Zimbabwe Land reform research feedback

News from our University of KwaZulu-Natal

Adrian Nel, a lecturer in Geography at UKZN, along with colleagues from the National University of Zimbabwe’s Institute for Development Studies conducted a fieldwork feedback exercise at the beginning of the year. The feedback was based on information produced from a three year project on Livelihoods after the Fast Track Land reform Programme (FTLRP) in Matobo District of Matabeleland, Zimbabwe. The respondents were pleased to gain some feedback, and the fact that this is the first time in the district both reflects poorly on those working there, and highlights the need for further such engagements.

The study itself unearthed interesting dynamics in the semi-arid agro-ecological zone of Zimbabwe of South-Western Zimbabwe. Contra to narratives that Matobo district is only suitable for cattle ranching, in good rain seasons there is evidence of harvests that approach yields in other parts of the country (such as Masvingo) indicate that parts of the district can support subsistence production with some excess for sale. These areas have clay ‘isibomvu’ soils and proximity to water seeps and streams, in contrast to the sandy ‘imhlabati’ soils that cover much of the district. Similarly, in contrast to narratives of total failure, findings indicate that approximately 50-60% of the sample are slowly re-investing in their farms. Also, for those merely subsisting, or struggling to maintain a purchase on the land, there is historical precedent to struggling agrarian efforts in the area; where white settlers experienced similar travails over long periods. The study does, however, highlight extensive vulnerabilities in the area, with poor rainfall over four of the five seasons included in the sample data, and indications that climate change will exacerbate said vulnerability.

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