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Tough going for new farmers

The Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union told United States embassy officials that it was prepared to engage in serious discussions and even a merger with the better resourced Commercial Farmers Union.

The Union listed a number of obstacles that the country would have to surmount to get agriculture back to previous production levels.

These included finance, machinery, training, organisations, environmental management, infrastructure and market conditions

 

Full cable:


Viewing cable 04HARARE1693, Tough Going for New Farmers

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Reference ID

Created

Released

Classification

Origin

04HARARE1693

2004-10-12 08:43

2011-08-30 01:44

UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY

Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001693

 

SIPDIS

 

STATE FOR AF/S

USDOC FOR AMANDA HILLIGAS

TREASURY FOR OREN WYCHE-SHAW

PASS USTR FLORIZELLE LISER

STATE PASS USAID FOR MARJORIE COPSON

 

SENSITIVE

 

E. O. 12958: N/A

TAGS: EAGR ECON ETRD EINV PGOV ZI

SUBJECT: Tough Going for New Farmers

 

Sensitive but unclassified.

 

1. (SBU) Summary: In an initial call on the Ambassador,

five Indigenous Commercial Farmers Union (ICFU) officials

spelled out the hurdles they confront merging 12,000 land

reform beneficiaries with their smaller pre-land reform

membership. They also showed a willingness to work with a

broader range of groups in the farming sector to

stimulate debate on critical land policy issues. End

summary.

 

2. (SBU) In introducing his organization, President

Davison Mugabe (no relation to Robert) recounted that

many black commercial farmers broke away from the mostly-

white Commercial Farmers Union (CFU) in 1990 and founded

the ICFU. The ICFU remained smaller than the CFU until

200, when the GOZ began driving white farmers from their

land under fast-track land reform. The organization now

claims an odd mix of 300-400 serious, mostly black

commercial farmers who purchased their land, and 12,000

new members who recently took over or received land under

the GOZ’s so-called “fast track” land reform.

 

3. (SBU) The ICFU officials identified the many obstacles

the country would have to surmount to get agriculture

back to previous levels of productivity. We summarize

below.

 

– Finance. ICFU officials said they expected the GOZ to

issue 99-year leases in the near future, but they did not

know whether the leases would be transferable or could

serve as collateral for loans.

– Machinery. Tractors for tillage of land have been

reduced from 44,000, pre-land reform, to 9,000, according

to the ICFU officials. Irrigation units belonging to

dispossessed farmers are in disrepair, often through

vandalism or misuse.

– Training. The ICFU officials said they lack resources

to provide training to inexperienced new farmers. In the

meantime, they have asked all large-scale ICFU-affiliated

farmers to mentor at least five new farmers. In

subsequent discussion, they evinced a willingness to work

with the CFU on joint training projects.

– Organization. The officials admitted their offices and

other physical facilities are inadequate for an

organization of 12,000 farmers. They admitted their

largely unproductive new members contribute nearly

nothing in dues.

– Environmental Management. They complained that new

farmers are overtaxing resources on formerly white-run

farms by allowing cows to overgraze and by cutting down

too many trees for quick sale as firewood.

– Infrastructure. In oparceling out land to new farmers,

the GOZ has frequently divided one large farm into five

or ten smaller units, without putting any mechanism in

place to collectively manage assets. A new farmer

allotted a plot with water or electricity resources is

not required to share with his new neighbors, according

to the ICFU representatives.

– Market Conditions. The ICFU farmers said GOZ policies

discourage agricultural output, by, for example,

underpaying for grain and tobacco. ICFU Vice-President

Mudzikisi noted that he has shifted production on his

farm from maize to paprika and sorghum, since the GOZ

does not control the prices of these crops.

 

4. (SBU) Comment: We were encouraged that the ICFU

President restated his willingness to engage in formal

talks, and even a merger, with the CFU. Tapping into the

CFU’s still excellent resource base might be the only way

for the ICFU to expand services to new farmers. As

former dues-paying CFU members, ICFU members we talked to

feel they should be able to access the CFU’s superior

facilities, technical expertise, training and

international contacts. “We paid for it,” snapped Wilson

Nyabonda, one of Zimbabwe’s largest tobacco farmers. At

the same time, merging with the predominantly black ICFU

might be the best way for the mostly-white CFU to survive

in the new Zimbabwe. Unfortunately, our contacts with

the CFU suggest that they have not yet adjusted to this

reality.

 

5. (SBU) No one expects a large influx of donor funds for

agricultural recovery at this time. With or without

donor funds, it is impossible to restore output to pre-

land reform levels even in the medium term, absent a

dramatic GOZ policy shift away from centralized control

and towards restoration of the rule of law. In the short-

term, however, coordination among the various farming

unions to stimulate debate on what policies are necessary

to restore agricultural productivity could set the stage

for future progress. Equally important, such

coordination and dialogue on land policy, based on shared

economic interests, would cut across partisan lines and

begin to limit Mugabe’s populist-inspired control of the

land issue. End comment.

 

Weisenfeld

 

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