Zimbabwe Farming Update

In honour of all the Independence Day celebrations, I figured it’ll be a good time to give you little update on the country from my perspective. Three major things are mining, the president and farming.

Let’s start with farming. When I got here in November, there were about 100 white farmers left on farms they actually owned. Since then 20 of those farmers I personally know, have been vacated or as locally referred to it: they have been Jumanjied . Obviously it makes sense that there have been others I don’t know about, leaving us with 80 odd white owned farms. I’ve discussed this before but will just recap briefly: the white farmers aka ‘original farmers’ were the ones to put the infrastructures in place and obviously has way more experience on the lands they grew up on than someone who’ve spent their whole life learning a different trade and this is basically why the country’s natural crops are so weak. However it really isn’t that simple. First you have a couple hundred of these ‘land grabbers’ who just like having the property and were perfectly happy leasing it back to the farmer it was taken from. Then you also have a couple of willing-seller-willing-buyer farms that are doing alright, since the guy who bought it actually wants to farm and as he has invested his money in it by paying for it [albeit at a reduced rate] he is more driven to succeed and actually produce crops. Plus, there is a sense of respect towards these buyers from the original farmers, so they are far more likely to share relevant information on the land that will help the buyer produce proper crops. So to say that there are only 80 real farmers left in the country is mistaken but unfortunately that number is so close to accurate that it doesn’t really improve the country’s standing. Zimbabwe use to be the leading country in all things agricultural… in the entire world! They were the best, in farming communities they are still revered and have been bought by other countries in Africa as well as Australia and New Zealand. So to now say that there are [even if you double the number to] 200 real farmers in this naturally rich country, is really dire!

Obviously the situation is not helped by the way in which the hand-over comes to pass. In simplistic terms a guy who is part of the government’s party will say he wants that farm; the party will then go to the land office and tell them what is happening. This is where most of the fighting actually takes place lately: the land office looks after the interest of the land and crops and in general farming and they have recently come to the conclusion that giving great lands, ready for harvesting, to someone with little to no experience is not exactly in the best interest of agriculture. Which is why they are increasingly standing up against the government party and fighting for the original farmer to keep at least a piece of his land. However the government is rarely willing to accept this and the war veterans come out on both side of this argument so it can get complicated. Mind you, at this stage the farmer is not even aware of any of this yet. Yes, most of them live in fear -as do most business who haven’t adhered to the 51% rule- but until that guy comes knocking on their door, they still know nothing. 

So then this representative [or more accurately group of party supporters] pitches up on the farm and tells the farmer he has 3 weeks to move off the farm or he will be removed. By the way, when they say ‘removed’ it is meant in the most threatening manner! Now as shocking and frustrating and aggravating as this is, sadly the farmers have gotten use to it and sort of expect it every day they wake up, so in a sense it is ‘normal’. I don’t know how many of you have ever been on a real farm but if you have, you’ll know that not only are the houses pretty big as in you have a lot of furniture and stuff to get out when you move. Also there are workshops and tractors and all the other bigger equipment that goes with your particular type of farm. Generally there is also a huge amount of scrap that has been gathered throughout the years and kept because it might be useful, that you need to deal with. Besides all of the earthly possessions, you also have to consider the live stock and your workers. It is rare that these new owners continue to use the farm’s workers, which is another reason so many of them fail. Considering all of these things is quite stressful under planned and desired circumstances but since this has pretty much blindsided the farmer he also has the added stress of figuring out where to go. Everything he owned and worked for, his dad worked for and his family has built is on that piece of land. Now it is no longer his. Most of these farmers invest all of their savings into their crops and most of these land repossessions happen right before harvest time. So not only is this farmer being forced off his land that he has invested everything he has ever earned into just so that the new owner can walk in and make an incredible amount of money, he has nothing to start over with. 

And of course while the farmer is trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered life, the fighting at the land office still continues and generally 10days in they reach an impasse and the party members decide to Clause 17 everything. So now the farmer has 24 hours, not a second more and not even the courtesy of a personal representative delivering the message: just a phone call from the land office. However the final nail in the coffin is seeing this new owner drive up in his brand new D4D and start moving into your house while they have already popped opened the first beer.  It’s pretty depressing to see but then you also get to experience how the community and friends make a plan and somehow help this farmer back to his feet against all odds. No wonder this country has such a strong culture of hope! 

The reason I bring this up is because my mother is coming to visit in 5 days and she grew up in this beautiful country. I’ve had to explain to her that she’ll have to look a little bit harder to find that beauty 20 years on and should be prepared to see once flourishing lands left in total emptiness. Where there once were crops there is now grass and dust. 

There is also another glimpse of hope that comes from the outside world. It’s sort of ironic that so many years after Zimbabwe gained its independence, the country they gained it from is offering to pay up for the suffering that is being caused after they left the country to its own devises. The farmers who’ve had to give up their land can claim back the infrastructure they invested from the British government. All you need is all of your documents and books for the last 40 years. That by the way was not sarcasm. This is a really good thing and great that the British government is accepting responsibility or rather admitting that these are consequences from a war they made these farmers fight 40 years ago against the African tribes. Obviously most farms don’t keep records that well so they’re having trouble getting the paper work done. But again there is hope: a guy who does Lost Documents and can help you find the documents or figure out how to get the numbers to add up. This is also useful for those people who, out of anger and resentment, burned their books when they left the farms. The only catch is that this guy charges quite a few bucks as it really is a lot of work and checking back logs takes a lot of time. However, if the British government keeps their word and pays out, it really will be worth your while.

Ok, this post went on a lot longer than I anticipated so you’ll have to read about mining and dear old Uncle Bob in the next post.

Sharing my view,

AM

Advertisements

What is your view?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: