EDITORIAL COMMENT: Farm sizes: To each according to capacity

The cutting of farm sizes being proposed by Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa is a noble idea, as it will also be a de facto land audit.

It is undeniable that there are some who “bit off more than what they could chew” when they applied for land under the land reform programme.

At the same time, because Government wanted to deal with the issue in as short a period as possible, officials distributing the land could have had an oversight.

What is important is that the land reform achieved its purpose of giving land back to the landless majority.

Now, it is time to sit down and reflect on the whole process and do corrections where mistakes were made in the allocation criteria.

This is why we are convinced that if implemented according to plan, the cutting of farm sizes will reveal who got what, thus acting as a form of a land audit. But we caution that the cutting of the farm sizes should not be done willy-nilly.

Instead, a critical analysis should be done, especially on the production levels of the farmers. A farmer who has been doing well should be rewarded by either keeping the same farm size or even getting extra land.

This should also apply to farmers who did well under Command Agriculture this season. The success of the Government-funded programme has clearly shown that with more support next season, food security will be guaranteed in Zimbabwe.

With the envisaged availing of more resources to the noble programme next season, the farm land specifically for the programme will also naturally increase.

This is why the cutting of farms as outlined by Minister Chinamasa should seriously consider the future of Command Agriculture.

We understand that there are some farmers who applied for land under the A1 scheme meant to be a communal set up, but ended up with pieces far much bigger than what they could utilise.

Yet, some farmers rushed for bigger farms under the A2 scheme in excitement, but without capacity to farm all the land.

It would not be useful for Zimbabweans to pride themselves in having acquired 12 million hectares of arable land from white former commercial farmers, but without using all of it. Cutting the sizes of farms will also help restore confidence on the market.

In most cases, lenders discover that the farm sizes listed on the farmers’ 99-year leases do not match their potential.

This has resulted in lack of confidence that the farmers would be able to pay back.

Agriculture is the backbone of the economy and hence the bedrock of Zim-Asset.

Its success will depend on implementing such measures as cutting farm sizes, regardless of who owns the land.

Lands and Rural Resettlement Minister Dr Douglas Mombeshora recently said there were more than 500 000 landless people who applied to be allocated land, and are still on the waiting list.

Close to 300 000 families have been resettled under land reform on both A1 and A2 farms and about 19 000 of them are A2 farmers covering three million hectares.

What makes Government’s case on cutting farm sizes more welcome are recent revelations that some people have huge farms, about 3 000 hectares, in zones where the maximum size is 400ha.

When embarking on the downsizing exercise, except in exceptional cases, we urge officials to apply the set out policy of a maximum size of 250ha in region 1, region 2(a) 350ha, region 2(b) 400ha, 500ha for region 3, while regions 4 and 5 have 1 500ha and 2 000ha respectively.

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