The main crops are corn, tobacco, cotton and citrus fruits. There are also various types of millet and vegetables in small-scale agriculture and sugar cane on large farms. In the pasture industry, cattle farming dominates, with small farms owning only a few animals due to very limited pasture areas, repeated droughts and diseases. Until 1980, only whites were large farm owners.
From 1982 land redistribution was a political and legal issue. Based on changes in the law, approaches to land reform began in 1992. Farm owners could sell all of their farms or land to the government at market prices. But only a minority made use of this. A number of farms went to the new black elite (350 were sold, 400 leased), another part was divided up between medium-sized and small-scale producers in so-called “resettlement” areas.
In the case of married couples, the land tenure rights were registered in the man’s name, which led to family conflicts when he died. If it came to legal disputes, judges mostly decided against the interests of the widows with reference to misogynistic interpretations of the “customary law”. In contrast, according to the pre-colonial division of labor, women were responsible for cultivation, harvest and seed selection. Only in exceptional cases and with the support of development organizations were single women farmers given land.
In the early 1990’s, a severe drought rocked agricultural production. Agro-ecological knowledge that people have developed and passed on during periods of drought is important in times of climate change and in dealing with its consequences. In some places today old people are the guardians of such knowledge. At the same time, old people are particularly affected by their own diseases and the consequences of the HIV / AIDS pandemic. Old women in rural areas have to care for AIDS orphans / grandchildren. They need specific funding and advice programs.
At the end of the second phase of the land reform in 1997, 3.5 million of the planned 15.5 million hectares of land had been distributed to 71,000 families. 162,000 should have already had new farmland available by then. The British government had allocated £ 44 million for land reform. In 1999 there were still eleven million hectares owned by 4,500 large farmers – mostly whites. At the same time, population density and poverty increased in the communal areas, the former reservations. In 2000 only 75,000 people had been relocated.
As part of the Fast Track Resettlement Program, which began in July 2000, the government initially wanted to give one million hectares of land to 30,000 families. Building on this, she wanted to distribute four million hectares to 120,000 families. At that time, the ZANU / PF used these land redistribution plans for their election campaign, the economy was already in recession. A new land acquisition law was swiftly passed through parliament. In July 2002 only 2,900 of 4,500 large farmers were still working, after which they had to leave their land without compensation. With violent farm occupations(also known as Jambanja – direct action or 3rd Chimurenga) some people were killed and several hundred seriously injured. In 2003, 100,000 of the more than 320,000 farm workers had been evicted. However, over 250 large farms owned by South African and European or Zimbabwean companies were able to continue producing. The possibility announced by the ZANU-PF government in July 2019 that foreign agricultural entrepreneurs whose land had been expropriated could apply for compensation for the expropriated farm infrastructure ultimately only affected a small number of those eligible to apply.
In 2011, according to official information, the land was divided among 114,000 households (1.3 million people), 30,000 medium-sized farms and 3,000 individuals. Some observers, who occasionally cooperate with state agricultural advisers, rate this as a success and interpret criteria such as land allocation and yields accordingly. Critics point out that in some places smallholders will be forcibly relocated, especially if they do not achieve the forecast yields. The new large farmers are primarily politicians, the military and business people. Even from unlawful farm appropriations was not shied away, as individual legal disputes show. Individual ministers, politburo members, secret service heads and judges each claimed several dozen farms, but often do not use the land for agricultural production. Still, they received funds under the Farm Mechanization Program – a total of $ 200 million. Patronage was a decisive criterion for the allocation of land to medium-sized and small operators – mostly employees of state institutions who hired tenants. A public hearing on farm appropriations made public in June 2014 that even children of the elite were registered as new farm owners even though they are not of legal age as minors.
Since 2000, women from small and medium-sized farms have only received rights of use, but only in exceptional cases. There were also conflicts on state land and at quasi-state companies that, for example, did not produce basic food. Small farms often lacked the capital to invest. In addition, there were insufficiently adapted agricultural advice, which was particularly problematic in view of the consequences of climate change. The harvests were small, and poverty problems escalated. The supply of the population is still critical because of the politicization. Dependence on international food aid is still a matter of dispute. At the local micro level, vegetable gardens are intended to provide relief. In view of the complexity of the problems and the inequalities in land access and ownership, it is questionable whether, in addition to the advantages for allotment gardeners, this will cover the food supply for an entire country.
According to internetsailors, the supply situation for the population will continue to be problematic. Because many farmers who have sold corn to the state marketing authority, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB), do not receive any money afterwards. For example, the GMB owed them $ 49 million for the 2013-2014 season. Members of the ruling party and other people close to the government were alleged to have ransacked the coffers of the GMB. In 2015, farmers who had produced surpluses decided to sell far below their value to private buyers, but this creates new dependencies and income problems.
After all, the 2017 harvest was relatively successful due to the comparatively good rainfall. There are – depending on the political point of view – competing assessments of the importance of so-called command farming for yields, with massive corruption being criticized in particular.
The politicization of agricultural planning and research can be seen, for example, in the fact that not only data on agricultural productivity, but also the estimates of the FAO and the World Food Program on the need for food aid due to insufficient agricultural yields are questioned by agricultural scientists close to the regime, especially in the context of national elections.