Land reform has brought about the most far-reaching redistribution of resources in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980. After a slow but orderly process of redistribution between 1980 and 1999, a fast-track programme was implemented between 2000 and 2002. Variously termed ‘an agrarian revolution’, ’Third Chimurenga’ (liberation struggle) or ’jambanja’ (direct action), this latter phase of land reform involved the acquisition of 11 million hectares from white commercial farmers for redistribution in a process marked by considerable coercion and violence. An estimated 300,000 small farmers were resettled and about 30,000 black commercial farmers had received land by the end of 2002.
Prior to land reform, an estimated 320,000 to 350,000 farm workers were employed on commercial farms owned by about 4,500 white farmers. Their dependants numbered between 1.8 and 2 million (nearly 20 per cent of the country’s population). How did farm workers fare in the massive redistribution of land? What was the broad impact on them? And what are their future prospects?
By the beginning of 2003, only about 100,000 farm workers, a third of the original workforce, were still employed on the farms and plantations. What was the fate of the other 200,000 or so, who together with their families amount to a population of more than 1 million? What sort of livelihoods do they have in the aftermath of land reform? Do they have enough to eat, given the big decline in crop output in the large-scale commercial farming sector? These issues are the subject of this report.