Tag Archives: land reform

Why is there food insecurity in Zimbabwe?

The food situation in Zimbabwe this year is bad. But what’s the cause? Drought is part of the story – you just have to see the dramatic pictures from Victoria Falls to realise something is up. But the food crisis is not just the result of a natural disaster, prompted by a major El Nino event across the region. Nor is it just due to land reform as too often surmised, as land reform has had complex impacts on the food economy, both positive and negative.

The situation is poorly understood because national food security assessment data are not effectively disaggregated, and miss certain dimensions. In particular, post-land reform grain market and exchange processes are very poorly understood.

These elaborate, informal processes – often sharing food from surplus producing land reform areas with other, poorer communal and urban areas – are however heavily disrupted by the economic chaos and uncertainty currently gripping the country, as discussed last week.

A few weeks ago I did an article for The Conversation, which explored these issues. In case you didn’t see it before, it is reproduced below.

Economic chaos is causing a food security and humanitarian crisis in Zimbabwe

Ian Scoones, University of Sussex

Since Zimbabwe’s land reform of 2000 – when around 8 million hectares of formerly large-scale commercial farmland was distributed to about 175,000 households – debates about the consequences for food security have raged.

A standard narrative has been that Zimbabwe has turned from “food basket” to “basket case”. This year, following the devastating El Niño drought combined with Cyclone Idai, some 5.5 million people are estimated to be at risk of hunger, with international agencies issuing crisis and emergency alerts.

It is unquestionable that this season was disastrous – only 776,635 tonnes of maize was produced, more than a third below the five-year average. Nevertheless, the story of food insecurity is more complex than the headline figures suggest.

It’s true that Zimbabwe’s food economy has been transformed over the past 19 years. Aggregate production of maize has certainly declined, and imports have become more frequent.

But Zimbabwe suffered food shortages, often precipiated by El Niño events, before land reform. These too led to the need for more imports. And surpluses have also been produced since land reform. For example, in 2017, there was a bumper crop. Some of it was stored and has been used to keep people going.

Getting behind the headline figures and understanding an increasingly complex food economy is essential. Our on-going research shows just how complicated the picture is.

Farming and food

Since land reform, we have been tracking livelihood change in resettlement areas in a number of sites across the country. Our research is exploring how people have fared since getting land, asking who is doing well and not so well, and why. Some of our key findings include:

  • Crop production is higher in the land reform areas compared to the communal lands. Larger land areas allows new settlers to produce, invest and accumulate.
  • There are substantial hidden flows of food between land reform areas and poor rural and urban areas, as successful resettlement farmers provide food for relatives, or sell food informally.
  • There is a significant growth of small-scale, farmer-led irrigation in resettlement areas. This is often not recognised, as production occurs on disparate small plots, frequently farmed by younger people without independent homes.
  • Trade in food across regions and borders, facilitated by networks of traders, often women, is significant, but unrecorded.
  • Market networks following land reform are complex and informal, linking producers to traders and small urban centres in new ways. Outside formal channels, the volume and flows of food through the system is difficult to trace.

Simple aggregate analyses of food deficits, estimating the numbers of people at risk of food insecurity, do not capture these new dynamics. National surveys are important, but may be misleading, and local studies, such as ours, often do not match the national, aggregate picture.

So, what is going on?

Access to food: complex relationships

Food insecurity is not just about production, it is also about access. This is affected by the value of assets when sold, the ease with which things can be bought and sold in markets, the value of cash as influenced by currency fluctuations and inflation, local and cross-border trade opportunities, and all the social, institutional and cultural dimensions that go into exchange.

When these dimensions change, so does food security. And this is particularly true for certain groups.

Take the case of Zvishavane district, in Midlands province of Zimbabwe. In the communal area of Mazvihwa, there was effectively no production this season. Some got a little if they had access to wetlands, and a few had stores. But compared to 30 years ago, production is focused on maize, which stores poorly, rather than small grains that can be kept for years.

How are people surviving? Some seek piecework in the nearby resettlement areas; others have taken up seasonal gold panning; others migrate to town, or further afield; others get help from relatives through remittances; while others are in receipt of cash transfers or food hand-outs from NGOs.

With small amounts of cash, people must buy food. It’s available in shops, but expensive. So a vibrant trade has emerged, with exchanges of maize grain for sugar or other products. And it’s especially people from the land reform areas who are selling their surpluses. Many have relatives who got land, and some travel there to get food, but there is also a network of women traders who come and sell in the communal areas.

Aggregate surveys almost always miss this complexity. There are sampling biases, as the importance of the resettlements as sites of production and exchange are missed.

There are data problems too, as it is difficult to pick up informal exchanges, and income-earning activities on the margins. The result is that each year there are big food insecurity figures proclaimed, fund-raising campaigns launched, but meanwhile people get on with surviving.

This is not to say that there is not a problem this year. Far from it. But it may be a different one to that diagnosed.

Economic collapse is causing a humanitarian crisis

As the Zimbabwean economy continues to deteriorate, with rapidly-rising inflation, parallel currency rates, and declining service provision, whether electricity, fuel or water, the challenges of market exchange and trade become more acute. Barter trade is more common, as prices fluctuate wildly and the value of physical and electronic money diverge. With poor mobile phone networks due to electricity outages, electronic exchange becomes more difficult too.

Collapsing infrastructure has an effect on production also. Fuel price hikes make transport prohibitive and irrigation pumps expensive to run. Desperate measures by government often make matters worse. The now-rescinded edict that all grain must be supplied to the state grain marketing board undermined vital informal trade. Meanwhile, the notoriously corrupt “command agriculture” subsidy scheme directs support to some, while excluding others from the provision of favourable loans for government-supplied seed, fertiliser, fuel or equipment.

Economic and infrastructural collapse is threatening food security in Zimbabwe. Even if there is good rainfall this season, the crisis will persist. Farmers will plant, produce and market less this year. While food imports are needed for targeted areas and population groups for sure, this may not be the biggest challenge.

Stabilising Zimbabwe’s economy is the top priority, as economic chaos is causing a humanitarian crisis.The Conversation

Ian Scoones, Professorial Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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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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Institutions, social relations and rural development in Zimbabwe

Social and political relations are central to land and agricultural production. Unlike in the resettlement areas, where new institutions and relations had to be built following land reform, those in the communal areas draw on longer traditions. Like in the resettlements, institutions are often hybrids, combining ‘traditional’ (such as chiefs and headmen) and ‘modern’ (such as village committees and councillors). In the communal areas, party officials and war veterans are less of a feature, although very often party structures have melded with other arrangements; something that is also happening in the resettlements twenty years on.

Informal institutions: the social fabric of rural life

These officially-recognised institutions may however not be the most important. In fact, churches were often referred to as the most important institution, providing support in various ways. Across our sites, the presence of evangelical churches is noticeable. In Mwenezi, the top two churches attended by households in our sample were the Zionist church and Joanne Masowe’s apostolic church, although two-thirds of households said they were not affiliated to any church. Only in Gutu were the Methodists (Gutu West) and the Catholics (Gutu North) ranked as the most important church, above the Zionist and Zaoga churches.

Outside Mwenezi, nearly 80% of households were linked to a church. The Catholics and Methodists have had long traditions of supporting education in the Gutu sites, which is evident in the engagement with schooling both of previous and current generations, including both men and women. Evangelical churches by contrast emphasise church-based solidarity, including giving and sharing funds raised for the church. Such churches do not frown on polygamy, and there are few progressive views on gender rights shown in most evangelical churches, with women taking on particular, subservient roles.

When asked about leadership positions of both senior men and women in our sample, it was links to churches – as pastors, deacons, preachers, as well as church secretaries, treasurers and so on – that were pointed to. Church leadership positions were the most significant among men for the approximately 15% of male household heads who identified themselves as leaders in some way. These roles came second to involvement in village committees, both traditional and modern, as well as burial societies in Gutu North.

For women, churches were important, and women often took on administrative roles. Indeed, for approximately 10% of women who were identified as having leadership positions, the role of secretary or treasurer of committees (for gardens, burials, churches, as well as a range of projects) was the most commonly named role.

These roles linked to projects of various sorts, some supported by churches, others by NGOs, are an important feature of communal area life, linking people outside the immediate kin network. This may result in support ranging from loaning of draft power, sharing of ideas or links to markets. Traditional group based activities, such as work parties (humwe) for tillage, weeding or other activities, persist in Mwenezi and Chivi in particular, and were identified as happening for 34% and 13% of households in 2016-17. They are less common in the Gutu sites (7% and 3%), where a more individualised culture has emerged.

Where is the state?

Links to the state and external projects are also an important feature in the communal areas. Despite the decline in state capacity between 52% and 53% of households had engaged with an extension worker in the previous year. Most of these were agricultural extension officers from Agritex, but also there were mentions of seeing state veterinarians too. Across our sites, between 13% and 26% of household heads had gained a ‘Master Farmer’ certificate (see earlier blog), and so had participated in a rigorous training course on agriculture. Some of these qualifications were gained years ago, but the continued presence of state actors in the communal areas is a feature of life. The Agritex extension worker, even if there is no fuel in his or her motorbike, is known.

In Mwenezi, around two-thirds of households were recipients of state handouts through the Presidential Scheme, mostly seed and fertiliser. This however was absent in the other sites in 2017, although of course state handouts increased in the run-up to the election the following year. Outside Mwenezi and Gutu North engagement in other projects was not a big feature, as NGOs working in the communal areas concentrate activities and miss out huge areas. In Mwenezi, project links were around a donor-supported irrigation project and a contracting scheme for sorghum led by the brewing firm, Delta.

Compared to the land reform resettlements, the communal areas are much more connected to state- and NGO-led development. There are projects, demonstrations, events, and the infrastructure of these areas, the inheritance of the 1980s in particular, including schools, clinics and government offices, demonstrates state presence, even if the buildings are decrepit and the staff poorly paid. In the resettlement areas, such investment has not happened since land reform, and the developmental state very often feels very distant. Instead, in the resettlements, much more present is the ruling part (ZANU-PF)y, alongside the war veterans who led the land invasions from 2000.

In the early days, the politics were intense, with ‘seven member committees’ installed to protect the land reform gains, mirroring structures from the liberation war. This has subsided since, as the administrative state has attempted to establish structures for development, and allowed ‘traditional’ authorities to claim control. But without state resources and personnel, and with no donor or NGO projects due to on-going ‘sanctions’ (or ‘restricted measures’ if you prefer), the dynamics are different, and tensions frequently arise between the different forms of authority, which since the imposition of the VIDCOs in the 1980s, has not been a feature of communal area life.

Institutions and agriculture: comparisons with the resettlement areas

How does all this affect land and agriculture? In the communal areas, well-established systems exist, involving both headmen and village committees, who allocate land, help resolve disputes and often assist with marketing, the delivery of state or NGO relief handouts and the negotiation projects with external actors. This system is evolving in the resettlements, but the creation of a sense of ‘community’ – essentially emerging from scratch – with established trusted relations at the centre, takes time. In the resettlements, more individual arrangements for supporting agriculture, notably around marketing, tend to emerge, reflecting the more individualised, entrepreneurial culture in the resettlement areas.

The difference in social and political relations – and associated institutions – has important gender implications. In the communal areas, women are widely involved across institutions, more usually in supporting roles, but nevertheless important ones. Women’s involvement in churches, including in leadership positions, is significant. Women are also central to projects and development activities in all of our communal area sites. This partly reflects the absence of men in the communal areas, who may be migrating for work, but also the increasing openness of what is still a highly patriarchal society. In the resettlements, while land reform offered opportunities for some women, notably those cast out of tight kin-based communal area settings because of divorce, accusations of witchcraft and so on, roles in most resettlement areas remain very circumscribed, and men, who are more present, take the lead.

Thinking about institutions, formal and informal, is central to rural development and building more sustainable livelihoods. Too often this dimension is forgotten in the rush to address technical and economic questions. But whether it’s land, production, market or service provision (the subject of the next blog), social relations are key.

This post is the seventh 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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Off-farm work and diversified livelihoods in Zimbabwe’s communal areas

With low agricultural output, off-farm work is an essential complement to agricultural production in Zimbabwe’s communal areas. Working away has always been part and parcel of communal area livelihoods; indeed these were established as ‘labour reserves’ in the colonial era.

However, the patterns of labour migration have changed significantly over the past decades. Gone are the days of a stable job in town (or in the mines or farms), sending of regular remittances, and later retirement, with a cattle herd built up and enough land to subsist on. Following the retrenchments of the 1990s and the economic collapse of the 2000s, the wider economy is much less reliable. Jobs tend to be short-term and precarious, if they exist at all. Migration out of the country is an option, and has been taken by some, mostly to South Africa, but also to Botswana and the UK. Immigration restrictions and xenophobia are the risks migrants face in these longer migrations, even if the returns are better and more reliable.

Across our sample, we see reliance on migrant labour and remittances highest in Mwenezi. This is where agriculture is most unreliable, despite the study period’s results, and traditions of cross-border migration to South Africa most established. The recent jobs sample households mentioned included: game tracker, game guard, Illala palm products/basket making, Hippo Valley worker, builder, carpenter, well digger and herbalist. Most of these jobs were local, and linked to the economy in the area, including the national parks and the sugar estates near Chirdezi. Working in the estates was a more common feature of the households in Chivi, who included cane cutters, estate workers, security guards, drivers and others. Tour guides in local conservancies were also noted. Building, as in all areas, was a common profession, usually for local contracted work on a self-employed basis. Storekeepers were common too in Chivi. By contrast to Mwenezi, which is quite remote, in Chivi there were more teachers, police, soldiers and other government workers mentioned. This reflects the more established educational systems in the area, and so access to jobs requiring qualifications. This was definitely the case in the two Gutu sites. In Gutu West there were a large number of teachers and those with government jobs, again reflecting the (mission) education in the area over a long period. There were also bus conductors, security guards and self-employed local builders. In Gutu North, the majority of off-farm work was of this type, with builders, guards, drivers and a variety of business people, including shopkeepers, noted.

Overall, the data show that 25-57% of households had someone employed elsewhere. With the exception of Chivi, half to three-quarters of household heads were either currently employed or had been so in the recent past. Remittances were received by more households in Mwenezi (57%), but only between 11% and 21% of households received regular remittances in the other sites; a figure way lower than recorded in the 1980s and 90s. Again, other than Mwenezi, surprisingly few younger household members (aged 21-30) were in employment elsewhere. Those in Mwenezi joined the border-jumpers to South Africa, sometimes via Mozambique, whereas others were stuck at home, suffering the consequences of the poor state of the economy and lack of jobs. A predicament of many young people in rural areas, as our recent paper showed.

In the communal areas, levels of employment and reliance on remittances has historically been high. Studies in the 1980s put it as high as two-thirds of households receiving a significant proportion of income from remittances. With the decline in the wider economy this is now much lower and, although we didn’t ask about the figures, the amounts and regularity of remittance income has definitely declined. Nevertheless, reliance on off-farm employment, locally, within Zimbabwe and in other countries, is higher than seen in the nearby A1 resettlements, especially in the wetter areas where agriculture is profitable. In the Gutu and Masvingo district A1 areas remittances were only received by 7% of households in 2011, for example.

Access to education has historically been essential in gaining better-paid and stable jobs, such as those in government service. Since 1980, the ‘born free’ generation benefited massively, and before that the areas with mission education (such as via the Catholic and Methodist churches in Gutu) have been well educated. But with the decline in formal jobs, the collapse of pay in public service and periods of hyperinflation, the benefits of employment have dramatically declined. Better to set up your own business as a shopkeeper or builder than rely on formal employment. That younger household members in the 21-30 age group are barely working (outside the border jumpers of Mwenezi, which of course is dangerous and precarious) is witness to the collapse of the old livelihood strategies in the communal areas.

  Mwenezi Chivi Gutu West Gutu North
Household head in a job, or having had one recently (%) 72 22 49 51
Household member employed elsewhere (%) 57 25 45 43
Remittances received in last year (%) 57 20 11 21
Lead women with non-agricultural independent income (%) 38 nd 5 16
Children aged 21-30 employed elsewhere

 

45 1.2 5.2 7.3

Off-farm activities: livelihood diversification

Given the limitations of agriculture, livestock keeping and formal employment, people must resort to other activities to earn enough. The table below shows the range of income earning activities recorded in the year before the 2017-18 interviews. It shows that poultry and vegetable sales are important for a good proportion, along with trading, especially in Mwenezi (near international borders) and Gutu North. Livestock related sales are important in Mwenezi, as discussed in an earlier blog.

Gender differentiation of tasks is evident across these activities, with vegetables and poultry largely the domain of women, as are a range of the other activities noted (including basket weaving, pottery etc.). Livestock sales are led by men, as are other activities such as building, carpentry, brick-making and transport provision. However, gender roles are not fixed and, with lack of jobs elsewhere, men and women are much more flexible about roles. Young men for example will garden, trade and sell chickens, unheard of in previous generations.

Natural resource-based activities are important, but these are concentrated in Mwenezi where plentiful resources still exist. Fishing, woodcarving, and wild food harvesting are important. This includes (illegal) hunting and collection of the famous mopane worm, which both are important activities in the Lowveld. None of our areas are serious gold panning areas like other parts of the country, but a few travel to nearby rivers to try their luck. None of this is seriously remunerative: enough to supplement but not survive, and in the case of the Chivi and Gutu sites, relatively few households engaging. Again, this is a sharp change from before when natural resource-based incomes were much more important.

% households Mwenezi Chivi Gutu West Gutu North
Remittances 57 20 11 21
Pensions 38 8 4 3
Maricho local piecework 1 17 15 3
Food/cash for work 51 26 18 18
Land rental nd 0 0 2
House rental 3 2 0 1
Cattle sale 44 2 0 0
Milk sale 24 2 0 0
Poultry sale 63 16 19 23
Goat sale 37 3 1 0
Vegetable sale 43 25 11 21
Dry vegetable sale 23 `4 1 1
Brewing 26 9 3 7
Building and carpentry 43 6 7 5
Brickmaking 25 5 1 0
Wood carving 44 21 2 3
Pottery/baskets 73 1 1 5
Fishing 27 0 2 0
Wild products 26 2 2 0
Gold panning 12 3 5 5
Trading 67 2 3 10
Tailoring 65 0 3 0
Transport hire 5 0 2 1
Grinding mill nd 0 2 4

As the data on off-farm income earning shows, today diversification is all, and many communal area households have multiple streams of income, often with small, infrequent, uncertain amounts. This is much more stark than we see in the A1 resettlement areas, where, for most, agricultural incomes make up the bulk of livelihood support. For a significant group – perhaps 30-40 percent of households – agricultural surpluses generate investments that allow for further income to be made. In contrast to the resettlements, incomes derived from house rentals, shops or transport services are minimal in the communal areas. Instead of new businesses being established on the back of agriculture, people are scraping a living, hiring out labour and using natural resources.

Farm labour: a big contrast with the resettlements

On-farm labour has really taken off in the resettlements. With larger plots of land, the demand for labour is high, and those without resources to invest in their own land often hire out labour. This is often more than the occasional bit of piecework; there are quite a few permanent jobs, often involving a mix of tasks, including herding, housework etc. This is not evident in the communal areas, as the table below shows.

 % households Mwenezi Chivi Gutu West Gutu North
Permanent labour (male) 5 9 3 4
Permanent labour (female) 2 3 2 3
Temporary labour (male) 9 0 0 5
Temporary labour (female) 2 0 1 13
Work party (average 16/17 seasons) 34 13 7 3
Employed on farms elsewhere (%) nd 3 0 1

There is very little agricultural labour employed, beyond some occasional temporary labour from the very few who are able to invest in agriculture (male in Mwenezi and female in Gutu North), but not from many households. This is in contrast to the nearby resettlements where, across our A1 sites, farm employment rates are much higher, with, in 2011, 17% of households employing permanent workers and 12% of households employing temporary workers. In Chivi and Gutu West a certain amount of piecework (maricho) is recorded, but this is very occasional, and not regarded as employment.

Precarious prospects

In other words, the patterns of class differentiation seen in the resettlements – between for example petty commodity producers and worker-peasants and semi-proletarians – is not observed to the same extent in the communal areas. There simply isn’t the productive base for surplus extraction and the formation of a worker-peasant/proletarian class. Unlike the studies from the 1980s that showed such patterns in the communal areas, we see much more of a uniform pauperisation of struggling households, who are mixing diverse forms of ‘work’ (rarely ‘employment’ or ‘jobs’), with limited, low productivity agriculture. This is not a classic self-sufficient peasantry, nor do we even see many emergent petty commodity producers – the hurudza; instead we see what Henry Bernstein describes as the ‘fractured classes of labour’, struggling to make a living.

Life in the communal areas, with limited land and poor job prospects, is increasingly precarious. Reliance on aid is important, and this rises from the drier Mwenezi to the wetter Gutu. NGOs and government programmes exist, but this is always hit and miss and not a way to survive. Making a living in the communal areas, with limited agricultural opportunities, is certainly tough. It is no surprise that, when our research partners in the A1 resettlement areas reflect on their lives, they are certain that they have improved, despite the hard work of getting established. Indeed, it is not only the state and NGOs that provide aid to the communal areas, there are significant flows of food from the resettlements to the communal areas that keep relatives, friends, fellow church members and others going, reflective of a new rural moral economy of the post land reform and economic crisis era.

It is these social relationships – with areas and between them – that are crucial when thinking about how agriculture is practised and economies function. The next blog discusses the social institutions at the heart of communal area life, contrasting this with what is found in the more recently established resettlement areas.

This post is the sixth 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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