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Zimbabwe looks to slash farm sizes in bid to improve productivity

Feb 21 2020 15:03
Crecey Kuyedzwa, Harare

Zimbabwe has announced a legislative change that will see farms on its most arable land restricted to 250ha per farm, a move that will see several farms reduced in size.

According to the government, the rationale behind the move is to provide more people with access to land, and to improve productivity and output. 

Perrance Shiri, Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, announced the new laws to restrict farm sizes - depending on the agricultural region in which the farm is located - in the government gazette of February 7. 

Under the new legislation, farms in natural region 1 - where rainfall is generally above 1 000mm per year and precipitation may be experienced throughout the year - will be restricted to 250ha. Farms in region 2 may not exceed 500ha, while natural region 3 may not exceed 750ha. 

Zimbabwe is divided into five farming regions. Regions 1 and 2 are highly productive farming areas. Region 2 has an average rainfall of between 650 and 1 000mm a year, received during the rainy season, with an average of 16 to 18 rainy pentads per season. Region 3 is a semi-intensive farming area, with large-scale crop production covering just 15% of the arable land.

Zimbabwe also has a one person one farm policy, which is currently not being enforced pending the finalisation of a land audit. 

The country has been undergoing a controversial land reform programme since the year 2000. Many farms lie idle or are underutilised while the country faces a food insecurity, crippling drought and energy shortages.

According to Care International and OXFAM, in February about 5.8 million Zimbabweans faced "severe levels of food insecurity across urban and rural areas".

The southern African country imports the bulk of its food including staples maize, wheat and soya beans.

While some analysts say the move to cut farm sizes is aimed at improving output, others are skeptical, saying that without restoring land rights, farmers will find it hard to invest. 

"All the farmers need is collateral," commented economist John Robertson. "Nothing beats title deeds. To be good collateral, land has to be marketable at market prices set by market forces without interference from anyone.

"Government believes that interfering is their right, so the whole institution of Property Rights has failed. And so has the country."

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