Working Paper 21: Tractors and Agrarian Transformation in Zimbabwe: Insights from Mvurwi

Written by Toendepi Shonhe.

This paper examines postcolonial agricultural mechanisation in Zimbabwe in the context of recent land reforms. It pays particular attention to the central role played by state-capital relations – with notable links to international finance – in shaping a resurgence in tractor usage following Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Programme (FTLRP). Moreover, the economy-wide crisis triggered by land reform shaped the emerging agricultural mechanisation.

This study examines the decline in tractor supply by the government, and the growth and dominance of large-scale commercial farms as a source of second-hand tractors for smallholder and medium-scale farmers. This paper relies on archival sources as well as empirical data collected in Mvurwi through surveys, focus group discussions, tracker studies and in-depth interviews. While the tractors imported by the government from Brazil on concessional terms have become a major source of tractor services for the resettled farmers in Mvurwi, resettled farmers are also reinvesting proceeds from the sale of agricultural commodities predominantly in agricultural mechanisation, creating a new source for tractor hiring services and agrarian transformation. Although patronage politics has shaped the distribution of tractors and the establishment of tractor service cooperatives, there is no evidence of concrete political gains resulting from these investments.

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