More than 300 000 families have been resettled on prime farming areas which used to be a preserve for white commercial farmers since the launch of the fast track land reform programme in 2000.
These new farmers contributed significantly to this year’s bumper harvest. The farmers are at the moment delivering their produce to the Grain Marketing Board depots throughout the country and the last crop assessment report estimates that about four million tonnes of grain was harvested this year against a national annual consumption of 1,5 million tonnes.
This means that the country has a surplus of about one million tonnes of food. The increase in food production has been attributed to the Presidential Inputs Support Scheme and the Command Agriculture programme. This year’s maize output increased by about 300 percent compared to last year when the country harvested just 800 000 tonnes.
What is encouraging is that the bulk of the maize this year was from both communal and resettled farmers which means that the nation is now enjoying the fruits of the land reform programme. Most households are as a result of the bumper harvest guaranteed food security which means the Government which was spending millions of dollars in foreign currency to import food, can now direct this scarce resource to other pressing needs.
The bumper harvest has prompted Government to re-introduce marketing boards to assist farmers to market their produce. Most provinces including those provinces which usually record low yields due to marginal rainfall such as Midlands, Matabeleland North and South as well as Masvingo last season recorded a surplus.
The country could have harvested even more if all the beneficiaries of the land reform programme were fully utilising the land. There are a number of farms in different parts of the country that are just lying idle.
What this confirms is that the owners of these idle farm got the land for speculative purposes as opposed to using the land productively. We totally agree with the Member of Parliament for Pelandaba-Mpopoma Cde Joseph Tshuma that such land beneficiaries are sabotaging the country’s economic revival programme. Government has warned that such beneficiaries risk losing the land and in our view it is time to take action.
A number of land audits have been carried out and information regarding idle farms is now available. The land which is not being fully utilised should be repossessed and allocated to those willing to use it productively for the benefit of the nation. There are many land seekers on the Government’s waiting list that should benefit from such land.
Land, as we have stated before, is a finite resource and as such those allocated the land have an obligation to fully utilise it to benefit not only themselves but the nation at large. We have individuals that have been allocated too big farms or more than one farm and are as a result failing to fully utilise all the land and they should surrender what they are not using so that it can be allocated to others seeking land.
The issue of downsizing farms has been spoken about for too long and its time for action. The land reform programme was meant to correct the skewed land ownership but we risk creating another skewed land ownership whereby an individual has 1 000 hectares when his neighbour is trying to eke out a living from less than two hectares.