Zimbabwe: report on workers' conditions after land reforms

 A report released this month, written by Professor Sachikonye for the Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe, concludes that the land reform programme has exacerbated a desperate situation for commercial farm workers, already hard hit by HIV/AIDS and a two-year drought. The Farm Community Trust of Zimbabwe is a local non-governmental organisation committed to empowering farm workers to achieve a better and more secure life. Between 2000 and 2002, through the fast track land reform programme, the government acquired for redistribution, often by considerable coercion and violence, 11 million hectares previously farmed by about 4,500 white commercial farmers. While the compelling case for land reform was that of historical redress, political and electoral calculations shaped the pace and direction of reform, says Professor Sachikonye. And controversy remains over the allocation and ownership of model farms. By the beginning of 2003, only about 100,000 farm workers, a third of the original workforce, were still employed on the farms. The other 200,000, who together with their families amount to more than 2 million people (about 20% of the population), are jobless and landless. The report was based on a sample of 160 farms and 977 farm worker households in eight provinces, and interviews with stakeholders in the commercial agricultural sector. It details the impact of the decline in food security on farm workers, examines the evolving relationships between farm workers, small resettled farmers and commercial farmers, and highlights the gender dimension in employment and access to land. Professor Sachikonye stresses the need to restore food security by extending feeding programmes in the short term and ensuring farm workers access to land and agricultural inputs in the long term. The infrastructure and services that previously existed on the farms must be repaired or revived. Efforts should be made to establish community-based home-care organisations to look after AIDS patients. At the same time, AIDS awareness campaigns and messages to promote condom use and other forms of safe sex should be stepped up, recommends the report. The criteria of land allocation should be revisited to ensure that the landless, women and farm workers receive preference. The creation of producer groups, and production and marketing cooperatives among former farm workers, must be encouraged to ensure that the skills of farm workers do not go to waste. Following the controversial land reform in Zimbabwe, debate is intensifying over what form and pace reform should take in other countries in the region. Farm workers should be integrated into reform strategies, which must have an inbuilt poverty reduction component from their inception, concludes the report. 'The situation of commercial farm workers after land reform in Zimbabwe' by Professor Lloyd Sachikonye is available from CIIR. For details e-mail matthew@ciir.org, or call 020 7288 8619

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