Land Reform, Tobacco Production, and Wood Resources in Zimbabwe

Land Reform, Tobacco Production, and Wood Resources in Zimbabwe

Manyanhaire Itai Offat (The Zimbabwe Open University, Zimbabwe)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7405-9.ch020
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This chapter explores the land reform-tobacco production-wood resources nexus using a political ecology theoretical framework. It uses secondary data sources, literature review, and onsite expert verification to estimate the quantity of wood resources used by farmers to cure tobacco. The area of forest woodland cleared to cure one hectare of tobacco increased across tobacco farming regions in Zimbabwe. Despite the fact that the country has environmental agencies and departments, farmers continue to use wood to cure tobacco in a typical clientilistic and informalisation of state institutions. The use of firewood to cure tobacco is a long-term threat to ecological sustainability. The Fast Track Land Reform Programme should incorporate sound environmental plans and avoid informalisation of state institutions.
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Land policy in Zimbabwe is characterized by competition for geographic space among the different racial groups. Colonialism set in motion massive cyclic land grabs that dichotomized rights to land. That is, prime land for white settlers and marginal land for the majority black population. The post-colonial land policy has three critical phases; the 1980-1990 policy of willing buyer willing seller; the 1990-1999 compulsory land acquisition and the Fast Track Land Reform Programme from the year 2000. The Fast Track Land Reform Programme is radical redistributive land reform (Moyo & Chambati, 2013) often described as, disruptive and disorderly grab of white-owned commercial farms with considerable destructive environmental impacts (Clover & Eriksen, 2008; Mukwada et al., 2014;). The Land discourse in Zimbabwe is therefore highly polarised between views for ‘the revolutionary process’ (Rukuni & Eitcher 1994; Dalal-Clayton, Dent & Dubois, 2003; Moyo 2007, Scoones et al., 2010 ;) and a racist reform process. Despite this polarization new land use rights ushered in new small scale tobacco farmers who are beneficiaries of the land grabbed by the state from the white commercial famers. Unfortunately, the global discourse gives little attention to local land grabs and the implications of the ensuing cropping systems on wood resources.

The preoccupation of the current global discourse on land is on the renewed acquisition of land (land grabs) for large scale commercial agriculture, a phenomenon with footprints that stretch back to the time of colonialism (Odusula, 2014). Land grab in current literature is understood as purchasing and leasing of land by state and private enterprises in order to produce crops for export (Watson et al 2006; GRAIN, 2008; Cotula et al., 2009; Daniel and Mittal 2009; De Schutter, 2011; White, et al, 2012; Borras & Franco, 2012). Displaced white commercial famers from Zimbabwe are known to have moved into other countries like Zambia, Malawi and Mozambique and started viable agricultural ventures with land deals facilitated by the respective states. There is a general belief that land grabs are driven by countries experiencing food shortages and high prices for agricultural products. To hedge themselves against unforeseeable food shortages and related crises they have embarked on a global investment program at the expense of the communities that are displaced by such large scale agricultural investments. These factors are viewed as the reasons why there is a global replay of the large -scale land acquisition in Africa with linkage to the colonial phenomenon. Perhaps Africa should be viewed as an agro-economic pacifier and the building block to global economic rejuvenation as it has become the preferred destination in times of crisis.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Land Grab: The acquisition of land by the state individuals, business entities at both international and local levels.

Political Ecology: The linkage between political and ideological thinking of the state as connected to the issues of land reform, tobacco production and wood resources.

Tobacco Production: The growing of tobacco and curing it using wood resources.

Land Deals: Legal and illegal acquisition of land in a country by the state and its related agencies, individuals and business entities with the intention to use it for specified purposes.

Instrumentalisation: Using the beneficiaries of the land as objects to achieve political objectives.

Informalisation: Using individuals and related institutions outside the framework of the state to perform state functions for the benefit of people linked to a ruling political elite.

Land Reform: The allocation of land to the intended population by both colonial and independent African states resulting in the process in changes to rights over land.

Neopatrimonialism: Implementing the land reform basing on who knows who in the state agencies and outside of it with sole purpose to solidify control of resources and related benefits.

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