Event Date and time: Wednesday 24th May, 2017 | 19:00–20:30

Venue details: Khalili Lecture Theatre, SOAS | Thornhaugh Street, Russell Square, WC1H 0XG

Organisers: The Royal African Society | Funda

Event website: Post-land reform and the future of agriculture in Zimbabwe

Event cost: Free

In 1980, Zimbabwe was the second most industrialized country in Sub-Saharan Africa (after South Africa) and GDP continued to grow well into the 1990s. Following Zimbabwe’s independence, Julius Nyerere made the memorable comment to Prime Minister Robert Mugabe, that he had ‘inherited the jewel of Africa’. And yet, the government had also inherited a paradox: a majority of its population remained among the most impoverished in the world, virtually untouched by ‘growth without development’.

Some 850,000 peasant families (about three-quarters of the population) still lived crowded on rocky or sandy, infertile and overgrazed lands. These contradictory features of Zimbabwe’s inheritance played a part in the need for an urgent redistribution of land. The ‘willing-buyer-willing-seller’ market-led land reform programme during the 80s and 90s failed to adequately address rural poverty and resettle the targeted 162,000 families.

The recent history of land and agriculture in the country is one of conflict and falling production. In 2000, Zimbabwe embarked on the highly contested Fast Track Land Reform which redistributed over 4000 large scale commercial farms. The overall agricultural production declined by 50% between 2000 and 2007. However, under the FTRL around a million people have settled on new land. Over 146,000 households received smallholder farms and over 23,000 beneficiaries received medium-scale commercial farms.

It is widely agreed that land reform was necessary, the question is, how can Zimbabwe make progress without distributing blame, but learning from past mistakes?

In 2008, The World Bank Report: Agriculture for Development stated that it was time to place agriculture afresh at the centre of the development agenda and poverty reduction. In 2009, an Africa APPG Report: Land in Zimbabwe-Past Mistakes and Future Prospects outlined plans to ‘encourage new socio-cultural links between Zimbabwe and the UK’.

In the transitional and post-Brexit period, we ask what has been achieved in the years since, and investigate whether – and through what means – Zimbabwe could once again become the ‘breadbasket of Africa’.

This event is free and open to all but spaces are limited. Please register on Eventbrite and consider making a donation to the event series.

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