5 March 2004

ZIMBABWE: Only 2% land given to ex-farm workers

Government has allocated a mere 2% of the 11 million hectares acquired under the land reform programme in the past four years to former commercial farm workers, the Zimbabwe Independent heard last week. At a workshop in Masvingo last weekend to assess the situation of farm workers after the land reform programme, Mashonaland East Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe provincial manager Clifford Mpande said of the estimated 350 000 former farm workers only 13% had benefited from the fast-track land reform programme. "The farm workers were settled on 2% of the acquired land," Mpande said. "Official statistics as of the end of March 2002 indicated that only 1 183 former farm workers had been resettled. This is in stark contrast to an estimated 140 000 who had lost their jobs at the same time."- "It has been estimated that currently only 600 commercial farms are still operational across the country, out of a total of 4 247 farms reported by the Central Statistical Office in 1997, meaning that 86% of farms have been closed. Given that the average work force on a farm was 40 people, it is estimated that with the 90% of the farms fast tracked, over 320 000 farm workers had been laid off by the third quarter of the 2002," Mpande said.

Before the inception of the farm invasions and fast-track land reform programme, commercial farms used to employ over 350 000 workers and offered shelter to over 1,5 million including workers' relatives and children. The farming community constituted 15% of the Zimbabwean population. Mpande said between 60 and 80% of the displaced workers were still at the closed farms' compounds without a stable source of income while the rest had been forced back to their rural homes. Parliamentary portfolio committee on Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare acting chairman Paurina Mpariwa told participants that infrastructure and guaranteed human component were key to propelling Zimbabwean's agriculture-based economy. Mpariwa said the land reform programme had empowered historically marginalised Zimbabweans although like all programmes of its magnitude it had its negatives such as shortages of infrastructure and services to the affected communities. "Facilities such as schools, water and sanitation, health institutions and a sound road network are among the top priorities of the numerous demands and challenges confronting the communities," Mpariwa said. "As a committee, we are aware of the general poor living conditions of most farm communities but this is a mammoth task which cannot be left to government alone to accomplish but should involve all stakeholders with an interest in the agricultural sector." (ZWNews / Zimbabwe Independent, Harare)


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