GLOBALIZING LAND AND FOOD IN ZIMBABWE:
IMPLICATIONS FOR SOUTHERN AFRICA
Abstract: For political and economic crises as severe as Zimbabwe,
domestic causes are central, but the conflict in Zimbabwe is not simply
internal; it is regional and international and in that sense, it is
a post (political) apartheid struggle. Taking an international perspective,
this article delineates the context and the constraints on any government,
labor or farm leaders in Zimbabwe, as they face enormous problems for
land and economic reforms to provide food security. The
first section gives the historical context of the current land transfers,
analyzing that reliance on the market has not been the pattern of land
reform in developing countries until the 1980s. Further, the study discusses
how this market approach to land allocation and food production in Zimbabwe
has been intensified by neoliberal policies, including both structural
adjustment programs and recent international trade instruments. The
conclusion analyzes alternative policies for food security which exist
in the region, yet cautions that those policies conflict with dominant
For political and economic
crises as severe as Zimbabwe's, domestic causes are central. Yet the
conflict in Zimbabwe is not simply internal, it is regional and international.
In that sense, it is a post (political) apartheid struggle. Analyzing
the international context of the crises is not to deny the importance
of national policies necessary for the long term stability of Zimbabwe
and of southern Africa. As the new Africa Union proposes, change must
emerge from internal strengths and resources.
Taking an international perspective, however, delineates the context
and the constraints on any government, labor, or farm leaders
in Zimbabwe, as they face enormous problems for land and economic
Harsh as it was to eradicate
political apartheid in southern Africa, involving many deaths and
torture, those involved thought it would be relatively easy in comparison
with eradicating economic apartheid. They knew that this struggle
would be very long and very brutal. By focusing on the international,
this analysis raises the question whether any elected government in
Zimbabwe can implement reforms, without equally fundamental change
in policies of dominant powers, such as the United States and Europe.
The first part of the paper
reminds us of the historical context of the current land transfers,
suggesting that the market approach to land reform (willing seller-willing
buyer) is new. Reliance on the market for landed property transfers
was not the pattern of land reform in developing countries until the
1980s. To summarize one example of the role of powerful international
actors, the paper discusses how the US goal of land reform in developing
countries over the past decades furthered US national interests. Today,
the dominant US interest in relation to land transfers is to affirm
the global market as the most efficient allocator. The study discusses
how this market approach to land allocation and food production has
been further intensified by recent trade instruments, such as the
US Trade and Development Act (2000), the WTO (1995), and the EU/ACP
Cotonou Agreement (2000).
For Zimbabwe, land hunger,
along with the economic structural adjustment program (ESAP), intensified
real hunger. Again, focusing on the international constraints for
meaningful post (political) apartheid reforms in Zimbabwe, today and
in the future, is not to minimize the role of domestic corruption
and political patronage play in increasing inequality. Without addressing
the persistence of economic apartheid in the region and inequalities
of ESAP, however, the current debates remain ahistorical. Reliance
on the market for development in a region still struggling to integrate
hostile, violent parties and implement precarious peace accords (Democratic
Republic of the Congo and Angola) abrogates basic neo-liberal economic
theory. It is difficult to rely on the market as an efficient allocator
even in a post-conflict zone (the rest of the region). Other threats
to southern African food security are also discussed. The conclusion
suggests alternative policies for regional food security.
frequently reiterate that the government of Zimbabwe has had 20 years
to promote land reform, but only engaged seriously in 1998. They then
write it off as an election ploy, during the first parliamentary elections
in 2000 and then presidential elections in 2002. Land, however, will
always be an election issue, no matter who runs, and not only in Zimbabwe,
but in other southern African countries such as Namibia, South Africa,
Mozambique, Zambia, and Malawi, until the colonial legacies are fully
confronted and rectified according to the demands of the people.
Part of the legacies is
the unfulfilled commitments of the United States and United Kingdom.
As the US Secretary of State, in 1976 Henry Kissinger promised ZANU
(Zimbabwe African National Union) and ZAPU (Zimbabwe African People's
Union) US$ 1-1.5 billion to "facilitate economic transition," including land transfers, as part of the agreement to end guerrilla
warfare. To date, the United States government
has delivered zero for land reform. The United Kingdom's role is
almost the same, making promises and delivering very little. The Lancaster
House constitution did not permit the Zimbabwean government to pursue
any land reform that was not willing seller-willing buyer. The government
could not even visit the vast estates, such as that of the Anglo-American
Corporation, without permission of the owner of the land, to assess
what was utilized or unutilized land. Therefore, how could it tax
underutilized land in the 1980s--ask the corporation to self-assess?
Because much of the land
was in the hands of those with close links to apartheid South Africa
(in 2000, the Oppenheimers still owned 960,000 hectares in Zimbabwe),
it would have been extremely dangerous to take land except on a willing
seller basis. During the 1980s, apartheid commando raids came regularly,
all the way to Harare. Zimbabwe was fully involved in assisting the
Government of Mozambique in resisting apartheid-supported Renamo,
in the Beira Corridor and elsewhere. Making policies to take land
from even absentee owners would probably have provoked more commando
raids, if not outright invasion. The attacks continued even after
Nelson Mandela was released from prison and almost to the time of
South African elections. Therefore, international analysts should
also discuss how Zimbabwe had only six years -- from 1994 until 2000
-- to approach land reform seriously, before the June 2000 parliamentary
elections. As South Africans can attest, six years is not long for
During the 1980s, however,
land reform was quite successful, a fact also not well acknowledged
during this current crisis. Although falling short of unrealistic
targets, by 1990 the government had purchased and redistributed an
impressive 3.3 million hectares to 52,000 families. Kinsey reports
from a study of over fifteen years that resettled households doubled
their cultivation; values of livestock, crop production and cereal
stocks were all higher and more equitably distributed in resettlement
areas than in neighboring communal lands.
 Potts reported a survey of adult landless migrants
recently arrived in Harare in 1994 in which "the voices of the
people...were loud in their praise for the program, which was perceived
to deliver many benefits."  During this time, large estates
went to political cronies (estimates vary widely), but what was redistributed
to needy farmers did increase quality of life. This relative success,
however, probably increased expectations for land among Zimbabwean
destitute. In addition, because of the willing seller-willing buyer
requirement, seventy percent of the prime land was untouched.
The strict requirement "willing seller-willing buyer" is quite new in the history
of land reform, from the 1980s:
no other policy issue is more susceptible to shifts in ideology and
the balance of political power than the transfer of land property
rights....Since the end of the Second World War, we have witnessed
two contrasting shifts....The first occurred between the late 1940s
and the early 1980s, which I call the decades of the poor peasants
and the golden age of genuine land reform. During this period, leaders
of most developing countries found it necessary -- after gaining independence
-- to redress past wrong-doings, including colonial land tenure....Since
the early 1980s, there has been a steady shift away from government-implemented
redistributive land reform toward reliance on the formal credit market
and on landed property transfer, freely negotiated in the open market.
In another study of thirty countries,
it appears that only two countries relied solely on markets for land
reform in the twentieth century: the Republic of Ireland and Zimbabwe
until 1997. Reallocating land following
"willing seller-willing buyer" criteria is a new demand. A quick review of US policy toward land reform, to focus on one major
international player, affirms that the market was a minimal factor.
famous land reform successes of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea --
still held out as a model to southern Africa-- an occupying force
financed and enforced the reform. The US provided dollars in Japan,
Taiwan and South Korea to purchase land, and the US army entered
some estates to encourage the landlord to leave, when the foreign
exchange allocation was insufficient. For Japan, General MacArthur
sent a directive to the Imperial Japanese government to develop
plans for a redistribution of land to tenants, with Allied headquarters
supervising both the planning and the execution of the reform....the
timing and thoroughness of the occupation's reforms gave it a peculiarly
American quality....The Sino-American [in Taiwan] connection was
never closer than in the execution of the vast land reform that
preceded one of the most rapid and dramatic agrarian advances in
Land to the tiller in Taiwan
was also financed by the US, a policy used to reduce the power of
indigenous feudal landlords by the newly occupying forces of Chiang
In South Korea, American
responsibility for land reform was also direct. MacArthur's military
government in Seoul, following policies similar to Tokyo's, issued
"a series of ordinances equivalent to a 'home act' for Korea,
fixing rents and setting up a 'land to the tiller' program. The US
Army itself distributed land to 29 percent of the farm households
in South Korea."
Removal of feudal relations in South Korea provided livelihood to
previous tenant farmers, and their new ability to sustain themselves
was a major deterrent to the spread of communism from North Korea. The US foreign policy goal was to stop the spread of communism and
land reform was but one instrument used.
In Central America, US policies
toward land reform have been much more variable, while quite consistent
in promoting US interests. As Theisenhusen points out, "At one
time or another in Latin America, land reforms were meant to serve opaque
and less frequently articulated ends: strengthen capitalism, neutralize campesinos as an oppositional political force, win votes, fend
off extremist ideologies, provide an effective counterinsurgency tool,
and foster social stability needed for a secure investment environment." In El Salvador, for example,
with the assistance of US advisors "to help pacify the rebellious
countryside," twenty five percent of agricultural land was reallocated
to tenant farmers. The second phase to reallocate another fifty five
percent was never implemented, "due to opposition from the traditional
oligarchy and changing US priorities." One could summarize the US
commitment to land reform in Central America as dependent upon whether
it furthers US security and economic interests. Similar to southern Africa,
recent US policy toward land reform in Latin America encourages market
exchange, but "no evidence exists in contemporary Latin America
of land market reforms that have fundamentally altered patterns of land
ownership despite recent efforts."
Remembering the history
of land in the US is important as well. Because Native Americans
would never have been "willing sellers," for as in Zimbabwe,
land is not a commodity to them, it was stolen. Not just once but
several times. For example, the Din (Navajo) are back on their indigenous
land, but then had the misfortune of the US finding uranium on it.
As that mineral became strategic for national security in the 1930s,
the Din had their land exploited once again. Today, the National
Congress of American Indians are trying to stop the proposed Arctic
oil drilling. Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network
called the attempts to drill for oil "an act of colonial terrorism
against a people [Gwich'in]." He asks for the public to "to
stop this axis of evil -- oil industries and governments who work
together expanding their oil frontier, destroying forests, wetlands,
coastal plains." Since 1996, three hundred thousand Native Americans have joined in
a class action suit against the US Secretary of the Interior for the
mismanagement, over decades, of $10 billion of royalties for natural
resources on native-owned land. Native American land in the
US has been stolen in more than one way, over centuries.
For the US as an international
actor, policy toward land reform in other countries reflected US national
interests, as perceived by the government at the time. The US intervened
to implement reforms in Asia, to encourage starving peasants to turn
from communism. But if the peasants wanted US corporate land, for
example, in Guatemala and Nicaragua, the US responded violently --
with the same goals of protecting US interests. The national interest
today is to promote 'free' markets as the most efficient means of
allocation. This policy, however, ignores vast inequalities between
seller and potential buyer -- in ability to set prices, bargaining,
access to credit -- as well as the tradition of communally owned land
in much of southern Africa.
Because land reform involves
the rich and powerful losing some of their resources, historically,
land has most often been devalued or taken by direct confrontation
and force. It would be highly desirable
in this new century that southern Africa could find a new way. But
the policy of "willing seller-willing buyer" cannot be the
way in a post (political) apartheid region, mainly because the arithmetic
does not add up: the governments simply do not have the funds and
the international community has also not provided funds. At the famous
land conference of 1998 in Harare, the international donors pledged
$17 million out of an estimated need of $40 billion.
In the discussion of land reform over the last decade, donor pledges
have not come close to the $40 billion estimated costs. Any government
in Zimbabwe will also not have that amount of funds-nor will the equivalent
needed be available in South Africa or Namibia.
Treating land as a market
issue ignores that land involves systems of social and cultural relations
that reflect heritage. Current land distribution within several countries
of southern Africa is a legacy of apartheid, which makes it an equity
issue -- in the fullest sense. It is also a development issue. The
South African Charter on Land and Food Security, written by 73 South
African NGOs is explicit: "...if land reform were left entirely
to the market, little if any reform would take place...land reform
policy must be driven by the principles of social justice and basic
needs as opposed to market forces." The South African National
Land Committee agreed, "the market is not a solution for a fair
land distribution after apartheid.... markets are never truly free."
Equity and development were two important goals to deter the spread
of communism in rural South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. Today, however,
the goals have changed. For the powerful international players, such
as the US, priority is given to an unfettered reign of the global
The amount estimated varies,
but whatever is used, it is enormous. The latest estimated cost to
the southern African region for eradicating political apartheid is
$115 billion, which is being paid for by southern Africans.  As the US is regularly
reminded today by Europe, assisting Japan and Germany after 1945 was
a way to rebuild, not only the war-torn economies but democracy.
The US is told, this is an important lesson for Afghanistan. Doesn't
the same apply to southern Africa? Why is it that the subjugated
people of the region are required to pay the bills of white supremacists
-- aided and abetted for many years by American and European corporations?
Not all of the debt of
southern Africa is from apartheid, neither is all of it from corruption. After the HIPC (Highly Indebted Poor Countries) debt relief from the
IMF/WB, Mozambique is still paying twice in debt servicing what it
spends on health care and Tanzania will be paying about 1.7 times
annually ($150 million).
The other two of the four southern African countries eligible, Malawi
and Zambia, face the same burden under HIPC. UNCTAD (2001) advocates:
The HIPC initiative
continues to suffer from shortcomings, including...inadequate debt relief....
Consideration should be given to the suspension of debt payments by
all African HIPCs without additional consequent interest obligations
until final agreement is reached on debt reduction, also to be extended
subsequently to non-HIPC countries found eligible for debt relief.
for southern Africa is why it has been given this bitter post (political)
apartheid fruit to swallow. Without writing off the debt, elections
become an exercise. For the elected government must serve the interests
of international finance, not of its own electorate. Having fought
and died for access to education and primary health care, southern
Africans instead are now paying the debt incurred to overcome apartheid.
That kind of "victory" does not foster democracy, for the
elected government has no ability to manage its economy.
Along with debt come economic
structural adjustment programs (ESAP in Zimbabwe or SAPs in general).
In 1990 when Zimbabwe signed on to the program, the number one government
expenditure was education, defense number two, and health care three. The IMF required user fees for rural clinics and primary education in
1992, during the worst regional drought of the century. The impoverishment of Zimbabweans
under ESAP is now well documented.
Perhaps the most graphic
depiction of the harshness of structural adjustment comes not from
the statistics but from the people themselves. In focus groups involving
675 participants in all eight provinces, the opinions are vivid.
ESAP was described as a predatory animal, such as the lion or hyena
"who targets unfit animals, which they first isolate from fit
ones.... ESAP killed the happiness that came with independence."
Participants also referred to ESAP as "...pests, grain weevils,
which destroy what they did not assemble in the first place; pests
therefore deserve to be destroyed. ESAP took away what the country
had established through political independence (e.g. progressive education
policies); it should thus be eliminated."
recorded impressive achievements in decreasing crude death rates (from
10.1 to 6.1/1000) and infant mortality (from 86 to 61/1000 births)
while improving life expectancy (55 to 59 years) and adult literacy. Expenditures in health rose throughout the 1980s, reaching 3.1 percent
of GDP in 1990 (The WHO recommends at least 2.5 percent of GDP be
allocated to the health sector of developing countries.) The health
delivery system was "turned on its head" with the majority
of funds going to rural clinics and district, not urban, hospitals.
Primary education was free and compulsory, with special emphasis for
sending girls to school. From independence in 1980 until 1985, more
children went to primary school, than during 90 years under the white
minority rule of Southern Rhodesia.
Under ESAP, expenditures
on health and education fell throughout the 1990s Real per capita
recurrent expenditure by the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare,
from 1991-1995, of about 40 percent, with recurrent expenditure on
primary and secondary education declining by 30 percent. By 1996, the health allocation
of the budget was only 2.1 percent of GDP, at a time when the HIV/AIDS
pandemic was devastating the young productive workers. Where the
majority of the people seek health care (80 percent), the rural clinics
and district hospitals received less than 49 percent of the public
The total education allocation declined from 6.3 percent of GDP in
1986/87 to 4.8 percent in 1999. The drop-out rate for girls is
higher than for boys.
not so well documented is that ESAP encouraged the large scale commercial
farmers (LSCF) to grow export crops for the global market and less food
crops for the regional market. Perhaps in macro-economic terms, the
trade-off worked. The LSCF grew export crops (tobacco, cotton,
paprika, flowers and game meat) for export earnings while the smaller
farmers increased their production of maize, sorghum and groundnuts.
Yet drought (almost annually in some part of Natural Regions IV and
V) and floods (1999) hit the small scale farmers the worst, reducing
food security. Further, seeing good pasture go for game meat for overseas
consumption or government preserves being sold to private (often foreign)
tourist firms did not endear poor peasants with the ranchers and tourist
UNCTAD has found that SAPs can hurt small scale
farmers: "Sub-Saharan Africa suffers from structural handicaps
that are impossible to remove or reduce through the standard policy
reform programs. There are indications that some ingredients of reforms
have actually aggravated constraints on the growth of smallholder production."
Zimbabweans, their identities are still linked to their
survived colonialism (and the 1992, 2002 droughts) by having some members remain in rural areas and others work in town.
During drought, the city-based relatives sent cash to the rural family.
During periods of less employment, rural relatives provided food or
work for the unemployed family members. ESAP brought not just a period
of unemployment but a decade of misery.
Relatives did not have enough land to sustain
a household. The historical land hunger, and very real
actual hunger, became worse as people tried to survive by selling commodities in
urban Zimbabweans still know how to grow food, as a quick glance in
any township will demonstrate. The director of SeedCo estimated the
maize production on minuscule urban plots would be about 50 tonnes/ha
if the same labor intensity (constant vigilance) and inputs were used
on a hectare plot. It
is only in recent times that people in "born
townships" (established in early 1920s)
refuse to go home to the rural areas. Many
Zimbabweans are genuinely land-hungry -- they know how to farm and desire small plots
of land. Urbanization in Zimbabwe has not followed the US pattern
of cutting all links with the rural community.
As is predicted
by the theory, ESAP benefited the wealthy first, with the goal they
would invest in growth in Zimbabwe. ESAP encourages production for
the global market, not the regional or national, even for food security.
Yet these two goals of structural adjustment do not take into consideration
a post-conflict society, where factors of production are highly inequitably
distributed. Benefiting the very few, who have already been historically
advantaged, may not be conducive to political stability. 'Structurally
adjusting' an economy in the post (political) apartheid era should probably begin
with adjusting (transforming) the apartheid economic structures and
relationships, not only as an issue of justice but as one of economic
development. The market privileges the privileged, who can take advantage
of new market 'opportunities.' El-Ghonemy sees the international insistence for market-based land
reform as part of the same package with structural adjustment programs:
I have serious
doubts with regard to a short-term land policy shift, because market-based
reforms of land tenure arrangements are held in bondage by the present
economic reforms and foreign debt crisis, and because countries are
busy privatizing all economic activities.
and the USA Trade and Development Act (the old AGOA) further assist the privileged, by requiring "national treatment" of foreign firms. If a foreign corporation
wants to buy land in Zimbabwe, the government is supposed to treat it
equally to any Zimbabwean request. If a foreign corporation wants to
sell seed or access the national gene bank, it is supposed to be treated
equally to SeedCo. Without prior transformation of apartheid economies
in southern Africa, this requirement is
Africans know well the results of off-shoring profits made from the
natural resources of the region and their sweat -- not simply since the WTO was formed in 1995,
but since the landing of van Riebeck. Southern Africa
integrated into the global market but not as a partner, not even a junior
partner. New trade instruments, such as the USA Trade and Development
Act, are blocking even junior partnership status, for the governments
cannot require joint ventures, but rather, must give equal rights to
foreigners enriched from African soil -- while
those who elected the government remain in poverty.
threat to food security, therefore, is loss of sovereignty over food
production. By allowing the global market to determine production,
an agriculturally rich country like Zimbabwe will produce flowers and
fruit for Europe during its winter. Reducing subsidies for small
scale farmers growing food (and raising interest rates) renders them
vulnerable to the global market. Worse still, such decisions about agricultural production are ones neither
the US nor the EU has been willing to relinquish to the global market.
Before the WTO in 1989, for example, the US rate of farm subsidies stood
at 25 percent, yet by 1999, it remained 24 percent. During the same
period, EU supports were 44 percent of gross farm receipts in 1989 and
49 percent in 1999.
five years of the WTO was so disappointing that President William Clinton
admitted just before leaving office (December 2000): "If the wealthiest
countries ended our agricultural subsidies, leveling the playing field
for the world's farmers, that alone would increase the income of developing
countries by US$20 billion a year." During the Clinton years,
however, the US spent an average of US$14 billion per year on farm support. The
2002 Bush plan offers subsidies of $15-17 billion per
year over five years. It guarantees 80 percent of qualified farmers'
income, no matter what they grow and offers further incentives for conservation.
Agricultural Policy (CAP) of the EU is changing from a system of price
supports to a system of direct aid to farmers. This
approach being allowed under the Blue and Green boxes of the WTO.
However, it still highly distorts EU prices, undermining the development
of value-added production in southern Africa. For dairy, cereal, beef,
and sugar, EU prices will remain below world prices, allowing them to compete
unfairly within SADC (Southern African Development Community)
or elsewhere, against southern African producers. For example, subsidies
of EU-produced sugar makes their chocolate candy cheaper in South Africa
than the domestically produced chocolate, in spite of the efficient
South African sugar industry. There were almost no imports of chocolates
in 1997 in South Africa, but by 2000, imports accounted for 11 percent of the chocolate market. In contrast,
tariffs on the sugar content of value-added foods in the EU prohibit
South Africa from competing in the EU market. DanChurchAid found that about 46 percent of income from split peas of
Danish farmers came from EU subsidies. Danish suppliers, therefore,
could offer pre-cooked split peas at half the price of African growers'
the chocolate and split pea stories will be similar for wheat, maize
and barley. The threat is so serious that there has been a technical
committee for wheat established under the SADC Trade Negotiating Forum. The after-taste is not sweet, but bitter, for once again southern Africa
required to do what the more powerful and more wealthy will not do in
Other international threats
to food security in southern Africa include monoculture. At
one time, over 3000 species were used as food by humans, but now we
rely on about 30 staple crops.
are 2000 indigenous food crops in Africa: sorghum, millets, bambara
nuts, many tuber and root crops, fruits, marula, baobab. Botswana alone
has 250 plants which are used specially as "famine food." Various kinds of African "spinach" (e.g., amaranthus spp =
mchicha) are called the "poor man's meat" because they contain
so much protein and lysine. Crops that are considered "marginal"
provide a wealth of nutrition, such as pumpkin, of which one can eat
the fruit, seeds, leaves, and flowers, for essential vitamins and oils.
SADC is working on reviving indigenous plants as food, not willing to
let monoculture take over. Dr. Marandu of the Tanzanian National
Plant Genetic Resources Centre points argues, "Tanzania has about
150 food crops; we need to focus [research] on the so-called marginal
food crops, such as bambara nuts, cucurbits (cucurbitaceae - gourds,
squash), finger millet (makes excellent nutritious breakfast porridge)."
Any shift in choice of crops,
to respond to an international market rather than a regional one, involves
more than a simple substitution of one product for another. These processes
are not socially or geographically neutral. Where traditional food crops
are being displaced, so too are small-scale food producers:
of substitution [to monoculture of a few crops on a large scale] is
to undermine the livelihood of much of the rural population and to
decrease the availability (and increase the price) of basic staples
for the bulk of the population. This conversion process exacerbates
the growing food and economic crises in developing market economies
and will continue to do so unless effective policies are adopted to
counteract this course.
It is up to Zimbabweans and
southern Africans to decide how to encourage growing varied food crops,
as well as how to maintain indigenous definitions of food -- inclusive
of many more crops than those valued by the international market. Maintaining
biodiversity in food production protects local food security.
long term threat to food security in southern Africa is
the patenting of plants and seed, now practiced regularly in the US
-- and being extended globally by
the WTO. This approach allows the biotechnology corporations to devalue
what they do not have -- biodiversity. Improving a plant variety in the field is not patentable,
but "natural." This approach sets monopoly value on what
corporations do have -- biotechnology. If a corporation inserts one
gene (not to improve the plant variety, but to make it resistant to a pesticide), it can be patented. Southern
about its plants -- for nutrition and medicine -- is so valued that
the knowledge and bio-resources are being stolen by the wealthy. Zimbabwe
has had to threaten more than one international law suit. Patenting
of indigenous plants privatizes knowledge, and requires the original
innovators to pay royalties for use of their own resources.
the patenting of plants is the planting of genetically modified seeds
(GMOs) in southern
are open-pollinated varieties. Every SADC country has signed the Biosafety
Protocol, but national decisions about the use and proliferation of
GMOs will soon be irrelevant. Open-pollinated varieties of GMOs are growing
in northern Natal. Pollen from them could contaminate crops in Swaziland,
Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. The
wind stops at no protest. It is strange that the
international community, which is so upset about forced seizure of land,
has not mentioned forced seizure of seed. Open pollinated GMOs contaminating
others' fields are as much a breach of property rights as farm invaders
burning crops. The invader here is silent, but the results are just
as devastating. It is very important to sanction violent farm invasions. Why is it not equally important to protest, and stop, GMO invasions
of others' property?
Biotechnology may be the savior of the 21st century. What is not acceptable
is the theft of plants and knowledge, either literally or by the destruction of indigenous
crops by genetic pollution. The international standard of "GMO
free" for global trade has been redefined, and "GMO free" labels now mean that 'only'
2 percent of the grain shipment is GMO. This change in definition is
recognition that the corporations are defying others'
property rights through
most profound sense, only peace in Angola and the DRC will bring food
security for all in the region. War and chaos weaken a government and
a region so they cannot demand fair prices for natural resources. Instability
is profitable to the outsider who continues to receive the minerals. The wars in Angola and the DRC were
not post-colonial or post-apartheid wars but rather were more similar to colonial wars. Foreign interests in the DRC, for example,
are interested in obtaining coltan or lumber or apes for the cheapest
possible price. They do not want to pay for labor
replacing the lost resources. They do not want to pay taxes.
that can be erased by forced labor and by a few bribes, then the wars
continue. The current history of the eastern Congo or Angola
reads very much like King Leopold's Ghost, and like those times,
some Africans are also profiting.
the source of the exploitation is the insatiable appetite for corporate
profits. Profit could be made on Congo lumber or Angolan diamonds fairly
traded, but not so much in so short a time. Perhaps the next UN report
will better expose the American and European firms who buy the plundered
goods. Peace is a prerequisite for regional food security.
land seizures in Zimbabwe are condemned because they not only abrogate
basic rights but because they threaten the whole region's food security. A broader perspective raises the issue as to whether
long term regional food security is possible without land reform in
Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa, especially if large estates occupying
the best land in all three countries continue to produce for a global
market and are allowed to off-shore profits. Further, it is not efficient
to source food from thousands of miles away, when the region can easily
be food self-sufficient and have enough land left over for cash crops. Finally, those who preach the efficiency and freedom of the market for
agriculture do not practice free trade. What alternative policies
are there for food security?
not been entirely commodified in Zimbabwe and redistributed land will
go partially into title deeds, but there will also be communal land
and state land. A major study by United Nations Research Institute
for Social Development (UNRISD) demonstrates the dire consequences of the simplistic "solution" of title deeds:
Available data indicate
increasing inequalities, and falling food production and average
daily calorie consumption per person in most sub-Saharan African countries
where ownership of communal lands has been privatized. Empirical
evidence also suggests that most of the buyers of land are politicians,
senior government officials and urban land speculators, all of whom
know the law and registration procedures, and have contacts with credit
institutions and land surveyors (emphasis
the current international demand of "willing seller-willing buyer"
is not feasible, given apartheid debt. It has not been implemented
far and wide across the world because it is too costly. For such a
policy to be implemented, the international community would have to
forgive Zimbabwean (and South African) debt and still provide funds
for the land purchases. Otherwise, only the privileged will be able
to acquire land. Presenting an elected government
of Zimbabwe with only one option, and one that is not even remotely
feasible, intensifies the conflict, instead of providing a solution.
to the principles of SAPs, the state will have to play a major role
both in land reform and in food security for the foreseeable future.
"Market forces" are very much that in southern Africa: forced markets. The US and the
EU constantly criticize each other for not having free markets in food
production because of increasing subsidies.
As shown in statistics above, both are right. Perhaps a new policy
approach could be that until and unless the two leading food exporters,
US and EU, open their food production to global market forces, then
not practice free trade in agricultural commodities, need not follow
the demand for "national treatment" and need not respect patents
on plants and seed. We could call for a moratorium on such provisions
of the WTO, the USA Trade and Development Act and
the Cotonou agreement.
In addition to questioning
the internationally accepted approach to land reform and the internationally
advocated total market liberalization, southern Africans challenge the
policy that food security will be provided by trading a few commodities
on the global market. One pillar of southern African food security
is the production of grains for the regional market, stored for ready
availability in times of crisis. SADC has been coordinating this effort
since the 1984 drought. Another pillar, most often ignored by the North,
is the production of biodiverse food crops by small scale farmers, including
urban agriculture in countries like Zimbabwe and Tanzania. Time and
again, when the first pillar has buckled, as in the drought of 1991/92
and in Zimbabwe today because of political oppression, it is the second
one which keeps people alive. SADC officials and NGOs in the region
are trying to strengthen this pillar.
SADC members have several
projects which value indigenous knowledge of small scale food production
-- from farmers' schools, farmer directed research projects, local seed
banks and seed distribution, to alternatives to chemical fertilizers
and pesticides. To give just one example, small scale farmers directing research agendas
has been successfully pursued in Tanzania, and the goal is expansion
of this approach across the region by SADC/ICRISAT. In 1999/2000, farmers
in Arusha and Kilimanjaro districts directed research requests to relevant
Tanzanian research institutes. Thirty research projects reflected well
the priorities of the small scale farmers: improved multipurpose trees,
intercropping of maize/pigeonpeas (black-eyed peas), use of local resources
as mineral supplements for livestock, integration of protein-rich fodder
crops, improved vegetable varieties for lowland conditions, use of indigenous
cover crops to improve maize yields, and screening of natural pesticides.
These and other farmer-directed
projects operate on the principle that small-scale farms producing diverse
crops provide more food security in southern Africa than international
markets provisioned by industrial agriculture. This study is suggesting
that this second pillar of food security may soon be toppled by international
trade regimes and by patenting of plants/seeds. Genetic pollution by
GMOs also endangers locally developed strains of maize and soya.
Addressing the international
context for the current Zimbabwe crisis does not minimize the importance
of the domestic causes of the crisis. An international perspective
does turn the focus to continuing constraints on change in Zimbabwe,
even after internal political transformation. As discussed above, these
constraints are severe and antithetical to the interests of the majority
of the Zimbabwean people. As the international community engages to
assist Zimbabweans in transforming their political and economic relations,
that community is also responsible for addressing international exigencies
which will impede any Zimbabwean political leaders in pursuing national
interests for transfers of land, for multiple regional markets, and
for regional food security. By ignoring the global constraints, international
actors set up a situation in which it will be difficult for any elected
government to rule. Alternative policies exist in the region, but they
conflict with dominant international agendas. This source of crisis
is as important to address as internal ones. The stakes are high, nothing
less than the long-term viability of the political economies of Zimbabwe
and southern Africa.
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Carol B. Thompson, Professor, Political Economy, Northern
Arizona University, has written on Southern African food security issues
since 1980. With three books and numerous articles on SADC (Southern
African Development Community), she has been a consultant to UNICEF,
SADC, the Governments of Zambia and Zimbabwe, and numerous international
development agencies on agriculture and trade issues.
Reference Style: The following is the
suggested format for referencing this article: Thompson, Carol B. "Globalizing
Land and Food in Zimbabwe Implications for Southern Africa." African
Studies Quarterly 7, no.2&3: [online] URL: http://web.africa.ufl.edu/asq/v7/v7i2a10.htm