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land reform: A summary of findings
Scoones, Nelson Marongwe, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba,
Jacob Mahenehene & Chrispen Sukume
September 11, 2011
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land reform has had a bad press. Images of chaos, destruction and
violence have dominated the coverage. Indeed, these have been part
of the reality - but there have also been successes, which have
thus far gone largely unrecorded. The story is not simply one of
collapse and catastrophe. It is much more nuanced and complex. As
Zimbabwe moves forward with a new agrarian structure, a more balanced
appraisal is needed. This requires solid, on-the-ground research
aimed at finding out what happened to whom and where with what consequences.
This was the
aim of work carried out in Masvingo province over the past decade
and reported in the book, Zimbabwe's Land Reform: Myths and
Realities. This booklet offers an overview of the findings. The
question posed in the research was simple: what happened to people's
livelihoods once they got land through the 'fast-track'
programme from 2000? Yet the answers are extremely complex.
involved in-depth field research in 16 land reform sites across
the province, involving a sample population of 400 households. The
study area stretched from the higher potential areas near Gutu to
the dry south in the lowveld. What we found was not what we expected.
It contradicted the overwhelmingly negative images of land reform
presented in the media, and indeed in much academic and policy commentary.
Problems, failures and abuses were identied for sure, but the overarching
story was much more positive: the realities on the ground did not
match the myths so often perpetuated in wider debate.
of Zimbabwe's land reform insists that agricultural production
has almost totally collapsed, that food insecurity is rife, that
rural economies are in precipitous decline and that farm labour
has all been displaced. The truth however is much more complex.
We need to ask far more sophisticated questions: Which aspects of
agricultural production have suffered? Who is food insecure? How
are rural economies restructuring to the new agrarian setting? And
who are the new farm labourers?
These are the
sort of questions we have been asking over the past decade in the
research carried out in Masvingo province. Of course Masvingo is
different to the Highveld, where highly capitalised agriculture
reliant on export markets did indeed collapse and where labour was
displaced in large numbers. But the picture in the new farms of
Masvingo is not unrepresentative of broad swathes of the rest of
the country. And here the picture is not so catastrophic. There
is much to do, of course, but there is already much that is being
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