Narratives on Land: State-Peasant Relations Over Fast Track Land Reform in Zimbabwe

by Bevlyne Sithole, Bruce Campbell, Dale Doré and Witness Kozanayi


In the last few years, slogans have become more elaborate and fervent with regards to promises of delivering land to peasants in Zimbabwean communal areas. Conditions in communal areas suggest that peasants should be highly receptive to the slogans and the narratives from which they are drawn. But empirical data from a densely settled communal area challenges the universality of the slogans and exposes their irrelevance in the context of the realities of household assets, social processes, and production systems. We suggest political relations over land between peasants and political elites in the state have resulted in disengagement by the peasants.

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Bevlyne Sithole is a research associate at the Centre for Agrarian Research (SHANDUKO) in Zimbabwe and works on institutions, power relations and conflict surrounding natural resource management. Her work has taken her to all corners of Zimbabwean communal areas.

Bruce Campbell is the Director of the Forests and Livelihoods program at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), based in Indonesia. He has undertaken research in southern Africa for 20 years, with recent work on issues at the interface of economics, sociology and ecology.

Dale Doré is the Director of Shanduko. He is an agricultural economist with a particular interest in land reform. He has spent more than 20 years working in Zimbabwean communal areas. He provided substantial input into the land tenure commission and his PhD focussed on land holdings in communal areas.

Witness Kozanayi is an agricultural graduate working with CIFOR and the University of Zimbabwe. He has extensive field experience in Zimbabwe working on agricultural issues, household livelihoods and institutional arrangements. He has been particularly active using participatory rural appraisal and participatory action research.