Zimbabwe land reform sees 90% drop in production

Zimbabwe’s land reform programme has caused a 90% drop in production in large-scale commercial farming since the 1990s, UN food organisations said in a report released on Thursday.

Subsequently, about 400 000 farm workers—who were meant to benefit from the controversial resettlement plan—lost their jobs and homes.

“Following the land reform programme, the large-scale commercial sector now produces only about one tenth of its output in the 1990s,” the report on crop and food supply in the southern African country stated.

The findings in the document, released simultaneously in Johannesburg and Rome, are based on a fact-finding mission by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the World Food Programme to Zimbabwe in April and May this year.

The delegation was lead by Henri Josserand, the chief of the FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System. The mission concluded that 5,5-million people in a population of 11,6-million were in need of food aid, despite the annual cereal production having increased compared to last year.

The UN estimated that emergency aid agencies needed to provide an estimated 610 000 tons of maize to fill the food gap.

The government controlled price of maize meal was raised almost four-fold in May, exacerbating the situation, the report said.

“This will greatly limit access to available supplies for the most vulnerable people.”

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe embarked on a controversial and sometimes violent land reform programme in early 2000. The exercise saw at least a quarter of the country’s total land endowment, formerly owned by whites, being seized to make way for landless blacks.

“These actitivities and processes have severly disrupted farming activities as many resettled farmers lack access to capital and other inputs or need time to settle down, contributing to this year’s low cereal production,” the report by the UN agencies said.

The land reform programme, erratic rainfall and a severe shortage of maize seed and fertiliser were the main causes of the food crisis.

“The situation of over 400 000 former farm workers and their families is desperate, as they have, in many cases, been displaced from their homes, have not benefited from the land reforms and have few employment opportunities,” the report said.
- Sapa-AFP

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