2012 Sep JM How Zimbabwe lost its food sovereighnty and security

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2012 Sep JM How Zimbabwe lost its food sovereighnty and security
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  Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung  1 HOW Z IMBABWE LOST ITS FOOD SOVEREIGNTY AND SECURITY JOS MARTENS   “From bread basket to basket case”; countless articles have carried this heading over the years, but as denigrating and as inaccurate as the phrase is it caught on in the discourse about Zimbabwe Yet again Zimbabwe is experiencing drought with famine affecting at least 1.4 of the 12.6 million people (Future Directions International, July 2012) still living in the country. Three to four million left the country due to the crisis and now live abroad mainly in neighbouring South Africa. USAID estimates show a national cereal production of 1.1 million MT for 2011/2012, 33% lower than the year before and 15% lower than the 2006-2011 average of 1.3 million MT (FEWSNet April-September 2012 Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook). Drought mostly affects people in rural areas located in the drier, southern and south-western regions of the country and is further exacerbated by the availability of few alternative sources of income. This year it also affected the usually wetter Eastern province of Manicaland. Zimbabwe’s rural population swelled over the years with increased numbers of people returning to their rural villages after having lost their jobs in town (unemployment is still around 70%). Another large, vulnerable group comprises 300.000-350.000 farm workers and their families, most of whom lost their  jobs under the Land Reform Programme instituted by the then ZANU-PF Government under President Robert Mugabe and are now seasonal migrant workers. Worldwide, Robert Mugabe’s detractors point at the land reform programme, corruption and incompetence as the causes of Zimbabwe’s food shortages, while his supporters invariably point at drought and the economic boycott by the West as the true reasons. While both parties are partially right they overlook several crucial factors. Primarily, the indiscriminate sell-off of Zimbabwe’s strategic grain reserve with the introduction of the Structural Adjustment Programme, ESAP, in the early nineties; a continued focus on maize exports throughout the nineties; a departure from food crop production, firstly by large-scale commercial farmers, but increasingly emulated by small-scale and communal farmers, towards cash crops for export and an agricultural modernisation policy which, over the past 30 years, has benefitted only 20% of the communal farmers. In the final account, however, famine is irrevocably linked to widespread poverty SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 01/2012 ROSA LUXEMBURG STIFTUNG SOUTHERN AFRICA  2   Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung   ZIMBABWE ’ S DROUGHT HISTORY  Zimbabwe is no stranger to disaster; since 1980 no less than 14 droughts, 20 epidemics, 7 floods and 2 storms hit the country. Of the 14 droughts some have been more widespread than others and have affected larger numbers of people. UNRISD, the UN Research Institute for Social Development, characterises in a 2012 publication on its website (www.preventionweb.net  ) six seasons as major drought disasters (excluding the present one): Table 1: Major droughts in Zimbabwe 1980-2010 1  Season No. of people affected 1982/83 700.000 1991/92 5.000.000 1998/99 55.000 2001/02 6.000.000 2007/08 2.100.000 2010/11 1.680.000 Source: UNRISD, 2012, preventionweb.net The central question, however, is how it was possible for Zimbabwe to transform from a once self-sufficient, food secure and self-reliant country into one that is structurally producing less than it needs and has to regularly extend a begging bowl to the outside world. THE FOOD SECURE 1980’ S  In order to sustain itself Zimbabwe needs to produce on average about 2 million MT of maize annually, including 300.000 MT for livestock and other uses. In the first 10 years of its independence it generally managed to meet these requirements and avert famine, despite having had to deal with 4 serious droughts (see Figure 1 in the Appendix). Two major factors contributed to this. After independence in 1980 the Zimbabwe Government redirected its efforts to infrastructure development (roads, collection points and depots), credit, research, extension and training services towards the development of small-scale agriculture in the communal areas (ZCTU, 1996; Beyond ESAP). As a result, by 1986, 60% of the country’s maize was produced by communal farmers, up from less than 10% before independence. Large-scale farming activities were gradually moving away from maize into cash crops such as tobacco and horticulture, but the increase in maize production by the communal farmers more than compensated for this. In addition, the parastatal Grain Marketing Board (GMB) held over three years of maize food security reserves (almost 2 million MT) and over eight years of small grains (T.S. Jayne et al in “Zimbabwe’s agricultural revolution revisited”, 2006 by M. Rukuni et al). 1  A chronology of all 14 droughts of the past 30 years can be found in Figure 1 of the Appendix, which also shows Zimbabwe’s maize production figures for the period.  Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung  3 THE 1990’ S :  DECREASING FOOD SECURITY ,  LOST FOOD SOVEREIGNTY ,  MORE EXPORTS  Maintaining a guaranteed pan-territorial and pan-season price, operating more than 100 grain depots, selling maize at subsidised prices to the urban millers and maintaining a large stockpile was costly, but considered necessary for the sake of food security. It was more expensive as, at that time, Zimbabwe could only export its surpluses below cost price because the world market price for maize was depressed by about 40% due to subsidized sales from both the European Union (then EC) and the USA. Despite friend and foe considering the GMB to be efficiently managed, it thus still incurred a large annual loss. When in 1990 Zimbabwe embraced an IMF and WB inspired neoliberal restructuring programme, ESAP (Economic Structural Adjustment Programme), pressure mounted on the GMB to sell its large reserves, close non-profitable grain depots and drastically reduce its subsidies. As Stoneman and Thompson argue: “ Although it is too simple to state (as some commentators have done) that the World Bank ordered the GMB to sell off its maize stockpile  just before the drought began, there is no doubt that it was under pressure to meet the schedule of deficit reduction in order to break even in 1995”. (1994, C. Stoneman and C. Thompson, “  Banking on hunger: Food security in Zimbabwe” in AfricaFiles, Southern Africa Report Vol.9, no 3). Then the drought of 1991/92 arrived. While Zimbabwe had in 1990 and 1991 exported 742,026 MT and 487,234 MT of maize, in 1993 and 1994 it was compelled to import 1,208,060 MT and 492,000 MT respectively, while simultaneously exporting 25,345 MT and 215,827 MT of maize (FAOSTAT, 2012). Within the decennium two more droughts occurred (1994/95 and 1997/98) while Zimbabwe’s maize stocks further dwindled as the country continued exporting maize notwithstanding a structurally insufficient production. Table 2: Zimbabwe maize production and net exports over 10-year periods Decennium Production in 10 yrs Nett exports in 10 yrs Decrease in reserves 1980-1989 19,059,296 MT   2,360,782   > 3 MT   1990-1999 16,835,580 MT   2,057,585   > 5 MT   Source: Calculated from FAOSTAT data Over the same period, government also introduced export incentives and cash crop stimulus measures and both communal and small-scale farmers increasingly diversified into cash crop production. The acreage under seed cotton increased from 90,000 ha’s in 1980 and 230,000 ha’s in 1990 to 370,000 ha’s in 2000 (see Figure 1 in the Appendix). The average yield per hectare decreased slightly – from 1055 kg/ha to 884 kg/ha - as Large-Scale Commercial Farmers moved out of cotton production. While 569 LSC farmers still grew cotton in 1991, by 1997 their number had shrunk to 140. Between 1985 and 1995 another striking change happened in the distribution channels of fertiliser: in 1985, 52% of Zimbabwe’s fertiliser was distributed by cooperative unions, 21% by AFC small lending groups (informal groups of small farmers who under collective accountability obtained loans from the parastatal’s Agricultural Finance Corporation) and 27% by rural traders and fertiliser manufacturers.  4   Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung  Ten years later this picture had completely reversed. In 1994 as little as 1% was distributed through cooperative unions, while the share for rural traders and manufacturers had increased to 35% and 50% respectively. THE F AST T RACK L AND R EFORM P ROGRAMME AND POLITICAL - ECONOMIC CRISIS PERIOD FROM 2000 In the midst of general donor fatigue which characterised the nineties, negotiations with the British government over finances for land acquisitions collapsed in 1996. In 1998 the Zimbabwean government hosted a land conference in Harare, involving international donors and multilateral institutions; however responses in support of Mugabe’s “inception phase framework plan” were ambivalent with little resources forthcoming. In 2000, under pressure of increased land occupations and after a hastily crafted draft constitution had been rejected in a referendum, the Zimbabwe government then embarked on its Fast Track Land Reform Programme. By 2004 more than 3,000 of the 4,000 white-owned large-scale commercial farms had been compulsorily acquired. It is beyond the scope of this article to go into detail about this exercise; however, a few facts are relevant to our topic on food production. While the reform programme thoroughly disrupted and largely crippled large-scale farming, production in the communal areas continued during the first years of the new millennium. National maize yields in the good rainfall years of 2003/04 and 2005/06 were 1.7 MT and 1.5 MT respectively. While this was well below the national needs of 2 MT, it was not too bad considering that most of the maize now came from communal and resettlement famers who previously had produced some 60% of the nation’s harvest. Only in the second half of the decennium, notwithstanding good rainfall, maize production dropped and remained below the 1 million MT mark. These were the years that Zimbabwe’s economy truly started collapsing. Hyperinflation begun in earnest in 2007 reaching 66,212.3% from “only” 1,281.11% in 2006; it quickly skyrocketed to around 500,000,000,000% by the end of 2008. Not only did this devastate daily life, it entirely upset agricultural production as it became much more lucrative to trade in inputs like seeds and fertiliser than using them in a sustained 6 months growing cycle. Concurrently, the political situation had further deteriorated, Zimbabwe’s infrastructure had all but collapsed and a small, politically and military connected elite, enriched itself further by profiting from ad hoc and emergency measures and policies. Another factor to be clarified is the general impression that it was a small elite (made up of political bigwigs, senior civil servants, the military and politically connected individuals), that grabbed most of the farms during the Fast Track Land Reform. While there is definitely some truth in this, numerical data show a much more nuanced picture. Between 2000 and 2010 about 9,100,000 hectares was redistributed. Some 5.750.000 hectares went to approximately 200.000 small farmers (mostly from the communal areas, now called A1 farmers) increasing their total number to 1,321.000. Picture 1 in the Appendix shows for that period also an increase in the area of land planted with maize. Three million hectares of land were acquired by some 22.700 new “middle-size” farmers, with an average farm size comparable to the old group of 8.500 small-scale commercial farmers. The number of black large-scale commercial farmers increased by 217 from 956 in 2000 to 1173 in 2010 - these 217 jointly received 508,900 hectares. The emergence of this group, perhaps together with the top of the middle-sized farm group, fuelled the heated debate about cronyism, multiple farm ownerships and land grabbing by the elite. While in essence the phenomenon exists, the figures show that it was generally blown out of proportion and discussions obscured the picture that Zimbabwe’s agrarian structure had indeed fundamentally changed (S. Moyo, Journal of Peasant Studies, July 2011: “Three decades of agrarian reform in Zimbabwe”  ).  Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung  5 CONSIDERATIONS FOR FUTURE STRATEGIES  At least three more observations are needed to inform the formulation of an agricultural strategy for the future. They directly concern the group of farmers that is most critical from a perspective of food security and starvation, i.e. the 1,321.000 communal and resettlement farmers, occupying 78.6% of the land. The first observation is that of all these farmers only about 20% produce, on average, a surplus over and above their own family needs. Even the “miracle” maize increase by the small farmers in the 1980’s was almost fully produced by the “top” 20% who had easier access to inputs such as seeds, fertiliser and credit and lived in areas with better soil and higher rainfall. Neither government’s pre-ESAP high-input agriculture efforts (including an excellent coverage of the communal areas by the extension service of 1 extension worker per 800 farmers), nor the free market, private sector thrust of the last 20 years has succeeded in substantially increasing the production of the “bottom” 80%. It even rendered many of them more vulnerable to drought as mono-cropping, use of high yielding maize varieties at the expense of small grains and the application of fertilisers increases the risk of crop failure in drought-prone areas. As, apart from farming, income opportunities in these regions are scant, these farming families are the poorest and therefore most food insecure. Compounding this situation is the realisation that climate change is already increasingly manifesting itself in Zimbabwe with erratic rainfall evidenced in particular by a lengthening of the typical dry spell in January (Chamunoda Zambuko, Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department, 2011). The frequency of failed harvests due to drought (this year already the fifth one within 9 years), most prevalent in the Western and Southern parts of the country, is also testimony to climatic change. Based on the above insights, any agricultural policy that aims at preventing wide spread hunger or famine, will have to focus not only on national food security and food sovereignty but first and foremost at pursuing food security and sovereignty at local level. Government support is paramount for the 80% below-subsistence level farmers in the agriculturally marginal areas; the market can’t and won’t do this. This support however has to entail a completely different type of site-specific, sustainable, ecological form of agriculture, directed first and foremost towards rehabilitation and conservation of the land and agro-ecosystems in order to increase local food security. Food surplus production and growing of cash crops need to be viewed as a long-term goal and might in some regions not be attainable. In such cases the creation of off-farm employment opportunities through a parallel, deliberate government policy of decentralised, labour-intensive industrialisation is even more crucial. Local farmers will have to take the initiative to drive such a process in order for it to have a chance of success. Even under more difficult circumstances, farmers have proven that they can structurally improve their lot as, for example, farmers in Niger have done (http://www.ifpri.org/publication/agroenvironmental-transformation-sahel).  Finally, further analysis of Zimbabwe’s maize exports and imports over the past 30 years yields some interesting insights.
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