The par excellence of resettled farmers in Zimbabwe


From the usually dark corners and dead ends of midget-sized notions and negativity the now familiar narrative is that the fast track land reform programme has reduced Zimbabwe from the breadbasket to the basket-case of Africa.

Here is a malign untruth and disastrous disinformation that continue to be recklessly peddled by the so-called ‘moderates’ in their unworldly desires and designs to pacify and preserve the historically biased land tenure patterns created by the Rhodesian system. The land reform was an unavoidable necessity to redress the unfair land tenure laws drafted by the unrelenting Rhodesian colonial system. As Gregory Elich puts it “temporary economic dislocation is an unavoidable by-product of the land reform in Zimbabwe”.

If Oscar Pistorius can get away with manslaughter then the resettled black farmers in Zimbabwe have no case to answer for this aggressive basket-case indictment. Under the prevailing micro-economic and macro-economic conditions the resettled farmers in Zimbabwe have excelled. It is only 14 years since the Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP) in Zimbabwe and to start proclaiming failure based on conjecture is reckless and dissonant with national mood. How can one blame black farmers for failure to sell maize to the GMB yet acknowledges that the prices being offered domestically made maize production economically not viable? There are some utterances that need to be savoured in the comforts of your own home to avoid misleading the nation and inviting unnecessary ridicule from the clandestine stakeholders who continue to lay low in anticipation of such careless pronouncements on such a contentious matter.

The question to pose is, was the land reform the cause of the decline in maize production from 2000? Or were these trends already happening prior to the reforms or are they an outcome of the programme? A simple compound annual growth rate calculation tells an otherwise different story of maize and tobacco production trends in Zimbabwe pre and post fast track land reform programme. The compound annual growth rate (CAGR) model is the average growth rate over a period of several years. Using compound annual growth rate is useful because over a number of years it is a better indication of trend than a single years’ growth which may be atypically good or bad.

The CAGR is the rate at which an investment grows over a period of years taking into account the effect of annual compounding. Thus it is used to measure performance over periods of time and helps describe a long term trend and has the effect of smoothing out period fluctuations. Thus analysing the boon and bane of this agrarian revolution using the CAGR model is relevant.

During the period five years before the FTLRP maize production shows a compound annual growth rate decline of 8.16 percent and also a decrease of 4.37 percent during the FTLRP from 2000-2004 and this can be attributed to the droughts of the 1990s and 2002 and 2004/5, respectively, the impact of the economic embargo against Zimbabwe which meant government had limited capacity to provide funding for the new farmers. However, the period post the FTLRP from 2005-2010 the compound annual growth rate of maize increased by 4.51 percent and the trend has continued to show positive growth.

Improvement in yield per hectare is an important factor in the increase of production of maize. In Zimbabwe, the period five years before the FTLRP showed an 8.74 percent decline in maize yield, a 5.37 percent decrease during and interestingly an 8.75 percent compound annual growth rate the period five years after the FTLRP from 2005-2010. The decline in area planted for maize is attributed to depressed maize prices during that period and newly resettled farmers switching to more lucrative cash crops such as tobacco and cotton.

The prices of maize in Zimbabwe increased by 12 percent, 10 percent and 4 percent in 2002, 2003 and 2004 respectively. The factors that affected maize prices during those periods were mainly consumer preferences, drought, and government policy and decreased output. In 2010 the landed price of maize from neighbouring South Africa was US$219/tonne and local farmers in Zimbabwe could only produce at a profit if they sold their maize produce at US$265/tonne. Thus it made sense to import maize than grow owing to the depressed prices.

The maize prices have remained less than competitive and many resettled farmers have indicated that growing maize is not economically viable.  It is evident from the comparative analysis that the performance of maize post FTLRP is better in terms of production, yield and area planted. The area under maize cultivation decreased by 3.9 percent after the FTLRP but both production output and yield increased by 4.51 percent and 8.75 percent respectively the period five years after the land reform. The period during the FTLRP from 2000-2004 showed a 1.07 percent increase in area under maize cultivation but a marked decline in output and yield of 4.37 percent and 5.37 percent respectively.

The increase in land under maize cultivation following the redistribution of land did not immediately correspond with increased productivity and yield. 

This can be attributed to a number of factors mainly lack of inputs, inadequate funding from government, and the newly resettled farmers going through an adjustment period on their newly acquired land.

The compound annual growth rate for tobacco on the other hand shows a modest increase of 0.73 percent from 1994 to 2014 and when aggregated into different time periods from 2003 to 2014 there is a compound annual growth rate increase of 6.7 percent, from 2004-2014 the compound annual growth rate is 10.4 percent and from 2006-2014 the compound annual growth rate is 21.5 percent.

It is important to emphasise that with any agrarian revolution there is always going to be a period of decline as all the factors of production interchange and adjust to the new land ownership patterns. Zimbabwe is no exception and the decline witnessed the period after the FTLRP which the so-called ‘moderates are now presenting to the world as the basket-case argument is that adjustment period. Along with the land ownership changes in Zimbabwe there were also changes and variations in land use, crops produced quantities and the neglect of some traditional staple crops which have historically sustained livelihoods. There was a switch from the traditional staple foods to more lucrative cash crops which had a negative impact on food security.

The black resettled farmers in Zimbabwe have not failed anyone. Under the macroeconomic environment they have gone above and beyond. To disparage the resettled farmers is not only criminal but irresponsible.

These compound annual growth rates are calculated using data obtained from the Food and Agricultural Organisation Statistics. 


October 2014
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