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1. Conceptual Approach and Justification

Land is undoubtedly the most valued resource the world over, particularly in agriculturally based economies such as Zimbabwe. Land distribution can therefore be a source of substantial anxiety if not handled properly. Several land redistribution concepts have been suggested by various interest groups. It is virtually impossible to judge any of the suggestions as universally superior as this would depend on the view point of the judge. The Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union (ICFU) is an interest group incorporating interests of indigenous commercial farmers most of whom are new entrants in agriculture.

2. ICFU’s Conceptual Framework on Land Reform

ICFU has a clear vision on what the fundamentals of land redistribution should be. The guiding principles are summarised as follows:

  • Production base to be expanded in order to create a basis for growth of agro-based industries leading to creation of wealth for the country.
  • Improvement of land utilisation efficiency based on rationalised land size in line with productivity potentials of each agro-ecological environment.
  • Expansion of on-farm employment and improvement of employment conditions.
  • Restoration of dignity in farm labour through certification of farm labour skills
  • competency.
  • Improvement of social aspects within the farming environment.
  • Review of the land tenure system with an aim to create or restore confidence in all sectors of farming. Emphasis on freehold title and lease/tenant system backed by strong guarantee on security.
  • There should be a clear demarcation between subsistence level resettlement models intended mainly for alleviation of land pressure in communal areas and commercial settlement models whose main aim is to produce nationally strategic agricultural products on a business basis. The latter should have cost recovery mechanisms to be implemented in conjunction with the settlers.
  • It should be borne in mind that the solutions to the land distribution problems should be well thought out in order for such solutions to be in the long-term interest of all Zimbabweans. A consensus should be pursued in a transparent manner, which should be seen to be promoting an honest and transparent debate free of intimidation and posturing. Equally, those who hold land should not be allowed to dictate which and how much land they are willing to parcel out as this will postpone equitable distribution.
  • Although it is acknowledged that there is an urgent need to address land needs of the landless, that goal alone should not be the guiding force, but instead should be taken in conjunction with the overall national vision on development. In other words, all people should be educated on prospects of land use emphasizing what is feasible and viable based on the present status of Zimbabwe as a nation. Once a common understanding is reached Government should play a co-ordinating and facilitating role in mobilising all the participants and resources towards achievement of the set goal. Government should, itself, be prepared to lead to ensure that the identified steps are being followed. Several interest groups will obviously have roles to play in the whole process, but it should be emphasized

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    that these groups should be co-ordinated by Government and their respective roles should remain clear to all participants.

3. Logical Steps in the Commercial Settlement Process

  1. Selection of farms from the farms identified for acquisition suitable for the commercial settlement scheme.

    This could be done by a team consisting of technical planners and representatives of ICFU.

  2. Rationalisation of the concept of land size in terms of economically viable units of land in the various agro-ecological zones.

    This could be done by a team consisting technical and physical planners (Surveyor General’s Office, Agritex), Rural District Councils and Technical Division of ICFU.

  3. Development of the basic physical infrastructure in line with the units identified on (ii) above. These developments will include demarcation of boundaries with perimeter fencing, construction of access roads to the main service point within each unit, construction of a certain basic dwelling structure for the tenant/prospective buyer, clearing of at least half of the arable land, provision of water for at least 25% of the arable area (up to a maximum of 50ha depending on the intended enterprises), and installation of electricity to the residence/service point and the water pumping points.

    This could be done by technical and physical planners in conjunction with a contractor supervised by a developer.

  4. Formulation of a prospectus for all properties selected and developed for offer to tenants/prospective buyers. Each unit’s description will be accompanied by a list of fixed assets (and their cost) already attached to each unit.

    This could be done by the Agricultural Management services (Agritex) in collaboration with the Developer and Rural District Councils representative and a representative from ICFU.

  5. Identification and selection of prospective settlers based on a set criteria formulated by Government in conjunction with ICFU and ZFU.

    The process of selection of settlers will be supervised by a special land settlement commission with a wide spectrum of representation.

  6. Contract drafting and administration of contract to the selected interested settlers.

    The drafting will be done by the Attorney General’s office in consultation with the Department of Lands (MoLA), ICFU and ZFU. Administration of the contract will be by the rural district councils in the respective areas where land is located as per recommended list of names of prospective settlers in (v) above. Monthly returns of the contracts offered will be submitted to the special Land Settlement Commission which will have a final approval authority. The successful settlers will be notified within a

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    period of 2 months from the application submission date with the Rural District Council office.

  7. The settlers will be required to undergo training in areas identified as needing such. There may be a requirement for some settler farmers to spend at least one year with an experienced commercial farmer understudying the established farmer. In addition, or alternatively some settler farmers may be required to enrol in a course on business success competency in order for such farmers to gain some basic necessary skills in commercial farming of their selected enterprise.

    Members of ICFU who have been involved in commercial farming for at least five years would be ideal to train and/or share their experiences with their newly settled counterparts. Other commercial farmers would be free to participate in this programme. The structured courses on basic business skills would be organised in conjunction with ICFU who already offer such courses to their members.

  8. Technical performance monitoring and assistance on a day-to-day (continual) basis. The newly settled farmers will be required to submit their farm plans within a short period of their offer for settlement to a special Commercial Settlement Technical Committee which will be decentralised to province or district level depending on the concentration of settlers in a given area.

    The Commercial Settlement Technical Committee will consist of members from Agritex, AFC, other interested financial institutions, commodity association chairman (ICFU) for concerned commodities as well as commodity marketing organisations.

    This committee may co-opt other members it sees fit.

Historical experience.

White commercial farmers are where they are today because government worked very closely with Rhodesia National Farmers' Union (RNFU) leaders who ensured that the settlement programmes were successful. A system of young farmer apprenticeship was put in place and these were trained for 2 - 5 years and then went to farm on their own. For more mature would-be farmers, a year on a farm prior to occupation would assist in avoiding mistakes, preferably within the locality of the new settler. Good neighbourliness was a major factor in determining the success of the planned settlement programmes and we quote, "Rhodesian farmers will help others (new European settlers) and thus help themselves." (Rhodesian Farmer April 9th 1965). Promotion of good neighbourliness was supported even at national level. With the coming of independence and blacks entering commercial farming for the first time in the history of the country, they met with hostilities from the white neighbours and any token of neighbourliness was at best superficial and at worst as a way of dispossessing blacks of their land.

ICFU will develop genuine co-operation between indigenous farmers.

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Background to Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union

The Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union was formed in 1990 as an association of concerned indigenous commercial farmers who were also affected by unfair practice of commercial farming as a result of colonial and post-colonial unfair laws which prohibited the entry of indigenous peoples into large scale commercial farming.

ICFU was registered as a farmers’ Union in February 1996 on the initiative of a core group of large-scale indigenous commercial farmers who entered the business after the Independence of Zimbabwe in 1980. The Union operated as an Association from 1991. The founder farmers faced a unique set of challenges that could not be addressed by other existing unions. Indeed, ICFU is also unique by virtue of having been founded by farmers themselves to address specific issues.

Mission Statement

Being a lawful organisation which respects merit and equal opportunity in the practice of commercial farming in Zimbabwe, ICFU will use, among other lawful strategies, affirmative action concepts to redress unfair practices currently militating against new entrants into commercial farming. The main objective of the organisation is to improve the productivity of member farmers through provision of support services and framework for the attainment of a conducive operating environment. To date it has been established that members have a common set of challenges listed in the following box. These challenges are the basis of the current and future activities of ICFU.

The challenges faced by members of ICFU are associated with the following:

  • Inadequate technical farming skills
  • Low level of management capability, particularly in financial management
  • Prohibitively high interest rates
  • Financial constraints from a combination of land, equipment and inputs acquisition
  • Marketing of special farm products such as perishables
  • Negative attitudes of some individuals and organisations based on stereotypes and prejudice, and
  • Mitigating activities to counter natural disasters


  • Goals of the Union

    The goals of the Union are as follows:

    • To instil confidence in members involved in the practise of commercial farming.
    • To assist members to achieve optimum productivity through integration of up-to-date information, technology, and material and human resources.
    • To ensure that there is food security at national level

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    • To create wealth for the nation
    • To protect the investments of members against threats of repossession under unfair conditions.
    • To ensure that entry into farming by previously disadvantaged indigenous people is made easier and fairer.

  • Objectives

    The main objective of the union is to organise indigenous commercial farmers into a collective group in order to articulate the group’s interests to the society at large.

    Specific objectives that contribute towards the main objective are as follows:

    • To recruit indigenous commercial farmers into joining the Union by clearly stating the benefits of being an organised group and a member of the Union.
    • To ascertain and quantify the interests of the members in order to be able to categorise the members into sub-groups by interest.
    • To lobby legislators and other policy-makers on behalf of the members in line with their interests.
    • To explore opportunities for the members by conducting (or influencing) relevant research into problems faced by indigenous commercial farmers.
    • To make relevant information accessible to the members through the pursuit of demand driven extension.
    • To improve the reception and adoption extension information by members through training in specific fields.
    • To improve access to better markets by the members
    • To develop a portfolio of services that are in line with members’ interests and offer such services to the members.

ICFU Efforts Towards Settlement Schemes.

1. Training

  • Currently ICFU has initiated farm attachment for university students for eight weeks to give exposure to students on what commercial farming is all about. This should be expanded to give a year post-graduate attachment for those who want to eventually become farmers.

  • Farmer Cadet Training Scheme.
    Indigenous commercial farmers will spearhead On-farm farmer cadet training scheme. Selected settlers are trained on indigenous farms and those trained will undertake to train others.
    The critical component of this approach to training for new settlement farmers is that it must have a multiplier effect. In other words each farmer trained should in turn be prepared to train others and this should be part of the conditions and farmers would be assessed on their performance in training others.

  • Business Success Competence Programme (BSC)
    The course provides the following:
    • Entrepreneurial approach to farm business
    • Analysis of on business performance
    • Improvement of selection of enterprises
    • Improvement of productivity and prospects for financing

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Details of these and other training programmes put in place by the union to ensure success of new farmers can be made available as a separate exercise.
ICFU maintain that all new settlers undergo training either before settlement or On-farm regardless of their professional or educational qualifications.

2. Weaknesses of existing Indigenous settlement/ resettlement schemes.

  • Current large scale indigenous commercial farmers.
    These entered into commercial farming at their own initiative with minimal resources from 1980 onwards. Very limited access to affordable finance and other support services (major factors determining success of any commercial farming undertaking anywhere in the world) has been their greatest let down. This is contrary to their very successful white commercial farmers who got free land, had access to one of the cheapest farming finances in the world provided by the then Land Bank, (now Agricultural Finance Corporation - AFC) and supported by one of the world's best agricultural extension government department in the name of CONEX - Department of Conservation and Extension and State of the art Department of Research and Specialist Services (DR&SS).
    DALF should be set up without delay to wipe out their financial difficulties and start on a sound footing. At least they have demonstrated commitment and have put their foot at the door. Part of seed money to start DALF should come from irredeamable loan funds held by AFC and donor funding.

  • Small Scale Commercial Farming Areas (African Purchase Area)
    "A mouth-to-mouth resuscitation programme" of these areas needs to be put in place for the small scale commercial farming sector. Some small scale commercial farms are in high potential farming areas. There is need to remove structural defects of these schemes which include among others lack of training of farmers sons and daughters, inheritance disputes and lack of basic commercial resources such as electricity, irrigation water (despite some good dam sites) and no marketing infrastructure.
    Pilot projects are already planned for Vuti, Chitomborwizi, Chesa and Gota for tobacco production which will turn those participating into vibrant combat tobacco producing units.

  • Model A
    It is an upgrade of the communal set up but is not significantly different. It will just address accommodation needs and some basic subsistence production but does not contribute towards significant indigenous economic empowerment and there is fear that it will increase the number of dependants during droughts. The other major weakness is that no production targets have been set for farmers in Model A.
    Production targets based on land capability classification should be set and everything done to ensure that those targets are achievable both from farmers point of view and that of the Land Commission.

  • Zimbabwe Tobacco Association-ZTA Small Holder Tobacco Scheme
    Its major drawback is that it is championed by the white sector who always see blacks as small, and always wanted to see blacks remaining small, and will tailor make the programme to ensure that blacks remain small. In short, it is a propaganda exercise, meant to counteract and confuse the envisaged major resettlement programme by government. This programme will therefore never bring blacks into the main stream of tobacco production. It requires overhauling and a minimum of 20 hectares per season per settler

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    should be allocated. (This means a minimum 80 to 100 ha and which translate to between 160 to 200 ha gross).

  • Commercial/ Graduate Settlement Scheme.
    While this is an excellent programme and ICFU is appreciative of government start to this programme, it lacks support systems such as finance, equipment, acquisition and technical support. For example, with the already subdivided ARDA farms such as Coburn and Endeavour estates in Mashonaland West, as soon as settlers moved in, ARDA moved out with everything- irrigation pumps, tractors, and all other machinery and expertise. As a result of this anomaly some of the settled farmers are already resorting to the use of oxen and donkeys on farms which a few months ago were fully mechanised. This is a disgrace to the nation. Yet in the Lowveld Sabi-Limpopo Authority Scheme before independence, land was cleared, prepared, irrigation systems installed, houses built for the farmers in just over 3 months by the state and the wheat was planted on the 1st of May before the new settlers even moved in. What the new farmers were only required to do was to move in and harvest the crop. The scheme had project managers, planning engineers (technical support) and without fail RNFU president always in the shadow ensuring that things were done properly (The Rhodesian Farmer September 23 1966) and this is where the Indigenous Commercial Farmers' Union come in. Another of the many examples to illustrate the great co-operation between RNFU and past white governments is the passing of the Agricultural Assistance Amendment Bill in 1966 instigated by that time's RNFU president T. Mitchell and we quote "the legislation is meant to assist keeping the worthwhile farmer on the land where his troubles are caused by factors other than his own ability." (The Rhodesian Farmer November 25th 1966). The then Minister of Agriculture Mr. Radland said in moving the amendment of the Agricultural Assistance Act a year later said " while the main act allows the Board to assist only those farmers who go into difficulties as a result of the vagaries of the weather or whose crops have been damaged by disease or pests, the Bill seeks to include an Amendment to enable the Agricultural Assistance Board to assist farmers irrespective of the cause of their financial embarrassment" ( Rhodesia Farmer August 18 1967 ).

3. ICFU proposed Farm Settlement Programme

The proposed farm settlement programme has a number of component schemes.

  • Commercial Planned Settlement Scheme
    This should involve settling of well identified, qualified farmers on settlement farms that have already been developed by the state. This is, on the same strategy used by the Sabi-Limpopo Authority to settle white farmers in the Lowveld.

  • Specialised Small to Medium Scale Schemes.
    For high value crops such as sugar-cane, tobacco, dairy, horticultural crops (eg. Tengwe Tobacco Scheme, Rusitu Valley Dairy Development and Mkwasine Settlement Scheme), it is necessary to plan and develop a special scheme to settle small to medium scale farmers.

  • Large Plantation and Agro-Industrial Estates.
    This is to allow indigenous farmers to break into plantation schemes that include agro-industrial processing: sugar estate and milling, tea and coffee.

3. Sources of Farmers to be Settled

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Farmers should be drawn from four main sources:

  • Small Scale Sector
    A proportion of the new farmers could come from this sector from amongst those who demonstrate the ability to run large farms.

  • Experienced Indigenous Farm Managers
    There is a pool of these men, some with University or Agricultural College training who are ready to take up farming if given the chance. Their obstacles include, lack of finance and other resources. ICFU has a database of such individuals.

  • New Graduates
    There are also those graduating from college and University who could undergo a planned farm training before applying for a farm acquisition loan and other support as outlined earlier.

  • Tobacco Farmers
    The Trelawney Training Centre for Tobacco is training blacks using a Diploma syllabus equivalent to TTI but at the end these farmers get Certificates so that they don't compete with their white counterparts both on the job market and settlement land holdings. They are relegated to be settled on 1 hectare while their white counterparts start on 40 hectares. Now that two new centres are operational for Centenary and Marondera, Trelawney should be changed to cater for medium to large scale tobacco training as it is in the heart of large scale producing area. These large scale trainees should be appropriately located. The other two centres planned would be adequate to cater for small scale tobacco production training. They are close to resettlement schemes and communal areas. On the same note current master farmer training or advanced master farmer training should be regarded as introductory to farming. More comprehensive training incorporating use of machinery and maintenance of tractors and other related equipment such as pumps, should be incorporated.

    Lessons can be learnt from experiences of countries such as Egypt, the Giant Gazera Scheme in Sudan, on training of medium scale farmers on mechanisation.

  • Others Sources of Farmers
    Those who go on their own include business men, civil servants who take early retirement and War Veterans. They also need special schemes to get them started on a firm footing. One year on a farm usually could be adequate to give them an orientation.

5. Supporting New Farmers.

  • Finance
    All new loans should have concessionary features such as:
    • 3 years grace period
    • A lower interest rate of say 7.5%
    • Up to 25 years repayment period

  • Types of Financial Assistance Required
    There should be a variety of financial packages along the following lines:

    • Development Loans

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      Development loans should be granted for the purpose of developing the farm to ensure sustainable efficient production. These loans are for irrigation, farm buildings and other developments under the conditions stated earlier.

    • Special Farm Machinery Acquisition Loan
      This facility would cover farm machinery, tractors, farm implements and any other machinery. This loan should have concessionary features as above but with a shorter re-payment period of at least 3 – 6 years.
      A start has been made with the Japanese Aid KRII Programme. The Ministry of Lands & Agriculture has agreed to give the responsibility of distributing 40 tractors to ICFU (payment will be according to the terms agreed with its members). This is a good beginning and more similar schemes need to be put in place so that each settler will have at least one tractor.

    • Livestock Development Credit Scheme
      This scheme would help farmers to venture into pedigree beef breeding, commercial beef breeding, dairy production and pig production. The scheme should have an initial interest rate of 7.5% with a 3 year grace period to allow initial stock building and breeding. Farmers would be granted cash to enable the purchase of livestock on the open market without undue delays.
      Currently negotiations are going on between ICFU and CSC for the lease of Marondera CSC Abattoir by ICFU Consortium. This facility will specialise in pig and small stock slaughter so that both indigenous small holder and large scale producers are not disadvantaged by the Colcom monopoly.

  • Special Crops Programme
    Certified seed - This programme should have specific objectives to train indigenous farmers to enter production of certified seed of all crops. A special fund is needed to support the production, processing and marketing of the certified seed.
    Documents are ready for ICFU to take over maize varieties R201, R 215 parent seed provided the agreement between Government and Seed-Co is terminated. The agreement says Research and Specialist Services breed seed and Seed-Co retain sole right to multiply and distribute that seed. Seed-Co is now breeding its own lines such as SC501 and is maginalising Government bred seed yet these are still good lines.

Crop Diversification Programme - This programme should cover crop diversification eg. the growing of sugar cane, horticultural crops and other strategic crops.
Sugar quotas and milling capacity on existing mills should be allocated to indigenous new farmers.

  • Machinery Allocation Quota

While this is already under way under the Japanese KRII programme, more of such schemes are still required to include other machinery not covered by the KRII programme and to allow indigenous farmers a range of choices.

The Union's overall objectives as far as mechanisation is concerned are:

  • To improve access of farmers to agricultural machinery and equipment.
  • To obtain favourable conditions for the acquisition of agricultural machinery and

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  • To explore means of access other than ownership eg. multi farm use and leasing.

The expected results out of the above objectives are:

  • A wide selection of schemes from which farmers may choose.
  • Better information flow from ICFU leadership to farmers and financiers as well as Government.
  • Better understanding of indigenous farmers' problems by the responsible departments.
  • Specific target schemes to address the specific situations of indigenous farmers.

6. Concluding Remarks

In conclusion, it should be borne in mind that while resettlement to relieve population pressure in the communal areas is the government's political and moral obligation, the long-term and critical objective of the whole exercise should be to ensure the success of indigenous commercial agriculture in this country and doubling or trebling current production both for domestic and export market. It should be made clear at this stage that if no adequate planning, financial and institutional support are put in place, the noble resettlement cause can plunge the nation into a social and economic disaster that will be more difficult to correct than the present situation. It will serve no-one to blame Indigenous farmers and the new settlers for failure caused by inadequate planning and support. On the positive side, Zimbabwe's models of tackling the land distribution exercise will stand as a shining beacon for Southern Africa’s marginalised indigenous majority if properly planned and implemented.

© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | net edition fes-library | August 2001

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