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THE LANDS MINISTER PERRANCE SHIRI HAS REDUCED farm sizes for all individual farms in Zimbabwe’s five ecological regions.
The government argues that a reduction in farm sizes will lead to more people having access to land and also boost capacity utilisation of land.
The farms grabbed during the controversial land grab under Mugabe are said to be unnecessarily big and underutilised. Zimbabwe is divided into five agro-ecological regions, known as natural regions (Figure 1), on the basis of the rainfall regime, soil quality (Figure 2) and vegetation among other factors. The quality of the land resource declines from Natural Region (NR) I through to NR V
Natural Region IThis region lies in the east of the country. It is characterized by rainfall of more than 1 000 mm/year (most of which falls throughout the year), low temperatures, high altitude and steep slopes. The country’s timber production is located in this region. The plantations are owned mainly by the State through the Forestry Commission and by multinationals. There are several small owner-operated plantations and sawmills. NR I is ideally suitable for intensive diversified agriculture and livestock production, mainly dairy farming. Common crops are tropical crops such as coffee and tea, deciduous fruits, such as bananas and apples, and horticultural crops, such as potatoes, peas and other vegetables. Flowers, such as proteas
Natural Region IIThis region is located in the middle of the north of the country. The rainfall ranges from 750 to 1 000 mm/year. It is fairly reliable, falling from November to March/April. Because of the reliable rainfall and generally good soils, NR II is suitable for intensive cropping and livestock production. It accounts for 75-80 percent of the area planted to crops in Zimbabwe. The cropping systems are based on flue-cured tobacco, maize, cotton, wheat, soybeans, sorghum, groundnuts, seed maize and burley tobacco grown under dryland production as well as with supplementary irrigation in the wet months. Irrigated crops include wheat and barley grown in the colder and drier months (May-September). NR II is suitable for intensive livestock production based on pastures and pen-fattening utilizing crop residues and grain. The main livestock production systems include beef, dairy, pig and poultry. Prior to 2000, the region was dominated by the large-scale farming subsector characterized by highly mechanized farms of 1 000-2 000 ha under freehold title and owner-operated. Following the agrarian and land reform programmes initiated in 1999/2000, a large proportion of the farms were subdivided into smaller units and allocated to new farmers under the A1 and A2 small-scale farming system.
Natural Region IIINR III is located mainly in the mid-altitude areas of the country. It is characterized by annual rainfall of 500-750 mm, mid-season dry spells and high temperatures. Production systems are based on drought-tolerant crops and semi-intensive livestock farming based on fodder crops. The predominant farming system is smallholder agriculture. Large-scale farming accounts for 15 percent of the arable land production, most of the land being used for extensive beef ranching (Roth, 1990). Smallholder agriculture in the communal farming areas is under relatively intensive cropping systems. The main crops are maize (the staple foodgrain) and cotton (a major cash crop). NR III is suitable for the production of groundnuts and sunflowers as cash crops.
Natural Region IVNR IV is located in the low-lying areas in the north and south of the country. The characteristics of the region are: annual rainfall of 450-650 mm, severe dry spells during the rainy season, and frequent seasonal droughts. Although NR IV is considered unsuitable for dryland cropping, smallholder farmers grow drought-tolerant varieties of maize, sorghum, pearl millet (mhunga) and finger millet (rapoko). NR IV is ideally suitable for cattle production under extensive production systems and for wildlife production.
Natural Region VNR V covers the lowland areas below 900 m above sea level in both the north and south of the country. The rainfall is less than 650 mm/year and highly erratic. Although NR V receives reasonable rainfall in the northern part of Zimbabwe along the Zambezi River, its uneven topography and poor soils make it unsuitable for crop production. Generally, NR V is suitable for extensive cattle production and game-ranching.
Although both NR IV and NR V are too dry for crop production, households on the communal lands in these regions grow grain crops (maize and millet) for their food security and some cash crops such as cotton. Crop yields are extremely low and the risk of crop failure is high in one out of three years (Rukuni and Eicher, 1994). Cattle and goat production are major sources of cash income.
The Zimbabwe Government compulsorily acquired over 12 million hectares of arable land previously occupied by white farmers, resulting in some black beneficiaries getting vast swathes of land they cannot put to effective use.
The downsizing of farms, which has been ongoing, starts with recommendations from the respective provincial lands committees.
The Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement proceeds to formally advise the current landholder of Government’s intention to downsize the farm, clearly indicating the reasons why the move has been deemed necessary.
In that letter of notice, the farmer is requested to indicate his/her acceptance or disapproval of the proposed downsizing within a period of seven days from the date of receiving the notice of the intention to downsize.
If the affected farmer has issues to raise, he/she approaches the ministry.
According to the new law, no one is allowed to own a farm with more than 250 hectares in ecological region one.
In a Government Gazette published on Friday, Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister Perrance Shiri announced the maximum number of hectares one can own in any ecological region.
Part of the Government Gazette reads: “It is hereby notified that the Minister of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement has in terms of section 21 of the Land Commission Act (Chapter 20:21) made the following regulations:
“Subject to sections 5 and 6, no person shall own a farm in Natural Region One if the size of the farm exceeds 250 hectares or Natural Region Two if the size of the farm exceeds 500 hectares or Natural Region Three if the size of the farm exceeds 700 hectares or Natural Region Four if the size of the farm exceeds 1 000 hectares or Natural Region Five if the size of the farm exceeds 2 000 hectares.”
Natural Region One covers areas that receive an average rainfall above 1 000 millimetres per year, while Region Two receives an average rainfall between 650 millimetres and 1 000 millimetres annually.
In Region Three, rainfall received per year is between 650 millimetres and 800 millimetres, whereas in Region Four the maximum rainfall received annually is around 650 millimetres and is characterised by periodic droughts.
Natural Region Five covers those areas that normally receive low and erratic rainfall of less than 650 millimetres.
Natural Region One is suitable for dairy farming forestry, tea, coffee, fruit, beef and maize production, while Region Two is suitable for intensive farming, based on maize, tobacco, cotton and livestock.
Region Three is a semi-intensive farming region, suitable for livestock production, together with production of fodder crops and cash crops under good farm management.
Region Four is semi-extensive region, suitable for farm systems based on livestock and resistant fodder crops, forestry and wildlife/tourism.
Region Five is an extensive farming region, suitable for cattle ranching, forestry and wildlife/tourism.
A preliminary report of the land audit showed that some people own huge farms in natural regions one and two, which were not being fully utilised.
In some cases, some people were multiple farm owners in those prime regions, denying others an opportunity to have access to land.
President Mnangagwa has on several occasions hinted that once the full land audit report was out, Government would repossess some of those farms and allocate them to those on the waiting list for farms. Sibusiso Ngwenya-source FAO, Agritex, Herald
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