A fragile and unsustained miracle : analysing the development potential of Zimbabwe's resettlement schemes, 1980-2000.
Karumbidza, John Blessing.
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Black fanners' contribution and percentage share of the marketed agricultural produce (especially maize and cotton) increased dramatically following Zimbabwe's independence, especially between 1982 and 1987. Almost unanimously, observers in government and diplomatic circles spoke of this increase as 'phenomenal', attributing it to being a direct result of the government's efforts to increase agricultural production, and calling it a 'success story' and 'agrarian miracle'. This 'miracle' description was adopted by the state controlled and independent media, international donor and 'development' agencies, alike. By 1992, the levels of production achieved in the mid-1980s would not be repeated and this was blamed primarily on drought and the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme (ESAP) adopted by government in 1990. The direct impact of ESAP was the further reduction of government capacity and resources available to support the resettlement sector. By 2000, Zimbabwe was embroiled in a rural upheaval that threatened, reversed and undennined all the gains of the 1980s. The miracle discourse disappeared and in its place agro-pessimism took centre space. The land question rose to the fore amid a heightened outcry of landlessness, Communal Area congestion, poor access to institutional support and declining livelihoods and food security, among other things. This renewed rural crisis raised questions about what had happened to the miracle, exposed the run-down economy, and deepened undemocratic tendencies and a polarised political, economic and social space. The thesis proposed here is that the Zimbabwean government failed to take advantage and expand on the potential for an increased role of the rural sector in the cash economy. What emerged from closer scrutiny of the so-called agrarian transfonnation package for African agriculture was a poorly designed, uncoordinated and under funded quick fix to rural development that hardly moved beyond the mere transfer of land. Notwithstanding the participation of rural communities in the war of national liberation and the high profile nature of the land question during the Second Chimurenga, the post-colonial state apparatus - dominated by an urban nationalist petit bourgeoisie on the one hand, and the weak lobby of the beneficiaries of land refonn on the other - placed African agriculture into the back-seat of policy and political economic priorities. Evidence from Mayo Resettlement Scheme, the primary case study in this thesis, suggests that the argued institutional support and structural changes (basis of the miracle) were at best minimal, under-funded, crisis-averse, ad hoc and poorly coordinated, lacking the support of a concrete policy base, making the miracle at most fragile and in the final analysis unsustainable.