The year 2000 saw Government implementing the Fast Track Land Resettlement Programme to redress imbalances in the allocation of land.
Although there was controversy around the programme during implementation, what is most critical is building a case for increased productivity and long term investment so that maximum potential is realised from the land.
Whether land resettlement was a political gimmick or not is besides the question. The reality it’s done. The sooner that reality is embraced the better.
The achilles’ heel in Zimbabwe’s land resettlement, however, has been insecurity. Many people remain insecure or ‘unsettled’ even a decade after resettlement.
In some cases this has to do with the manner in which land has been governed and managed as a resource by local authorities. Insecurity is so rife even amongst people who have offer letters.
Resource management and governance are critical in achieving sustainable development but more specifically for land this is very important in determining the nature and extent of productivity.
Admittedly there have been success stories after resettlement, but this has largely been in short term production of both food and non-food crops.
We are yet to witness serious long term investments from resettled farmers. Long term investment covers a range of aspects.
It can involve growing plantation crops (e.g. rubber, cocoa, tea and coffee) which take a very long time to mature, cattle ranching and dairy productions which require huge investment in infrastructure.
In Africa, countries like Ghana have been producing cocoa for ages, which is a long term investment.
In countries such as Kenya and Zimbabwe which have a history of settler colonialism, commercial estate productions were a preserve of the white minority.
Their success hinged on a number of factors such as the security of tenure over land. Without security of tenure, there is little incentive for farmers to embark on long term productivity.
There has been a lot of hullaballoo on issues of security of tenure on resettled land. Part of the argument has been that land with title deeds, for example, can be used as collateral security to access loans to farm.
In response to this, the state came up with 99 year leases for farmers. Even with the 99 year leases resettled farmers are still not settled.
They are several cases, for example, where people even with offer letters in their hands, remain insecure.
In Insiza North, for example, some may be familiar with the story of chief Jahana. Chief Jahana and his people were moved from Insiza North to Gokwe by the colonial state around 1965 to make way for commercial white agriculture, particularly ranching.
In 2006 Chief Jahana claimed restitution won his case to return to his homeland and did so with the blessing of the State.
At that time, Insiza North was very advanced in its resettlement exercise and was in fact over populated.
Chief Jahana brought with him several families from Gokwe and these were accommodated at a farm in Insiza North.
This development opened a can of worms resulting in increased insecurity amongst the older settlers most of whom had offer letters.
In the region, several other chiefs have also been making similar claims as Chief Jahana. His return together with rumours of other chiefs claiming restitution were enough to unsettle farmers that had already been resettled.
Tensions rose and conflicts erupted, some of which turned violent. There are several conflicts over land elsewhere in the country emanating from unclear boundaries and double allocations, among other things. This has caused uncertainty and ultimately insecurity.
In another case in Greenvale, a peri-urban area in Gweru, settlers have also felt insecure because of uncertainty and several conflicts that have occurred.
These conflicts have emanated from boundary disputes, double allocations, interference of agents from local administration, among other things.
An interesting case is where Mai Hector (pseudonym) who was given a piece of land and relocated twice and has lost out after drastic cut to the size of land she now occupies.
She was moved from her initial allocation on grounds that she had been mistakenly given a mine claim.
This was after some two years of investment on the land. On the new piece of land she was allocated officials have made two demarcations in a space five years owing to incessant disputes amongst resettled farmers.
This has significantly altered boundaries in some instances people losing out areas they would have made significant investments on such as clearing forests.
The result has been deep insecurity of tenure amongst farmers. While I have made reference to only two cases, I am aware that insecurity of tenure is a real and rampant experience among the resettled farmers.
Boundary disputes, interferences by authorities, double allocations and several other ills continue to compromise on security.
As long as farmers remain unsettled, long term investments on the land will remain a dream.
Any noble interventions in agriculture would also fail to realise their full potential as long as farmers still feel insecure and unsure of their fate with regards to their tenure.
Admittedly, insecurity of tenure is by far not the only variable critical to kick starting long term productivity in agriculture.
It is, however, a critical component in how land as a resource can be better managed and governed for more rewarding large scale and long term production.
- Ushehwedu Kufakurinani is an economic historian by training based at the University of Zimbabwe. He is the national coordinator for Economic Thinkers – ZimChapter, a local group affiliated to Rethinking Economics. He chairs the Indigenous African languages Association and his research interests are on evolving labour markets, resource management and governance, gender and development, music and culture, and e-platforms and playful engagements.