Land reform and transformative social policy

new article published by UNISA is out by Freedom Mazwi, Rangarirai Muchetu and Musavengana Chibwana based on the major district level survey carried out by the Sam Moyo African Institute for Agrarian Studies. It focuses on the social policy dimensions of land reform, but offers a hint of the wider findings on production and differentiwereation too.

This 2013/14 study is a follow up to the highly influential 2006 survey and involved surveying 1090 households in the districts of Chipinge, Chiredzi, Goromonzi, Kwekwe, Mangwe and Zvimba across A1, A2 and Communal Areas.

The authors note that “although the Fast Track Land Reform Programme has met the redistributive element of the transformative social policy agenda, the productive, protection and social cohesion potentials of the programme are still to reach their maximum potential”.

As in the 2000s, there is much differentiation across sites, largely attributed to agroecological conditions, and between settlement models, associated with land size and capital availability. Land utilisation rates vary significantly between A1 and A2 areas, with A1 smallholders using most of their land, while A2 farms struggle due to lack of capital. Perhaps surprisingly 95% of households across sites had not seen disputes over land, suggesting high levels of tenure security. As seen in other studies, differentiation within sites is also seen, with some accumulating, while others are struggling.

Transformative social policy?

Much of the paper focuses on social policy themes, asking if the land reform has been transformative. The paper is rather uneven and does not push the analysis, nor offer comparisons with other studies or more importantly the earlier AIAS survey. It therefore fails to offer a clear answer as to how the land reform affects social policy, but the results are suggestive.

The results show remarkably high access to services across the sites. Educational access is rated at 71.6 %, while 65.4% of households were able to access health facilities Access to transportation is low, however, at 58.8%. By contrast retail services (73.4%) and grinding mills (76.6%) showed high levels of access. Investment in schools and to a lesser degree health clinics in or near the resettlement areas has improved access since land reform, although the quality of such services leaves much to be desired. The data of course does not indicate how close any schools or clinics were, and many are distant, and with poor transport infrastructure persisting, gaining access to such services is often a challenge. High access to retail services and grinding mills is indicative of growing small-scale private sector investment in the resettlement areas, a feature particularly since the dollarization of the economy in 2009.

In answer to the question whether households are members of formal farmers’ groups, only 23% answered positively. There were more in the A2 than in the A1 areas, with Input sourcing (48.6%) the most common activity, followed by group marketing (31.0 %) and credit sourcing (29.1 %). Answers of course very much depend on what is understood as a ‘farmer group’, as in our experience in our study sites there is much more group-based activity, but often informally arranged around a particular task or challenge, rather than as part of a formal ‘group’.

Collective activities were recorded around a number of activities, including the sharing of tools (26.6%), the sharing of animal drawn implements (22.9 %), reciprocal labour arrangements, (19.2 %) and the sharing of tractor-drawn implements (17.7 %). These activities are more prevalent in A1 areas, reflecting the emergence of more embedded communities.

These snippets of data offer a snapshot of conditions on the new resettlements, but do these add up to transformative social policy and improved social protection? It is difficult to judge. The paper does not dig deeper into the differentiated dynamics of the sites, and the comparisons between them. We must await further explorations of the data for this. What it does show, however, is that the now no longer new resettlements continue to evolve, with changing access to services and new cooperative arrangements emerging in response to a range of production, marketing and other challenges.

Longitudinal results

Compared to the study carried out in the midst of economic crisis and growing inflation in the 2000s, this study was conducted in a period of relatively economic stability, with a dollarized economy. In many respects, the results not surprising, and confirm what many others have reported.

The real importance of the SMAIAS work is that the repeat surveys offer national insights into the evolution of land reform areas. We all eagerly await the publication of the 2013/14 report, and perhaps more particularly the comparison with the findings of 2006. This will help us understand what has changed for whom and where, and assist the better targeting of interventions. This paper offers some important hints, but more analytical work is needed.

This is the third in a series of short reviews of new work on agriculture and land in Zimbabwe. Nearly all of these studies are by Zimbabwean researchers, reflecting the growing research capacity and ability to comment on important issues of policy in the post-Mugabe era. If there are other papers or books that you think should be included, please let me know!

This post was written by Ian Scoones and first appeared on Zimbabweland