• May 29th, 2020

Land: Lessons Namibia can learn from Zimbabwe

There are many lessons that the Namibia land redistribution process can learn from the experiences of neighbours Zimbabwe.  An article by Crecey Kuyedzwa of Fin24 on a few lessons South Africa can learn from Zimbabwe in land redistribution captured my attention.  There are many other lessons to learn from Zimbabwe but I decided to discuss the few below.

Lesson #1: Avoid expropriation which destroys value chains
Namibia has already started well with the organisation of the land conference early this October. The resolutions from the conference should be implemented without fail and with urgency. When the Zimbabwe government took long to resolve the land question, land grabbing started which brought chaos to the whole process. Chaotic land redistribution will not achieve any desired results except the destruction of all agro-business value chains. Politicisation of the land issue should also be avoided at all cost.  Chaotic land grabbing will ensue if the resolutions from the land conference are not implemented timeously. 
One good example of chaotic land grabbing is the citrus fruit Mazoe farms in Zimbabwe. When the orchards of orange trees were grabbed and cut down, all the industries in the value chain collapsed and the popular Mazoe orange drink is now imported from South Africa. This also applies to the milk ranches, upstream of the value chain, all industries and companies involved in the processing of diary products closed as the supply of raw milk became scarce. Then downstream, with the dairy farms gone, all the industries producing Zimbabwe’s farming equipment and supplies such as plough discs, harrows, planters, stock feeds, veterinary services, vaccines - the list is endless – closed, resulting in massive job losses. 
The dairy industry is just an example, but you can take any crop, plant or agricultural activity and appreciate the linkages with upstream and downstream industries. Namibia should understand that land goes beyond farming but is interlinked with the rest of the economy. Farming links feed into manufacturing in many food and non-food areas, from milk to textiles to tobacco, sawn timber, cardboard and tissue paper.

Lesson #2: Distribute commercial farmland to able beneficiaries
If land is finally acquired, distribute it to those who have the zeal, knowledge, resources and the desire to use it to its full commercial purpose. People should be given land fit for the commercial purpose they want to use it for. It is counterproductive to give land suited for small stock or cattle ranching to a farmer who, for example, wants to embark on tobacco plantation. 

This happened in Zimbabwe where crop farmers started planting maize in cattle farming areas and applied fertilisers without any knowledge about the type of soil in use. Do not transfer rural folk to commercial farms unless they are transformed into commercial farmers.

Lesson #3: Give beneficiaries title deeds to land 
Namibia should not take land out of the property market like what happened in Zimbabwe. After expropriated land became state property, no title deeds were issued to farmers who received land. So the new farmers could not meaningfully invest in a property that did not belong to them as property rights motivate the desire to succeed. Without title deeds new farmers in Zimbabwe could not get collateral as a prerequisite for borrowing from financial institutions to finance the farming business. Whatever method Namibia will acquire the land for redistribution, land should remain in the market by issuing title deeds which certainly motivates new farmers and financiers to pour in resources.
Cases existed of several politically connected people in Zimbabwe were given land which they kept for speculative purpose only without any desire to farm. Namibia should avoid this. 

Lesson #4: Introduce agricultural subsidies
Zimbabwe introduced an agricultural subsidy scheme, named Targeted Command Agriculture, which ensured food self-sufficiency in 2016-2017 farming season and that Zimbabwe did not import maize. Farmers selected for the programme were supposed to put a minimum of 200 hectares under maize per individual to produce at least produce 1,000 tonnes of maize. 

Each participating farmer was required to commit five tonnes per hectare towards repayment of advanced loans in the form of irrigation equipment, inputs, and chemicals, mechanised equipment, electricity and water charges. Farmers would retain a surplus product produced in excess of the 1,000 tonnes. Each farmer was earmarked to receive US$250 000. Although it is endowed with many challenges, the scheme has produced the production of maize by almost 350 percent. The government of Zimbabwe has now extended the scheme to cover livestock, wheat and soya beans. Namibia can learn from this exercise as well.

Lesson #5: Social justice restored
Land redistribution is surely about restitution, restoration of dignity and social justice. Despite the economic, political and social problems in Zimbabwe, if one went around the country they would observe that there is now some kind of mutual respect between blacks and whites.   

It is encouraging to find most white Zimbabweans speaking local vernacular languages, embracing black culture including dancing to sungura music. Bad treatment of farm workers by remaining commercial white farmers is now non-existent.  
Namibia should definitely know that one cannot have it both ways. Land redistribution will be another revolution and the country would lose something in the process. In the case of Zimbabwe, western sanctions were imposed which destroyed the economy, but what is important is to plan how to circumvent or mitigate the consequences. It all makes perfect sense, then, not to repeat the same mistakes that Zimbabwe made. Namibia can do it best.

New Era Reporter
2018-09-21 08:18:09 | 1 years ago

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