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Zimbabwe's land reform: A summary of findings
Ian Scoones, Nelson Marongwe, Blasio Mavedzenge, Felix Murimbarimba, Jacob Mahenehene & Chrispen Sukume
September 11, 2011

http://www.zimbabweland.net/Booklets.html

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Introduction

Zimbabwe's 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.

The research 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.

Most coverage 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 done.

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