The Situation of Commercial Farm Workers after Land Reform in Zimbabwe

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0-2 acres

2-4 acres

4-6 acres

over 6 acres

Those with access to land





Those without access to land


Source: Field interviews, October-November 2002

It was not sufficient to have access to land. Getting enough inputs — seed, fertiliser and so forth — was crucial. Most farm workers admitted difficulties in obtaining inputs largely because prices have shot up in recent years. When farms were still operational, the commercial farmer sometimes ordered inputs for the workforce, but this has mostly stopped owing to change in ownership. Some NGOs such as the FCTZ had started, on a modest scale, to provide inputs to farm workers in informal settlements (FCTZ, 2002c). Another effect of the eviction of white commercial farmers was that cheap maize became more scarce for farm workers. Those farmers who grew maize sold it at a subsidised price to their workforce. Others ordered maize in bulk from the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) for their workers. In both instances, maize was generally accessible and less expensive than it became in 2001-02 and afterwards.

Land reform and the bad drought of 2001-02 changed the situation drastically. The quasi-paternalistic arrangements for land access and subsidised maize supplies came to an end. Except for the few hundred farms where old commercial farmers continue to operate, farm workers had to find new sources of food. In this new situation food shortage began to spread in early 2002, and the government had no option but to import large amounts of maize to address a shortfall of more than 1.5 million tonnes.

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