The Situation of Commercial Farm Workers after Land Reform in Zimbabwe



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1.7 The methodology of the study

The primary method of research for this report was field research, complemented by a detailed review of existing literature. An extensive corpus of written materials exists in the form of unpublished and published reports, articles and books on both farm workers and the land question. These materials include documents and reports from central government and NGO sources, as well as from international aid organisations (Zimbabwe government, 1990,1998, 2001; ODA, 1996; Buckle, 2001; Hunter, Farren and Farren, 2001; FCTZ, 2000, 2001, 2002a, 2002b, 2002c; UNDP, 2002; ). In addition, there is a burgeoning scholarly literature which raises pertinent issues regarding farm workers’ conditions. There has also been extensive newspaper reportage of the fast-track programme and its wider social and economic impact in the country and beyond. This journalistic material is not impartial, but it contains a wealth of first-hand accounts of the roles and responses of the main protagonists in the jambanja drama: government, commercial farmers and farm workers (see various issues of Daily News, Herald, Sunday Mail, Standard, Financial Gazette and Zimbabwe Independent). The national and international press carried constant if uneven reports on the evolving situation. A number of specialist publications such the Farmer (which ceased publication in early 2002), and the New Farmer (which commenced publication in 2002) carried relevant empirical material and topical discussions.

Nevertheless, systematic assessment of how farm workers’ conditions and livelihoods have been shaped by land reform required extensive field research. The conditions of farm workers needed investigation through observation and interviews, as well as focus group discussions. A sample was drawn of 1,250 farm worker households living on 125 commercial farms (out of an estimated total of 5,000 farms). The number of farms eventually covered was 160: of these, 110 were owned by white farmers and 60 had already been settled by small farmers under the A1 model. In the event, 977 farm worker households were interviewed. The farm sample represented more than 2.5 per cent of the total number of farms. The farms were selected from the eight rural provinces: Mashonaland Central, East and West; Matabeleland North and South; Manicaland, Masvingo and Midlands.

The number of farms selected in each province was determined by the intensity of commercial farming. In other words, the greater the number of farms in a particular province, the higher the number of farms and farm workers covered in the survey. This meant that the survey covered a greater number of commercial farms in the more densely-farmed Mashonaland provinces. For instance, 27 farms were covered in Mashonaland West, 24 in Mashonaland East and 33 in Mashonaland Central (field notes, 2002). The survey covered some 11 farms in Manicaland, 20 in Matabeleland South and 10 in Matabeleland North, together with 15 in Midlands and 20 in Masvingo (see Table 1.2 for number of respondents in each province). To date (March 2003) this is perhaps the most extensive coverage of research (in terms of scope of issues investigated) on commercial farms and farm workers since the onset and ‘official’ conclusion of the fast-track land reform.

At each farm visited, a stratified sample of 10 farm worker households was interviewed (see Tables 1.3 and 1.4 for details of the types of household). The interviews were conducted with the head of household or a well-informed member of it. The questionnaire-based interviews sought information on family demographics, education, income, food production and security, child growth, family planning and awareness of HIV-AIDS. The interviews with commercial farmers sought information on patterns of crop production, on-farm employment, the state of social infrastructure such as housing, farm schools and clinics, and food security. Although most commercial farmers interviewed were old-established (and evicted) farmers, some newly settled (mostly black) A2 commercial farmers were also interviewed. In addition, interviews were conducted with settlers placed under the A1 model in a number of provinces. These settlers created a committee at each of the acquired farms, and collaborated closely with structures of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Popular Front (ZANU-PF) party.

Interviews with individual ‘old’ and ’new’ farmers and with worker households were supplemented by focus group discussions and interviews with key informants. Separate male and female focus group discussions were held at most farms covered. This was intended to encourage greater participation from female workers. Information and perspectives from the group discussions were checked against those gleaned from individual interviews. The other key informants interviewed ranged from local authorities to representatives of organisations such as the CFU, Justice for Agriculture (JAG), the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union (GAPWUZ), the Farm Orphans Support Trust (FOST), the Zimbabwe Community Development Trust (ZCDT) and other NGOs.

It was no small challenge to interpret the data and views from these different sources. The material provided a reasonably accurate composite picture of the fast-track reform on farm workers, and on the broader economy and society.

Table 1.2 Respondents by province

Province

No. of respondents

Percentage




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