and broilers are rare.an purchase regularly. This was only 6-9% of households in the sites outside Mwenezi, where 23% had purchased cattle in the previous five years.

  Mwenezi Chivi Gutu West Gutu North
Cattle held per household (N) 7.6 4.0 3.1 3.7
Loaned in (N) 1 0.5 0.5 0.4
Loaned out (N) 1.7 0.2 0 0
Above zero cattle (%) 64 66 51 61
Above ten cattle (%) 22 8 6 7.3
Cattle purchased in last 5 years (% of households) 23 8 6 9
Cattle sold in last year (%) 41 6 14 15
Cattle milk sales (%) 24 2 0 0
Goat (N) 7.9 1.8 2 2
Sheep (N) 0.8 0.1 0.5 0
Smallstock sold in last year (% of households) 44 8 14 5
Donkey (N) 1.3 0.3 0.2 0.1
Pig (N) 0.9 0 0.1 0.1
Broiler % 2 9 5 0
Broiler contract (% of households) 1 0 0 0
Herding labour hire (%) 7 4 1 2
Feed inputs (%) 7 0 5 19
Vet inputs % 30 20 23 19

 

Perhaps only Mwenezi could be described as a livestock system based on production, with a relatively large average cattle (7.6, ranging from zero up to 105) and goat (7.9, ranging from 0 to 60) holdings, and regular sales and purchases. Although more than the other sites, there is still very limited labour hired explicitly for herding (only 7% of households). Cattle milk sales are also recorded here from those with larger breeding herds. This is not surprising given the dry conditions of the area, and the extensive, relatively high quality sweet grazing available. While the bumper sorghum harvest in the years of our study was unusual, livestock production can provide a regular income.

This contrasts with all the other sites where average cattle holdings averaged 3-4; just about enough to maintain a draft span, and provide some transport, manure and milk, but sales and purchase are comparatively much lower. When sales occur, these are usually emergency sales for school fees, medical expenses or a funeral. Replacements are by-and-large through births within the herd, and these are infrequent because of the small herd size and the age/sex composition, which is geared towards older oxen for draft rather than a breeding herd.

Limited intensification

You might expect, with constrained grazing, there would be a shift to more intensified production – for example stall feeding with purchased feed. There is some evidence this is happening to a small extent in Gutu North, where 19% are purchasing feed, but most of this is at a very small level, and largely supplements. In other areas, this is not a phenomenon except for a few who will buy in to support calves or pregnant cows. Contract arrangements for livestock production have not taken off in these areas, which would be another way of financing feed and other inputs for a more intensified alternative. Only a few in Mwenezi are linked to a contract broiler arrangement with a local farm.

With the collapse of state veterinary services in recent years, and the poor quality of dipping chemicals, there has been a rise in tick diseases across the country. This has meant that those with resources purchase spray dip chemicals for private spraying. Some also recorded buying veterinary medicines for sick animals. A quarter to a third of households – those with larger, more valuable herds and flocks – invest in this way, and have learned to cope without state services. The rest remain vulnerable and deaths from a variety of tick-borne diseases are regularly recorded, especially in wetter years.

In sum, outside Mwenezi, despite Masvingo’s former reputation, these are largely not livestock production areas today. Cattle are kept for multiple uses, notably as inputs to agriculture which, despite poor results, is still seen as the core activity. Land areas are constrained in the communal areas with notional grazing areas often occupied by settlements and farms, or very heavily used and so degraded. This is very different to the situation in the past, and in other parts of the country further west in Matabeleland and southern Midlands, where a more livestock-based economy exists, more akin to that found in Mwenezi and the Lowveld areas.

Contrasts with the resettlement areas?

The A1 resettlement areas nearby are not that different. Here cattle are kept primarily as an input to agriculture, for draft power and manure, with milk, meat and live sales being bonuses, and sales key for emergencies. The herd is seen a stable savings account, which, given the volatility of the economy, makes much sense. Yet the herd size is mostly too small to allow for the possibility of making a regular living. In the A1 resettlement areas too, pressure on land is increasing. In 2000, there was plenty of spare grazing, but now more people have arrived, lands have been subdivided and grazing areas are being encroached. With more fields and settlement, the need to for herding labour during the cropping season increases, but labour is scarce and expensive, and relatively few invest in dedicated herding labour, as with the communal area sites. In other words, unlike for crop agriculture, livestock production in the resettlement and communal areas is more similar.

The big exception is broiler production, which, as a project for younger family members and women, has taken off across the new resettlements. Sometimes this is supported by contracting arrangements, but usually it is independent, financed by surplus income from agriculture and off-farm sources. The difference here is the availability of cash for investment. In the communal areas this is rare, and many are living hand to mouth. Occasionally an aid project will come along, but these are sporadic and often last just a few years. For most communal area households usually there’s not enough surplus to do much more than keep going. This is different in a significant proportion (not all by any means – see other blogs) of resettlement households, where accumulation from agriculture can be invested elsewhere and investment drives further investment in process of stepping out (diversifying) and up (accumulating) of livelihoods.

Once again, land redistribution and the opportunities for accumulation that this offers provides the basis for enhanced livelihoods. But this is constrained for land extensive production activities such as with livestock. Former white farmers had hundreds if not thousands of hectares and managed to make a reasonable (but not always very good) living from livestock ranching. With a more equitable distribution of land this is no longer an option, and more intensive approaches to production – broilers, piggeries, stall-feeding and so on – become the priorities outside the areas like Mwenezi with good grazing and land surplus. Such investments, though, need cash, and this is in very short supply, with limited other options in the communal areas as the next blog will discuss.

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

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

Photo credit: Tapiwa Chatikobo

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Agriculture in Masvingo’s communal areas: limited prospects

We investigated agricultural production across our communal area sites throughout Masvingo province during the 2016 and 2017 harvest seasons. These were relatively good rainfall years, with 690 mm recorded in Masvingo town in 2016-17, for instance. Compared to the past seasons, these were bumper harvest years, especially in the Lowveld site of Mwenezi.

Yet, as the table below shows, with the exception of Mwenezi, none of the sites produced on average sufficient grain to feed a family. If this is estimated to be one tonne of grain per year, three of the sites produced about half this amount on average. Of course there was a wide range, but across three sites only 14-18% households produced over a tonne of grain.

The Mwenezi results are unusual, given that this is drought prone area, but good soils under higher rainfall can produce the occasional good crop, especially as land areas are significantly higher. Here 51% of households produced over a tonne of grain on average across the two seasons, much of this from sorghum. Some sorghum is sold under contract to brewers, but most is retained for food, and because of good storage can tide people over through a number of years.

  Mwenezi Chivi Gutu West Gutu North
Maize 16/17 seasons average (kg) 915 543 509 613
Sorghum (kg) 1312 20 21 36
Pearl millet (kg) 0 3.4 3.9 0
Finger millet (kg) 3.3 1.7 37.6 52.5
% households producing over 1 tonne of grain (16/17 average) 51 16 14 18
Sunflower (kg) 5.8 0 18 12.7
Cotton (kg) 0 0 0 0
Groundnuts (kg) 73 182 189 220
Horticulture sales $ per household 26 6 5 8
Maize sales 16/17 seasons average(kg) 159 60 18 18
Zero maize sales 16/17 seasons (%) 85 89 96 95
Maize certified seed purchase (%) 59 88 90 100
Fertiliser purchase (%) 2 23 52 44
Manure applied (%) 3 37 44 65
Pesticide purchase (%) 40 41 45 23
Credit (%) 0 0 0 0
Contract (%) 13 0 0 0

 

Overall, crop diversity is limited. Outside Mwenezi, maize dominates, and pearl and finger millet have nearly disappeared, beyond being grown on very small plots for specialist production, usually for home brewing. Groundnuts are grown but not in large quantities and in these sites sunflowers are rare, because of the lack of markets these days. Cotton and tobacco are absent except for a few isolated cases.

Sales are also very limited. A few larger maize and sorghum producers sell, but most don’t. In fact across the two years on average 85%, 89%, 96% and 95% in the Mwenezi, Chivi, Gutu West and Gutu North communal area sites sold nothing, even in these relatively good years. With very few cash crops and little surplus to sell, this is largely a subsistence economy, one that requires off-farm income to supplement meagre agricultural production, as explored in a subsequent blog.

Tillage is especially reliant on access to livestock, which, as discussed in an earlier blog in this series, have a skewed ownership pattern. 50-68% of households use their own oxen, while others hire. Tractors are not a feature outside Mwenezi where a few have bought second-hand machines. Those with without other options must hoe their land, a feature most evident in Mwenezi.

% Mwenezi Chivi Gutu West Gutu North
Own oxen 54 68 51 50
Hired oxen 14 28 29 35
Loaned oxen 2 5 11 4
Own Tractor 7 0 0 0
Rented tractor 2 0 0 0
Hoeing 21 3 9 11

 

Big contrasts with the A1 resettlements

These patterns of agricultural production contrast significantly with the nearby A1 resettlement areas where, especially in the higher rainfall areas, production is higher. In 2010-11 for example, sites nearby the two Gutu sites produced on average 844kg and 1238kg of maize, with 38% of households selling surplus maize. Over the period from 2003-2013, 44% of households in those A1 sites produced more than one tonne of maize. Cultivated land areas are higher, averaging 3.2 ha in the resettlements near our Gutu sites, but also the intensity of production is greater, with higher inputs, including fertiliser (with over half of the households applying fertiliser).

As discussed in a later blog in this series, labour hiring is more common, both of permanent and temporary workers. Across our A1 land reform sites, excluding Mwenezi, over a third of households are regularly producing surpluses and reinvesting in the development of the farm. At the time of our last major census of A1 sites in 2011-12, the level of mechanisation was modest, however, with only half a dozen tractors across all the A1 sites, but this has changed since as people have invested in tractors and other equipment, notably pumps.

In the A1 resettlement areas, this results in a dynamic of accumulation for a significant group, where investments in farm and house improvements occur year on year. Not everyone manages this, and the patterns of differentiation – and associated dynamics of class formation – are very evident, with those not able to accumulate either dropping out and moving away or becoming wage labourers supporting the production of the accumulators.

Across the communal area sites this dynamic is not seen. Those able to realise surpluses are vanishingly few. Only around 15 percent in three of the areas achieved levels of output of grain sufficient to provide for household food needs, and even fewer sold surpluses. And this in relatively good rainfall years.

Although there is obvious differentiation in assets, production, labour hiring and so on, as other blogs in this series show, most communal area households are poor, unable to do much more than subsist off their farms and rely on off-farm incomes of various sorts. Agricultural production in the communal areas is therefore very low input and low output.

As the table shows, across the communal area sites, fertiliser input levels were low, although increasing in the wetter Gutu sites. Virtually no-one uses synthetic fertiliser or manure in Mwenezi, where soils are good and the potential for crop ‘burning’ due to excessive fertiliser is high. This contrasts with the sandy soils of the miombo areas further north, where higher rainfall and leaching means soil fertility is low and additions are required. In all sites, as another blog will discuss further, labour hiring is minimal, and outside Mwenezi collective work parties are very rare.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the low levels of production, outside Mwenezi the vast majority use certified maize seed, purchased hybrids or open pollinated improved varieties. The proportion is less in Mwenezi, but still nearly 60%. The long-term commitment to improved varieties across Zimbabwe persists, supported by a 50 year tradition and continued extension reinforcement. This makes the economics of production of maize very risky, especially if purchased fertilisers are added too, and so this seed, along with most effort in agricultural production, is focused on the homefield areas, where extra labour, fertilisation and, if needed, additional irrigation can be applied. In small quantities, such maize may be produced as green maize for local consumption and sale rather than for grain.

Pesticides were bought by around a quarter of households, but these were in very small quantities and mostly applied to vegetables. Horticulture as a source of income, however, was highest (but not very high) in Mwenezi where irrigation projects provide opportunities. This again contrasts with the A1 resettlement areas, where informal irrigation has taken off in all sites, resulting in significant production of vegetables and green maize for market.

Finally, commercial credit was purchased by no one across the sites. Limited contracting for sorghum in Mwenezi provides some finance, but otherwise farmers are on their own. They rely on off-farm sources and remittances to finance agriculture, but overall, and by contrast to the A1 resettlements, this is a very low input, low output form of agriculture. Indeed, the possibilities of improvement are constrained. Land areas are small, soils are poor or rainfall is highly variable, labour is scarce and many farm owners are old and unable to invest effort.

Communal area projects: missing the mark

Agricultural production remains important of course, but more as stop-gap social security rather than as a basis for accumulation. This is vital given the absence of wider welfare opportunities and declining employment possibilities in Zimbabwe, but it is no surprise that government, NGO and donor food and cash for work schemes are an important source of livelihood for a significant group in these areas.

While there are many well-meaning projects aimed at improving agriculture in the communal areas of Masvingo province – usually with a ‘climate smart’ or ‘resilience building’ tag these days – you have to wonder whether these can have any impact, beyond marginal, often very labour intensive, improvements (like ‘conservation agriculture’). The communal areas, as discussed in other blogs, are structurally poor and disadvantaged and technical tinkering will make little difference. Maybe there are some high value, niche products that can be promoted – such as has been done with chillies in some parts of the country – but our Masvingo sites are in lower rainfall areas, more remote from markets, and it may make sense.

In sum, contrasting the communal areas with the A1 resettlements demonstrates how important land redistribution is if agriculture is to become more than a marginal, subsistence activity for most.

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tenure challenges

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Livelihoods assets: differentiated development in Zimbabwe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asset poor, but differentiation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lead photo credit: Tapiwa Chatikobo

 

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Are communal areas in Zimbabwe too poor for development?

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

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

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

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

A1 resettlements vs communal areas: big contrasts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links to the resettlement areas: a territorial perspective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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