Staying the Course in Supporting Land Reforms in Zimbabwe

Apr 6, 2016

For decades, UNDP has been involved in Zimbabwe’s land reform process. Photo: UNDP

With EU and UNDP support, key stakeholders in Zimbabwe’s land sector held face-to-face talks in Harare on 31 March, 2016, setting the stage for a dialogue process that is crucial in unlocking the country’s huge agricultural potential through a sustainable land reform process.

The stakeholder workshop on consensus-based compensation mechanisms brought together representatives from relevant Government ministries, donor agencies, farmers’ organizations, NGOs, private sector , academia and the media.

Through the USD $ 7.8 million four-year initiative funded by the EU and UNDP that started in 2014, the Ministry of Lands and Rural Resettlement seeks to improve the regulatory framework and management of the land, which can subsequently contribute to the revival of agriculture as a key driver for economic and social development in Zimbabwe.

“We have been in the trenches for too long. This is the time to get out of the trenches, talk to each other and restore confidence; compensation is a constitutional obligation and let's us first agree on the figures…” explained the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, Hon. Patrick Chinamasa, adding that any compensation mechanisms proposed must be home-grown and take cognizance of the economic situation in the country.

In his remarks, the Minister of Lands and Rural Resettlement Hon. Douglas Mombeshora, said that in line with the Constitution, the Ministry has started to undertake valuations of all the farms acquired by the government, to determine the necessary compensation.

“To date, my Ministry has valued 1519 farms out of 6,240 and 240 previous owners have been fully compensated and 17 partially paid”.

Calling for a consensus based compensation that is “workable and acceptable to all concerned, in line with the existing guidelines and procedures and internal jurisprudence. The EU does strongly emphasize the importance of carrying out this exercise in an inclusive manner, where all parties concerned (including the various Farmers Unions) are not only consulted but can contribute to reach a consensus about the key criteria and mechanism established.” Ambassador Philippe Van Damme, the Head of EU Delegation to Zimbabwe stressed the need for the effective implementation of the land reform programme.

“For many years the implementation of this reform has generated frustrations and conflict situations” he said, adding the EU- supported programme has the “ambition to be catalytic in addressing the critical areas towards the finalization of some outstanding issues such as base mapping and surveying of the resettled areas, valuation of land and its improvements, conflict resolution, review of the land tenure policy, as well as supporting the functioning of the forthcoming Land Commission”.

Describing agriculture as the backbone of the economy with land being an important factor of production, UNDP Resident Representative Mr. Bishow Parajuli said land reforms are key to successful implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). “Land ownership, especially by the rural populations will have a significant effect in raising agricultural productivity, rural incomes, reducing poverty and improvement in food security. As such, resolving the land issue will have a significant boost to the economy and in achieving SDGs” observed the Resident Representative, in remarks read on his behalf by the UNDP Country Director, Ms. Verity Nyagah.

“UNDP is happy to be a partner in bringing global knowledge, applying it to local context and taking this process forward for greater benefit of the Zimbabweans”.

Speaking on behalf of commercial farmers, Mr. John Laurie, hailed the forum as a milestone.

“We see this as the formation of a team based exercise where Government and the commercial farmers work together to reach a mutually beneficial resolution to the land reform programme in terms of full and fair compensation for losses suffered by the farmers” he said.

For decades, UNDP has been involved in Zimbabwe’s land reform process.  Following the 1998 international conference on land in Zimbabwe, then UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown visited Zimbabwe in 2000 to understand the land issues confronting the country. Towards end of 2000 UNDP fielded another mission which made specific recommendations on sustainable land reform in Zimbabwe.  At the Commonwealth meeting in Abuja, in September 2001, it was concluded that UNDP should coordinate with Government and donors for sustainable land reform in Zimbabwe.

Subsequently, in 2010, UNDP started engaging the EU, the World Bank and other donors with the aim of developing a start-up lands programme.  “Out of conviction, that this country and majority of population is rural-based UNDP has stayed the course for many years for the good of this country,” explained UNDP programme coordinator based at the Lands Ministry, Mr.  Ambrose Made.

“The fact that we are now addressing the outstanding  issues such as consensus-based compensation mechanism shows that we have reached a tipping point in the land reform process in Zimbabwe” he asserted.

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In Harare: Sam Mwiti,

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