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Zimbabwe farming collapses

By JAN RAATH, DPA | 2012-01-30 11:09:39.0 | COMMENTS [ 57 ]

Crops failing after Mugabe's land 'reforms'

Zimbabweans in 2011 consumed some 1.67 million hecto-litres of beer, the highest ever sales.

But as beer drinking soared, the output from the country’s farms sank to its worst since independence in 1980 (bar 2008 when inflation hit 500 billion%.)   

It seems a nation of once hard-working peasant farmers are now spending their money in the pub instead of ploughing it into farming as they used to, according to Charlie Taffs, head of one of  the country’s farmers’ unions. “That is an indication of a consumption-driven society,” he said.

In 2000 President Robert Mugabe launched a campaign of violent expropriation against the country’s 4,000-strong white farming community, in the name of a revolutionary land reform programme that he claimed was to restore to black peasant farmers the land seized from them by white colonial governments half a century ago.

But even audits by Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party confirm that the large  and highly productive spreads of the white farmers have been taken over largely by politicians, judges, top policemen, generals and editors of state newspapers loyal to Mugabe — widely dubbed “weekend farmers”.


Agricultural output has largely collapsed and the country that was renowned as “Africa’s breadbasket” has become hit by shortages and hunger.

The government’s statistical office reports that for the summer rain season in November, 1.2 million hectares of land was planted with maize, the national staple.

That should have been almost enough to produce the 1.8 million tonnes Zimbabweans eat annually.

But instead — in a tragic repetition of every year since 2000 - the agriculture ministry managed to deliver seed and supplies only when the rains were already well under way. It has long been established by Zimbabwean agronomists that maize planted after December 31 will not ripen.

Taffs and other unions are warning that no more than 700,000 tonnes can be expected when this year’s crop is harvested — 1.1 million tones short of demand.

It will have to be met from costly imports.

UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency, is already warning that 3.5 million children across the country will need to get emergency rations.


This season, the provision of cheap seed and fertilizer was renamed “the presidential inputs programme” — turning a routine central government-funded operation into an electoral gimmick to persuade farmers to vote for the 87-year-old Mugabe in elections expected sometime in the next 15 months.

“It was an unmitigated disaster,” said Taffs.

Farmers were only able to begin collecting their inputs on New Year’s day, when the rainy season was half over.

Peasant farmers watched as political heavyweights pushed their way to the front of the queues at rural depots and loaded up their trucks. Even urban minibuses were allowed to collect seeds and fertilizer.

They were seen selling the same subsidized fertilizer at the bus ranks in Harare a few hours later, at double the price they had got  it for, reported the state-controlled daily Herald newspaper.

Most peasant farmers went home with little or nothing.

“Every year it has failed,” Taffs said. “There is no accountability for the people who get the inputs. People can do what they like.”   


But across the Zambezi River in neighbouring Zambia there is an astonishing reversal of roles between the two countries.

For decades until Mugabe’s land grab in 2000, Zimbabwean farmers were producing surpluses that fed Zambians, whose own agriculture system  was moribund.

Then in 2008, then Zambian president Rupiah Banda adopted new policies. Peasant farmers were sold cheap inputs, but they were delivered by September, in good time for farmers to prepare for the  rains. Farmers were also closely monitored to ensure they produced crops, and then paid for the fertilizer and seed after they had sold their harvest. If they failed, they were disqualified from inputs the next season.

The result was phenomenal. Last year Zambian farmers produced a record surplus of 1.6 million tonnes — all of it exported to Zimbabwe.

“There was full accountability,” said Taffs. “The programme has come to an end now, but they have been given a lift up, and it worked.”   

In Zimbabwe, Mugabe’s political farmers sold the inputs they were provided, and bought beer instead.


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bias reporting

2012-04-26 17:32:01.0 | 0 replies

You can fo.ol some people sometimes,but you cannot fo.ol all the people all the time


the ANC will figure that out soon enough

2012-01-30 15:22:59.0 | 0 replies

Propaganda again.how is inflation of 500 billion% ever possible in an economy that still exports minerals and why are SA companies like edcon,spur and other still operating in that country.Who determines inflation?reuters?
You can fo.ol some people sometimes,but you cannot fo.ol all the people all the time.

2012-01-30 15:21:29.0 | 0 replies

@ Phamela. You are delusional. You cannot just change the facts to suit your argument. The land issue must be addressed in an intelligent manner, so that we transfer land in a manner that does not destroy the country, such as happened in Zim. It can be done if the factas are assessed correctly, not delusionally.

2012-01-30 15:16:40.0 | 0 replies

I think some people here just want to say bad things about zimbabweans and them being coward. If South Africans were that brave and good fighters, why were they the last ones to get independence?..and was it not the same zimbabweans who were helping them in their fight? such arrogance sometimes need people to pause and think straight. Sometimes, its difficult to remove a person who has the backing of an army and several terror groups.

2012-01-30 15:16:27.0 | 0 replies

Phamela - Oh, so the million plus Zimbabweans living in South Africa are only here for the awesome weather.

95% unemployment in Zim.

2012-01-30 15:05:44.0 | 0 replies


you need help!

2012-01-30 15:03:20.0 | 0 replies

@MommaC - very true - I wouldn't want to be sober and @Xovizwe - well put - what this is about is dictatorship and cadre deployment - we'd better learn before we're ruined too!

2012-01-30 14:47:36.0 | 0 replies

Problem is black people we can't build from the ground/up, we always want something already esterblished then we want to take it over, look at most new house developments out there being occupied by black people, they don't have proper gardens in their yards compared to a house were a white person has been living in, you look at most black people around weekends in the township all you see is camp chairs out side with a faded lawns drinking beer, while if you visit the surbarbs white man are always working on thier yard fine turning it. How do people expect a person that can't even do proper garden in their yard to farm hactors of land.

2012-01-30 14:42:13.0 | 0 replies

Einad - Also because of corruption (Their national corruption equals our provincial corruption).

Germany, Wall Street (Goldman Sachs) and the previous Greek socialist government are all responsible for the Greek mess. This explains why half the previous Greek governments ministers now live in the Hamptons just outside New York City with their good wall street banker buddies.

2012-01-30 14:08:32.0 | 0 replies

Farming shud not be tampered with. It must be left to those who know best. We must accept it that we,bo darky doesnt know farmng.

2012-01-30 14:08:22.0 | 0 replies