Tag Archives: sugar

Integrated water resource management: panacea or problem?

p1040942

Integrated water resource management (IWRM) became the buzzword for water resources policy gurus in the 1990s. The donors poured millions into projects, plans, programmes and many, many workshops and consultancy exercises. The idea was seemingly neat and simple. Water resources had to be managed locally at catchment level through an inclusive process involving all water users. Water as a scarce commodity should in turn be priced and paid for through tariffs charged on level of use. This would pay for the management systems, and also for improvements, as well as investments in environmental sustainability. The ‘Dublin principles’ – a worthy list developed at a big conference in 1992 – guided the approach, and included all the buzzwords of the time: participation, gender, decentralisation, good governance market efficiency, and more.

Zimbabwe became one of the test cases. In the 1990s it too had its share of consultancies and workshops, and eventually an Act of Parliament – the 1992 Water Act. This overturned the old colonial legislation that was based on ‘riparian rights’, or the ability to draw water depending on the location of your land. Water and land were thus separated – different ministries, legislation, administrative units and governance arrangements. The aim was to rid the country of the inequitable distribution of the past, now with all water users potentially having access if they could pay. For those who could not pay or access a permit, such as communal area farmers and small-scale irrigators, allocations of water in government dams were made. A new independent, quasi private authority – the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (ZINWA) was established to oversee all water issues, including the market basis of the new regime. The authority was supposed to be funded from the revenues. Catchment councils, as the new forum for managing water, were planned for seven catchments. Different donors became involved, each supporting a different area. It seemed like a dream solution, perfectly suited to the neoliberal age, but with participation, decentralisation and women’s empowerment thrown into the mix.

And then land reform happened. The rapid, largely unplanned unfolding of the land reform from 2000 quickly unravelled the carefully laid plans for the IWRM revolution in Zimbabwe. The donors who were funding the whole operation all withdrew, and the catchment councils mostly ceased to operate. The mismatch between the original design and the new agrarian reality was stark, requiring some major rethinking. Three new papers in the open access journal Water Alternatives document this story, and examine the consequences for IWRM after land reform. These come from a major Norwegian-funded project on IWRM in Southern Africa. The papers by long-term observers of the water scene in Zimbabwe, including Emmanuel Manzungu and Bill Derman, offer some fascinating insights into the history and some of the contemporary challenges of IWRM in Zimbabwe, echoing earlier findings by Sobona Mtisi, Alan Nicol and others.

Changing land use, changing water use

Only one of the papers offers data for the post-land reform period, and this focuses on some A2 farms in the Middle Manyame sub-catchment area near Harare. This is an area where there were previously massive large-scale commercial tobacco and wheat farms (including irrigated winter wheat). They had impressive infrastructure, with large scale water abstraction and irrigation systems, including massive centre pivots that irrigated the huge fields throughout the year. This was really water-intensive farming, despite efforts at improving irrigation efficiencies in the last few decades.

Following land reform, these farms, with a few exceptions, no longer operate, and nearly all have been subdivided into both A1 and A2 plots of varying sizes. All these are much, much smaller than the original properties. The consequence is that the previous irrigation infrastructure is largely redundant; it is mostly inappropriate for the current land sizes or too expensive to run. Much irrigation equipment was removed or vandalised during the tumultuous land reform period too.

Most ‘new farmers’ on the resettlements have also switched their cropping mix. Summer white maize and soy beans are now common, and tobacco is also grown in increasingly large quantities, through contract farming arrangements. Most of this is not irrigated and the only intensive irrigation tends to be on relatively small horticulture plots, reflecting a growth in small-scale market gardening.   In their study of 18 A2 farms near Mazvikadei dam, Hove and colleagues found that although about 60% were irrigating, the new farmers were reluctant to pay the fees for water use to ZINWA. Many claimed that they were not doing irrigation, or if they were did their own abstraction through boreholes or small-scale river pumps. The result has been a massive decline in officially-recorded water use, especially from ZINWA controlled dams, making the market-based response to water scarcity that IWRM offered largely meaningless.

Ignoring politics: IWRM as a technical-market fix

IWRM was a technical-market fix and (especially in Zimbabwe) explicitly ‘apolitical’. It therefore failed to address the underlying political economy of water use and control. While the Water Act abandoned the riparian rights approach in favour of an open market approach, this made little difference in practice. For access to markets for irrigated agricultural water was directly correlated with ownership of land, and the capital invested in it, especially irrigation equipment. And guess who had the land and the capital before 2000? Just the people who had benefited from the colonial legislation – the (mostly) white large-scale farmers and the commercial estates. The result was that catchment councils were dominated by this group as they had a vested interest in maintaining their access to water, and preventing reallocations elsewhere. Through the assessments that they commissioned, they could also influence water pricing, crucial to the overall commercial viability of their farming operations. Derman and Manzungu document in detail the membership of the Mupfure, Mazowe and Manyame catchment councils and the participation in the meetings in the period 1993-2001. The councils were not inclusive, participatory, decentralised and democratic, but were captured by elite interests, making use of their existing assets to leverage further resources at relatively low cost under a new mechanism, backed substantially by (international) public money. Earlier studies have shown this pattern elsewhere, for example in the Save Catchment. Rather than a model of good development, in many ways it was a scandal. Inequalities of power and control over water, reproduced by a neoliberal technical-market fix, were however overturned by land reform, creating a new rural politics of water.

Reviving the catchment councils or a more radical rethink of water resource governance?

So what is happening today? With some funds trickling back through various routes there are attempts to revive the catchment council system and institute payment systems for the new farmers, as suggested by the World Bank backed 2013 Water Policy. But, as already mentioned, there is resistance. The rhetoric of the land reform that ‘land is for the people’ (and so free) is replicated for water. Why should we pay for water? This is the government’s, or indeed God’s, resource, and part of the heritage that has been reclaimed through the land reform.

With a shift in crop mix, a change in irrigation systems towards small-scale gardening operations, and lack of capital to rehabilitate defunct water supply and irrigation systems on larger farms, the demand for water has dropped, or at least shifted to different sources (see last week’s blog). The consequence is that the incentives to invest in water management are just not there. It is not appropriate to berate the land reform for this outcome. A return to water intensive large-scale agriculture, and with this the IWRM catchment approaches, is not appropriate. With a restructured agricultural sector in terms of farm size, cropping pattern and level of capital investment, a radical rethink of water resource issues is required. This cannot take its cue from the past. The challenges are many, but they are different to the past, and so require new institutional and governance solutions.

Certainly, water resource issues have been largely ignored during land reform – in part due to the organisational, legislative and administrative separation that the 1990s IWRM system instituted. But this is not to say that they are not very significant. In fact, water provisioning for agriculture is one of the most important priorities for investment in the new resettlements, as I have argued many times on this blog. New investments should not be large-scale dams nor centre-pivot irrigation installations, but more of a focus on water harvesting, small dams/tanks, and micro-irrigation and pumping – the farmer-led irrigation systems described last week. This is revolutionising how irrigation is practised on the ground. Unfortunately, this thinking by farmers has yet to permeate through to the planners, consultants and donors.

In our work in Masvingo on new horticulture supply chains, we have observed some new water management challenges emerging. These are of two sorts. The first is the competition for pumped irrigation water from perennial and seasonal rivers and streams. There has been a massive growth in market gardening especially near Masvingo, but also other growth points and towns. This has been spurred by investment in small-scale pumps, as well as market demand. This has resulted in some severe competition between water users in particular areas. There have been the beginnings of some local initiatives to regulate use, but this has not be institutionalised. Indeed, this has been made more difficult by the existence of ZINWA and the fear of control and water charging. The result has been that the new irrigators have continued under-the-radar, but without the ability and encouragement to develop new institutions to manage the resource sustainability. Rather than an elaborate top-down, market-driven catchment council system, some more local water user associations for such areas are clearly needed, and should be allowed to flourish and assisted in doing so.

Where a larger-scale response is required is across the catchments (both Save and Runde) in the region, and in relation to water destined for the sugar and citrus estates in the lowveld. The use of water from Mtirikwe dam as well as Bangala, and now Tokwe Mukorsi, has long been controversial. The financial and political backing of the estate companies has always been important for the politics of water. This was not a resource that was going to be open to inclusive management of any sort. This remains the case. Yet the demands for water in and around these dams is growing, especially as farms expand and demands to improve productivity increase. Some ask, why should it all go to the lowveld when demands are local too? Why should we rely on an old colonial division of water that backs (white, in this case South African) capital against small-scale black farming? Why can’t water reform follow from land reform and we take back ‘our water’?

Here again an IWRM solution will not deal with these high water politics. Indeed such a solution, as before, will likely simply reinforce existing inequalities, but with a market gloss. Instead, a wider political solution is required to the politics of resource access across areas, relating to land for agriculture of different sorts, urban areas, wildlife zones and so on. This requires more than a technical land-use planning exercise based on notionally ideas of land suitability, or simplistic community management solutions, but a political negotiation about equitable access and sustainable productivity.

Water resource challenges are going to increase with growing agricultural intensification combined with climate change in the coming years. New institutions and mechanisms, and likely new legislation, will be required. Outdated and inappropriate technical-market fixes such as IWRM that simply replicate inequality and fail to deal with emerging challenges in the new agrarian system need to be rejected.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Zimbabwe’s sugar politics

sugarzimblog

In 2000, as land invasions occurred around Zimbabwe, there were many calls for the sugar estates to be taken over. Indeed, there were a number of occupations of ‘white’ outgrower farms on the lowveld estates. This coincided with major strikes, and the burning of large areas of cane. Yet high-level negotiations and political manoeuvring averted wholesale takeover. Despite the rhetoric, the strategic importance of the sugar industry to the national economy was recognised and the state and the sugar companies brokered compromises. The result was the subdivision of former settler outgrower areas in Hippo Valley and Mkwasine estates and their transfer to now around 800 land reform beneficiaries who had applied through the A2 scheme, designed for medium-scale enterprises and suited to those with capital and expertise. The sugar outgrower land reform represented nearly 16,000 ha, leaving about 30,000 ha as core estate land.

How have the new outgrowers fared? In a new open access paper published as part of the Journal of Southern African Studies special issue on the political economy of sugar in southern Africa (see last week’s blog for an overview), we explore this question with data over 12 years from Hippo Valley from 2002. Following land reform, company officials, government extension agents and others were sceptical that the new outgrowers would be able to supply sugar in amounts and at the quality required for Tongaat Hulett’s two mills at Triangle and Hippo Valley. They argued that the new outgrowers were given portions of land that were ‘unviable’, and that commercial sugar growing could only occur on irrigated plots of more than 35 ha. Further, they argued that the land reform beneficiaries did not have the skills for the highly technical and demanding process of sugar production. And finally they suggested that a politically-driven land reform process was inimical to economically successful production, and that the investors would flee, abandoning Zimbabwe for more stable contexts.

The new outgrowers: how have they fared?

In the years since, the sceptics have been proven wrong. Outgrowing on A2 resettlement plots is now a central part of the business, supplying 852,000 tonnes of cane in 2013 of a total throughput of 3.9 million tonnes. Yields are up too, with our sample of cane farmers producing 86 tonnes/hectare since 2009, higher than the estate average of 83 tonnes/hectare in 2014. Outgrowers must hand over 26 per cent of their crop to the mill, and pay additionally for irrigation water, transport and inputs. Many complain, but the company ‘rips us off’ and ‘cheats on price’, but sugar growers have little option, and are tied intimately into the company’s operation. Tongaat Hulett makes considerable profit from its Zimbabwe business ($30 million in 2014), and land reform farmers are central to this. As part of the rehabilitation of cane land, the company (via the Canelands Trust, and supported until recently by over 30 million euros in aid from the European Union as part of the sugar adaptation fund) subsidises the replacement of cane, and improvement of infrastructure.

In our Hippo Valley sample, the average plot size is 24.3 ha (with a range from 9.8 to 58.1 ha), with on average 20.9 ha under sugar. Only four farmers (of 38) have centre pivot irrigation equipment, although everyone has access to canal water. Farm labour compounds exist both in the new resettlements and on the estate, from where labour for the range of sugar production tasks is derived. The new outgrower farmers on land reform plots come from a mix of backgrounds, including teachers, extension workers, estate employees, as well as well-connected politicians and security service personnel. Not everyone is doing well, and some recent arrivals have taken time to establish, but across our sample the levels of production and management are good. Making a go of sugar production is however tough, as explained in one our ‘voices from the field’ videos. Organising inputs, hiring and managing labour, dealing with cash flow, and negotiating with the company is always a challenge. But despite the early scepticism, the new farmers are by and large doing well, investing and accumulating, as well as providing employment and providing sugar for the profitable company mills.

The land reform in the sugar outgrower areas was not a ‘land to the people’ redistributive move to combat landlessness and poverty. This was part of an accommodation of a middle-class demand for land, creating a very particular type of outgrower arrangement, quite different to other sugar outgrower relationships elsewhere in the region, as discussed in other papers in the Journal of Southern African Studies special issue. The A2 beneficiaries are certainly not universally powerful and well connected, but the sugar allocations were definitely not addressing the poor, disadvantaged masses. Nationally, the land reform had to accommodate multiple class interests, and one was the middle-class aspiration for land, particularly in the context of declining living standards, wages and job opportunities in the post-structural adjustment period.

 Zimbabwe’s sugar politics

Zimbabwe’s sugar politics since land reform – and indeed much earlier – involves a complex balance of competing forces. Large-scale international capital, seeing the opportunities for accumulation from the excellent climatic conditions and top-quality infrastructure and increasingly guaranteed supplies of irrigation water, has invested in the area over decades, despite the political and economic challenges. Tongaat Hulett sees Zimbabwe as central to its ability to make profit in the region, and so is prepared to weather the storms of economic and political crisis, and broker deals which are far from ideal.

Politically and economically, sugar is vital for Zimbabwe. Together with tobacco, these export commodities create a particular dependency politics, and are central to the imaginaries and processes of state-making. They are deeply implicated in both national and local politics. Today debates about indigenisation, restitution and resettlement colour these politics, and result in much rhetoric and frequent threats usually linked to the electoral cycle. But in essence the story is the same as it always has been; one about how the state makes deals with capital, and how farmers, and other local people, including workers, are incorporated, and on what terms.

It is such political-economic dynamics, rooted in often fragile, contingent elite alliances that have driven the transformation of the sugar industry, and with it the agrarian landscape in Zimbabwe since land reform. As has been the case since 1937, when Murray MacDougall first planted cane in the Lowveld, a contested political economy will continue to shape sugar, people and livelihoods over the next decades too. And the new land reform beneficiaries operating as sugar outgrowers will be central to the story.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The sugar rush in southern Africa

sugarsablog

The expansion of sugar production in southern Africa has been dramatic. From its early beginnings in Natal to the huge commercial estates across the region established during the colonial era, new investments are being planned. The land rush in southern Africa is often a sugar rush, with the ‘white gold’ promising riches to governments, local elites and large corporates alike.

While sugar consumption is rising with increasing wealth and urbanisation, the prospects for export to the favoured European Union market look more fragile. In 2017 preferential trade access ceases, and with this the huge ‘adjustment’ payments that some southern African countries and sugar corporates have received as aid. Nevertheless the sugar giants, mostly centred on three South Africa-based companies – Illovo, Tongaat Hulett and TSB – as well as new entrants, are still eyeing up cheap land, good soils and water resources for new ventures.

With these major changes underway it is a good moment to review the political economy of sugar in southern Africa. This is what a new open access special issue of the Journal of Southern African Studies does. There are 9 papers, with case studies from 7 countries across the region, and a valuable comparative overview of patterns of accumulation in different operations.

The issue argues that the region’s sugar industry provides a useful lens through which to understand current dynamics of corporate capital and agricultural production in Africa. The papers highlight the rapid concentration of corporate control over the past decade, but also the very diverse outcomes across the cases. Capital does not operate in a uniform way, and local contexts, resistances and struggles, and wider political economy make a big difference.

Taking the company Illovo (now owned by Associated British Foods), Alex Dubb shows how it gains high profits in Malawi due to favourable market conditions (notably preferential trade access and protected domestic markets) and  high productivity (combining cheap field labour, land and water with capital-intensive milling). By contrast, Mozambican profits come exclusively from favourable market conditions, while profits in Tanzania, Swaziland and especially Zambia are due to particularly high levels of productivity. South Africa, Illovo’s country of origin, receives low profits, making expansion across the region essential for commercial success. Value relations, at the heart of political economy, are core to understanding accumulation through sugar, Dubb argues. As companies seek to expand their operations, the search for cheap land, water and labour continues. As papers from Malawi and Tanzania caution, attempts at expansion of sugar land through grand development schemes – such as the Green Belt in Malawi or SAGCOT in Tanzania – may result in elite capture and exclusions of poorer people, even when ‘outgrower’ approaches are advocated.

A central theme of the papers is an examination of the diverse patterns of ‘outgrower’ sugar cane production. This is massively different in South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe or Swaziland for example, where starkly different relationships between the estate and mill and smallholder outgrowers (of different scales, and with different involvement in direct production) apply. While often presented as the ‘inclusive business’ solution to corporate engagement with smallholders, it is clear that there is no single model, and relations between corporate capital, states and local producers varies massively.

How then should we understand sugar in southern Africa? Is the sugar industry part of a new developmental frontier in the region, transforming investment, market opportunities and livelihoods with a ‘win-win’ model, centred on linking core agro-industrial investments with outgrowers, as the industry and other advocates claim? Or is it a predatory form of capital, backed by elites and international finance, where production and market risks are transferred to vulnerable smallholders and estate labour; where land and water resources are ‘grabbed’; where a colonial model of exploitative estate production is at the centre, and profits are accumulated through monopoly power?

The experience in southern Africa suggests that these stereotypes rarely apply. While the logic of capital results in a relentless pursuit of profit, state agency and national political-economic context influence outcomes, as do local conditions. Local negotiations, resistances, and accommodations matter. The result is diverse patterns of production and profit, together with different livelihood outcomes for very different types of ‘outgrower’, and quite different implications for different groups of estate labour, as shown for Xinavane in Mozambique, both in terms of gender relations and health and wellbeing.

With the vagaries of the international market dominating, and the changing fortunes of large corporate agribusiness capital in the region so deeply intertwined with this, we cannot predict whether the long-established corporation-state-outgrower relationship will persist. But for now, in all its variety and differing political dimensions, this relationship dominates the southern African sugar sector, and is central to understanding its contemporary political economy.

This post was written by Ian Scoones and appeared on Zimbabweland

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Water, land and politics in southern Africa: remaking Mutirikwi

A great book is just out by Joost Fontein, now director of the British Institute in Eastern Africa. It’s called Remaking Mutirikwi: Landscape, Water and Belonging in Southern Zimbabwe, and is published by James Currey. It’s long and detailed, but important and fascinating (preview here).

It tells the story of Lake Mutirikwi (in southern Zimbabwe near Masvingo) and its surrounding areas, and its influence on landscape and livelihoods through its provision of water. Lake Kyle, as it was formerly called, was completed in 1960, and was part of an ambitious project to provide water for the lowveld for the expanding sugar estates, and a European recreation area around the lake. It served both capital and racial politics, and became a symbol of the European dream for Africa.

Kyle created an Europeanised landscape – removing people to the reserves, creating game parks, and providing irrigation, all through an impressive engineering feat. It tamed nature, created an European aesthetic, and offered white residents of Masvingo and beyond a playground for fishing, hunting, game viewing and more. But landscapes are never static – they have long histories, memories and echoes of past social relations and politics embedded within them. This is a key theme for the book: pasts anchor the present, layered landscapes with multiple meanings are generated and diverse (material) cultures of belonging are combined.

The book starts with 2005-06 and with the fast-track land reform. A sense of optimism and hope is seen in the lands surrounding the lake. Old gravesites have been reclaimed, sacred groves now honoured as part of newly peopled landscape. And with this old disputes and political competition between ‘traditional’ leadership groups rekindled. The land invasions are seen by many of Joost’s informants as a restitution of ancestral lands, and the important spirit mediums of the area – Mai Macharaga and Ambuya VaZarira – reconfirm this.

Starting with the present, then moving to the past and returning to the present at the end, offers an overall story of how landscapes’ characters are hybrid creations, ones that always carry the past with them. The story of the shifts from an ‘African’ landscape to ‘Europeanisation’ through colonialism then ‘Africanisation’ again following land reform shows how politics, belonging, and discursive constructions of landscape are ever shifting. There are frequent ruptures, as new landscape visions are imposed, but also, importantly, continuity, with the past always having an influence on the present.

The book is of course especially fascinating to me having worked in this area for a long time. While our sites, where we have tracked land reform outcomes since 2000, are on the other side of the lake to where the book focuses, the stories are very similar. The reigniting of chieftaincy disputes, as the book explains in some detail in Chapters 1 and 5, has certainly dominated local politics on the Masvingo borderlands with Gutu. Such ‘genealogical geographies’ provide an important historical backdrop to any study of contemporary land use, with what the historian Gerald Mazarire calls nineteenth century “principles of territoriality” revived in a new politics of land. What is nice about this book is that this is not ‘just’ history – based on archive based reconstructions – but very much rooted in the present, informed by fieldwork immersion, and written by someone who really knows the area well, having researched and indeed lived in the area for years.

In Chapter 6, the book takes a bigger, regional view of landscape, and looks at the hydropolitics associated with the provision of water to the sugar estates in the lowveld. This complements the earlier work by Will Wolmer, and provides a useful historical background to our work on sugar and land reform in Hippo Valley. As Joost explains in the conclusion, the experience of Muturikwi is being reflected in new ways with the Tokwe Mukorsi dam, with similar issues around displacement and resettlement, the removal of people from ancestral lands, graves and religious sites, and the creation of a new tourist-friendly lake environment.

At 340 pages, it’s a long and detailed book, sometimes with some rather heavy ‘academic’ language, and a quick review cannot do it justice. But the chapters are packed with fascinating stories and important data. Other chapters deal with spirit control of landscapes, and the intersection of the material and spirit world in negotiating use and creating belonging; the contested relationship between wildlife – including fish and hippos – and people; the legacies of the liberation war and the struggles over land that occurred both during and after the war. All with intriguing, sometimes gripping, stories contained within them. For understanding the complex cultural and political histories underlying land reform in southern Zimbabwe, this is a really important contribution. I hope Weaver Press will produce it in Zimbabwe, but if you can afford it, buy it now!

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

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Dams, flooding and displacement: the Tokwe Mukorsi dam

Zimbabwe’s heavy rainfall this season has had its costs. The most dramatic has been the major flooding in Masvingo as the long awaited Tokwe Mukorsi dam filled more rapidly than expected. Rather than filling gradually over four years, with a phased process of relocation of people, it did so over a matter of weeks. There were threats to the dam wall, and a fear a major catastrophe might result.

Dramatic satellite images of the extent of flooding have been shared, and SABC broadcast a short news item on the unfolding drama, showing images of the floods, and the damage caused. The flooding has resulted in over 4500 people having to be evacuated at short notice, and shifted to a number of holding camps in the lowveld. It has been declared a national emergency, and considerable resources have been deployed in response. Funds from the US as well as China have been offered, and whole fleets of CMED vehicles have been commandeered to move people. Emergency camps have been established, and feeding programmes instituted.

In December, while visiting our research study site along the Ngundu-Chiredzi road, the first phase of relocation was on-going, and we witnessed a string of trucks, tractors and trailors carrying people and their possessions heading to Nuanetsi ranch. They had left their ancestral lands, their homes, fields and grave sites, with the promise of compensation, new homes and access irrigated land and the water that was to cover where they once lived. But in February, as the scale of the massive rainfall and rapid filling of the dam became apparent, this turned from an orderly, planned move, to an emergency.

The Tokwe Mukorsi dam has been long in the planning. From the 1980s it was part of a strategic development of lowveld water resources, essentially to guarantee supply of water to the sugar and citrus estates. It was always political, wrapped up in national and local lowveld wrangles. Funding though has always been a challenge. The project has been on and off for decades. But in recent years, it has moved ahead, and Italian engineers and local companies have been involved. However, the engineers’ plans had discounted a once in 30 year rainfall event and had projected the gradual filling of the dam on the basis of more common rainfall patterns. This risk assessment of course proved incorrect, prompting the current disaster.

To the credit of the authorities, the response has been swift and losses have been minimised. No-one, as far as I can tell, has lost their life directly as a result. Dislocation and misery has resulted, and the make-shift arrangements at the holding camps have been reportedly appalling. But, everyone agrees, it could have been much, much worse.

This event has raised some bigger issues. We must ask, what is the role of such big infrastructure projects in development? Who gains and who loses? And how should displacement, compensation and relocation be managed when wider development priorities trump local concerns or resistance?

These are dilemmas being faced the world over. There is a wide obsession with the big, prestige project. Nehru proclaimed that ‘dams are the temples of modern India’. The Three Gorges dam in China has become a symbol of Chinese modernity. And in Ethiopia, the controversial Ghibe dam was a pet project of the late prime minister, Meles Zenawi. In the Rhodesian era, of course Kariba represented such a vision. And in recent decades, Tokwe Mukorsi has been associated with a similar rhetoric.

In the late 1990s, the World Commission on Dams made the case building on mountains of evidence that very often large scale is not best. A more diverse approach to water management, involving a variety of approaches to capturing, storing and distributing water is more appropriate. This advice however has been rarely heeded. The big project brings money, patronage, backhanders and more. And big projects can be seen as prestige legacies of particular people and politicians. Engineering development has its appeal: one solution, rather than many; and a technical one that needs a particular type of expertise. Yet the argument about big dams continues to rage. A paper out this month by Antif Ansar, Bent Flyvbjerg and colleagues suggests they are mostly economically unviable, bring massive costs of displacement and again a more diverse set of options is preferable. Not a new argument at all, but stated forcefully with recent numbers.

The Oxford study focuses on mega-large hydropower dams which Tokwe Mukorsi is not, but many of the same issues apply. There was repeated and systematic underestimation of costs, and as the flooding has shown the risk assessments have been found wanting. Tokwe Mukorsi was intended to benefit the large-scale sugar estates in the lowveld, not the local community. Resettlement was of course part of the plan, with a view that those displaced would become outgrowers in new sugar plantations. But will these offers be upheld, and what are the other more intangible losses suffered through displacement? Will those in Chivi who remain behind benefit from the new water? Or will it be ‘protected’ as part of ‘watershed management’, so upstream users lose out to the more powerful downstream? A game park has been mooted for the area, but who will benefit from this, as this takes up the banks of the new lake area?

When the immediate challenges of dealing with the flooding and its consequences pass, these are the bigger questions that will have to be dealt with. The minister of state for Masvingo, Kudakwashe Bhasikiti, has asked for new ideas on how to make use of the development potential of this new water. This is a welcome move, as past projects – whether Kyle/Mtirikwi or Kariba – have excluded local people from this conversation. Maybe the new Tokwe Mukorsi water can be used to benefit local development through small-scale irrigation, as well as profiting the estates in the lowveld.

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

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Southern African sugar: new trends and opportunities?

Sugar is becoming an increasingly important commodity across the region. New areas are being planted and mills are being commissioned in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Swaziland, Zambia and elsewhere. The implications of the changing sugar (and ethanol) economy were the subject of discussions at the inaugural meeting of the Southern African Sugar Research Network that was held at the Institute of Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies at UWC in Cape Town last week, and we heard fascinating presentations from each of these countries, as well as from South Africa itself.

Most of the regional growth is being driven by the expansion of two South African companies – Illovo and Tongaat Hulett. A review of their turnover and profits shows that significant proportions are being made outside South Africa. For Illovo, a substantial proportion of their profits are generated in their still fairly limited operations in Malawi, while over 40% of Tongaat’s operating profit is derived from Zimbabwe, where revenue increased by 19% and profits by 11% last year. The influence of Southern Africa’s powerful BRICS country, South Africa, is through its corporate sector, and not the grand-sounding government statements full of regional cooperation and integration rhetoric offered at summits.

The region indeed is increasingly important for South African capital. In the agri-food sector, we have seen the expansion of retail, with Pick n Pay or Shoprite nearly ubiquitous, now it’s the turn of the big production players. The availability of land, cheap labour and benefits from state investments in infrastructure (often water supply and irrigation on now defunct state farms) has been important. The EU sugar regime also provides support to sugar industries outside South Africa under the sugar adaptation protocols that exists to support the switch of strategic national sugar industries to new market conditions in Europe. This comes in very handy for South African companies, and helps subsidise operations, and position marketing from a ‘low income country’ base.

Where does this leave the Zimbabwean sugar industry that has since the 1960s been the mainstay of the lowveld’s economy? Since then the industry has produced significant foreign exchange for the national exchequer not to mention employment, ethanol, various industrial products, and of course raw cane sugar which is consumed in large amounts in Zimbabwe. Tongaat Hulett dominates Zimbabwe’s sugar industry owning Triangle and being the majority holder of Hippo Valley. It produces sugar across over 40,000ha of irrigated land, has milling capacity of around 600,000 tonnes and employs around 25,000 people.

In addition, the company deals with the sugar produced by over 800 new outgrowers who were allocated land as part of Zimbabwe’s land reform after 2000. They farm around 15,000 ha, formerly estate and white owned outgrower land, with farm sizes averaging about 25ha. After a disastrous period during the collapse of the Zimbabwean economy, sugar production has increased again, with around 460,000 mt being produced last year. The rehabilitation of sugar land has been assisted by support from the European Union as well as significant investments by Tongaat Hulett and of course by farmers themselves.

Since 2002, we have tracked 38 outgrower sugar farmers in Hippo Valley in the southeast lowveld looking across the years at production levels, input applications, farm investment, labour hiring and so on. Plot sizes now average 24.3 ha, and all are irrigated. In our sample, the average output last year was 1690 mt, produced on 20.5 ha, representing a yield of 83.6 t/ha. This is a very respectable output and yield, and indeed better yielding than much nearby estate land.

As with the other sugar areas, these ‘new’ A2 farmers are relatively elite, mostly men, and come from a variety of backgrounds. In our sample around half were civil servants (47%), while about a third were former estate employees (34%). The rest included NGO workers (3%); politicians (3%), and business persons (8%). 10% were ‘war veterans’, all civil servants at the time of land allocation. Over half were qualified with ‘Master Farmer’ certificates, and their average age is now 53. Today 39% stay at the plot, while the rest commute. 29% remain employed elsewhere, but this has declined over time as more have committed to sugar farming. Many challenges have been faced over the past 12 years, but the farmers are optimistic about the future.

With outgrowers producing a significant proportion of the total output, is this model the likely future for the sugar areas of Zimbabwe? Outgrowing approaches are much touted across the region, but the arrangements differ widely, as we heard in the presentations at the Cape Town meeting. In some areas, local people are offered dividends on land that is farmed by the estate, with their involvement simply receiving a cheque. This approach, exported from some ‘land reform’ schemes in South Africa, is used by Illovo for example in Zambia. In other areas, farmers have very small plots and often receive less than they put in. This massively discourages outgrowers who are forced to grow food to survive in plots elsewhere, as we heard from Tanzania. There are huge variations in the terms of the contract between farmers and the mill. In Zimbabwe, the mill retains 26% of outgrowers’ output to cover costs of milling, transport and so on, while in other countries this proportion is much higher.

The expansion of South African capital through the region is having, it seems, diverse effects. While the ‘logic of capital’ is to seek profit and accumulate wherever it can, it results in different arrangements and different deals – with states, with labour and with outgrower farmers. In some countries this deal seems highly detrimental to local livelihoods and employment conditions, simply resulting in extraction and exploitation. While in others, and this includes Zimbabwe, the deal is more balanced. Tongaat Hulett knows they are on notice in Zimbabwe, given the political pressure for land reform and now ‘indigenisation’. But equally the Zimbabwean state cannot afford to let the sugar estates fail. There are too many people employed, too much valuable infrastructure and too much tax revenue to lose.

Since the estates were first established by Murray MacDougall in the late 1930s, there has been a close interaction between private capital and the state. Sometimes coming in to bail out, sometimes letting the private sector have free reign, the relationship has always been carefully managed, and has always been intensely political. This is true today as it was before. The unspoken deal to spare most of the estates from mass land redistribution has been maintained, and while the estates were initially sceptical at the expansion of the outgrower model with smaller plots that they said were ‘unviable’, they have changed their tune of late. As the success of the outgrowers has grown, the rhetoric has shifted to one of ‘empowerment’ and ‘partnership’, and indeed the company has backed its words with substantial funds for cane rehabilitation.

For the longer term, my guess is that there will be shifts towards more land being released from the estates to new outgrower areas as part of deals with the Zimbabwean state, who will be in need of more high value land for redistribution in the future. Indeed the pressure is already on, with Shangaan leaders from the area demanding that they get a share of the sugar bonanza, while political elites and others have inserted themselves in the outgrower areas; shifting aside others particular around the 2008 election period, including most of the white outgrowers who were originally allocated smaller subdivisions of their farms. Today, the political rhetoric around the sugar estates, as ever, remains high.

For the estate owners, if outgrowers can deliver when given the right support, why not release more land? While outgrowing is often presented as a ‘win-win’ ‘inclusive’ business model for large scale farming, from another perspective it is a perfect solution for the estate and big capital. Trapped in a monopoly controlled supply arrangement, outgrowers take on all the production risks, and have to manage always troublesome labour; and anyway the profits in sugar, many observe, are to be made in milling and processing, not in farming. This is no doubt the logic for the diverse outgrower arrangements being pushed across the region by South African capital. And in Zimbabwe the same, if under rather different political terms, likely applies. Currently, it suits everyone: the company, the state and elite land reform farmers who make reasonable returns. For now at least, it looks like this carefully balanced political-economic deal is the only option for Zimbabwe’s sugar sector.

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

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

Voices from the field: a successful sugarcane grower from Chiredzi

As I mentioned last week, while I am away on holiday, I am going to highlight a few of our videos, ‘Voices from the Field’. If you don’t want to watch the intro sequence again, run it on to around 1 minute 11 seconds.

This week, I want to introduce Mr Nago and family who have an A2 plot in Mkwasine near Chiredzi. He explains how difficult it was to start up. The land he received was uncleared bush. They have gradually cleared portions of the 66ha. They started with maize and vegetables that brought income, and then increased the proportion of land allocated to sugarcane. Now they have a large area, and Mr Nago is a member of the Sugarcane Development Association.

On-going disputes with the core estate at Hippo Valley resulted in problems for the new farmers, but relations have improved since the film was made, as has the water supply which was previously highly intermittent. Getting credit finance was also a big challenge, although now loan arrangements linked to sugarcane have improved.

Sugar production on these A2 sites is booming, and as Mr Nago explains, cane is bringing income, allowing him to expand the area under production.

For the full set, go to: http://www.youtube.com/user/ZimLandReform

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

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized