THE land reform program in Zimbabwe might have gone a full cycle, 15 years after the initiation of jambanja (violent and chaotic land dispossessions), possibly to the complete shock of beneficiaries and government alike.
Never mind the devastating effect of climate variability across the agro-ecological regions of Zimbabwe, the workings of a coalition of domestic and international capital and perpetual compromise by the ruling elites, through the introduction of contract farming and the emergence of makoronyera’s(agro-dealers) marauding of small scale farmers’ hard earnings is confounding.
Indeed the land reform process came with rave and thunder, posturing President Robert Mugabe and his government as the ultimate liberators of the indigenous population from colonial vice, by some sections in Zimbabwe and Africa. These celebrations are fast-disappearing; frustration and increased poverty despite egalitarian land ownership is fast setting in. Tobacco production figures may begin to fall from 2016.
This is completely unavoidable, given a famine in policy direction by the Zanu PF government. For instance, whereas contract farming has come in to fill the gap created by the diminished direct bank credit towards agriculture in response to the ‘dead capital’ nature of land in the absence of tittle, the government has left the individual peasants greatly exposed to the vagaries of international capital due to lack of legislation and monitoring.
Contract farming is disempowering the farmers in a big way. Firstly, the farmers are dispossessed of decision making capacity in the production and marketing processes, rendering them to be mere labourers for international and domestic capital on their relatively newly obtained land.
Secondly, contracting companies control the whole commodity chain; from inputs to final processed products, extracting super profits at the expense of the farmer, aided by government’s reluctance to monitor the processes. Academics call this sub-imperialism.
This development has condemned the farmers to untold suffering and disappointment as they have failed to repay the contract loans and, in some cases, resulting in suicides.
Thirdly, the government has not responded to the effects of climate change on crop productivity, food security and the insurgency of agriculture linked bad debt in Zimbabwe. Empirical evidence shows that the government is aware of the effects but finds no reasons to intervene despites its devastating effects to the livelihood farmers.Advertisement
For tobacco and other cash crops, there is a total disconnect between the modern sectors of the economy and the poverty enclave centres in the rural farming areas. Farmers involved in market gardening have no ready markets for their produce yet the urban centre import these products; tomatoes, onions, etc.
The same challenges are duplicated for cereal crops, particularly given the collapse of the Grain Marketing Board, itself a haven of state-sponsored corruption and patronage. As a result, there is no guaranteed market for maize and other cereal crops leading to huge imports of the same, much to the detriment of the national balance sheet.
It is however the emergence of makoronyera at the tobacco auction floors that have the biggest negative effect on the future of tobacco production in the country. The extent to which these makoronyera have tapped profits from the jaws of the small scale farmers have not only undermined farmers’ ability to re-invest but even, and at a bigger scale, their confidence in the entire tobacco farming enterprise such that, for them, further efforts will most likely lead to Armageddon.
What are the implications for Zimbabwe? Clearly, at the ideological level, heavy-duty pronouncement on nationalisation by the Zanu PF government in 2000 onwards have been undermined by compromises made by the State with international and domestic capital.
The compromise has given a free rein with devastating damage to the conditions of living for the farmers. In this light, contrary to the nationalisation discourse espoused by Zanu PF since 2000, de-nationalisationhas firmly taken root.
This is fathomable, given that Zimbabwe policy designing is both partocratic and driven by patronage and crony capitalism. A comprador accommodation and crony capitalism setting where state bureaucracy, state security and the judiciary have joined public government officers and parliamentarians as owners of businesses make avoidance of self-centered policy designing difficult.
In this event, the broad-based land ownership initiated through jambanja has come to naught since only a few in the elite are accumulating wealth. The majority of the newly resettled remain poor at 79% while inequality at 0.63 as ZimSat exposed in 2011.
The crisis that we are experiencing in agriculture is man made, and so are the rest of our challenges. An extroverted economy that exports everything that it produces in raw form at non-equivalent value and imports all that it needs, as finished products is destined to decelerate, stagnate and reverse as we witness across all sectors today.
As long as the state, capital and party convolution remain in tact, the achievement of even and uncombined development remain a pipe dream in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe now needs bold and visionary youthful leadership capable of tackling these political and economic structural challenges head on to avoid these vicious cycles of failure and predation.
Zimbabwe’s challenges cannot be resolved within the same structures and the same personalities that created them. A ‘watch, wait and hope’ attitude will only bring about greater suffering for the majority!