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Significant growth in production for new farmers - Interview with Professor Sam Moyo
Upenyu Makoni Muchemwa,
March 11, 2011

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Sam MoyoProfessor Sam Moyo is the Director of the African Institute for Agrarian Studies (AIAS). He has more than 28 years of research and lecturing experience on rural development issues with a focus on land reform, agrarian change, environmental policy and social movements.

What were the conclusions of your study?
The main conclusion is that contrary to the discussion of the Fast Track Land reform, which was preoccupied with the hitches and problems of the process of the Land reform as well as focussed on some elements of corruption, contrary to that we found a much more diverse range of beneficiaries.

This is very critical socially as well as economically. The most important finding is that about 70% of the people who benefited from Land Reform were people from communal areas although farm workers were not as many among the beneficiaries. The people from the communal areas were those who could have been landless or land short or those who could have been in some petty business or a teacher even. This is very interesting in terms of the historical meaning of Land Reform. There are a few people who could be called elites, who might have used rough methods to benefit. Some of whom may have one or two or larger farms. That phenomenon exists but in the larger outcome it's a small phenomenon. I have given a more generous interpretation, in saying that about 15% of those who benefited may have been elites. Listen

Why do you think people were so mobilised around the issue of land reform?
Many people who talk about the problem with the method [of land reform] never studied what the problem was before. There are many things, problems that were happening with the economy and in society, especially in the middle nineties. This generated a social crisis and this started to foment political instability. Within ZANU PF, the renegades, the war veterans, before Svosve and all that, they were rebelling and challenging the leadership. All of these were political actions in response to grievances relating to the conditions. And then you had the escalation of trade union strikes in 94, 95 and 96 and civil service strikes, mostly because the wages had declined. That is the major social crisis, and you had a lot of people who had been retrenched because of structural adjustment. We had already seen this, and we had already seen a lot of people going into land occupations. Agriculture and land is a safety valve for our society. The bulk of the population in the cities have had a relationship with the communal areas, which was now being stressed, the land grievance and landlessness was now increasing, and meanwhile jobs and incomes in the urban areas were declining. These forces together mobilised certain groups. They were not mobilised as a national force but scattered. Listen

The land reform programme has been dogged by charges that production, in particular food production has been greatly affected. For example, I read recently that two million people are expected to go hungry this year. To what do you attribute food production deficits?
A big explanation of the production deficits comes from the supply side of the inputs. In 1998 about 350 million was lent to farmers, last year only about 7 million was lent to them. In the period up to now a lot of the new farmers were using their own money, savings, or some government and input support schemes. You see, so the agrarian reform aspect of the land reform, which is the institutional change in terms of financing, and this is why sanctions has been an important factor in the failure of the system to adapt. Agriculture has always taken a big part of the financing and credit. If you don't have loans and so forth and then banks were risk averse, so the banking system itself changed, then the question became about tenure.

In the last three years there has been a significant growth in the production of a number of crops such as tobacco. Last year they produced close to 70% of the average amount that was produced in the 1990s. Many new farmers are producing tobacco under contract, and the contractors are saying that if they had more money they would have produced more. In the last few years crop production is now hovering between 70 and 80% of production in the 90s. If you take the bulk of the crops you can see that there is recovery.

You must remember is that people lie when they say that Zimbabwe was the breadbasket of SADC. Look at how much Zimbabwe was exporting and importing between 1980 and 1999. We had four major droughts in the 19-year period between independence and 2000. And two or three years when we had localised harvest failure. There were seven years where we exported, two of them we exported something to write home about in terms of maize, in the others we had a small surplus. In terms of food the country that was feeding the region was South Africa, not Zimbabwe. Up to now. Because they use GMO and we don't. Don't make the mistake of comparing Zimbabwe to South Africa because we don't use GMO maize, if we were we'd be producing more than what we do. The comparison that is being made about success or failure there are many factors are not taken into account. And the average reader does not look into that. Listen

What do you think about the Land Tenure issue?
I think that tenure is an issue but it is not the life and death issue that it is being made out to be. Production shortfalls have got nothing to do with tenure, they've got to do with the inputs and logistics. In the literature we know that it's possible to argue that some individuals would invest more money if they had tenure. But the evidence is not conclusive. The performance right now is not telling us that. Banks in many countries for instance don't lend on the basis of the title but the record of farming. Like these guys who are producing tobacco for instance, the guys who contract them have confidence in them and they're going back for more. There is a little room to say that tenure might give more incentive, but that's not what a lot of people are thinking about. Banks used to give loans without tenure. Even if you go with your tenure now, banks will still give more consideration to your record as a farmer. Our new farmers have had five years and they're now showing their record.

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Audio File

  • Study findings
    Language: English
    Duration: 1min 53sec
    Date: March 11, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 1.73MB

  • Mobilisation around land reform
    Language: English
    Duration: 1min 41sec
    Date: March 11, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 1.55MB

  • Food production
    Language: English
    Duration: 1min 17sec
    Date: March 11, 2011
    File Type: MP3
    Size: 1.2MB

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