Some of Zimbabwe's white commercial farmers who lost their land in the government's expropriation program have found a new home in Nigeria. The farmers were invited by the Nigerian government, and welcomed with open arms.
The first group of 15 white Zimbabwe farmers, whose land has been confiscated in President Robert Mugabe's land redistribution program, are ready to set up in Kwara state, Nigeria, and plant their first crop there by October. Altogether, about 100 white farmers are expected to relocate to Nigeria, and set up a branch of the Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers Union.
Nigeria welcomed the Zimbabweans with open arms. The initial group will set up Nigeria's first dairies and large scale farms to grow corn, rice and local crops. They will also help develop Nigeria's agricultural exports.
Graham Hatty is one of the commercial farmers who will start anew in western Africa. He says, although he is 65 years old, the decision to go to Nigeria was not difficult.
"Nigeria. It's because they came to see us, and they admitted they can't do commercial farming. And, they actually asked us to help them," he said. "And, we went and had a look. And, the potential was so unbelievable that we felt, because of their attitude to us, we feel that we must go there and help them get commercial agriculture off the ground, and get it running."
Mr. Hatty said he and his colleagues were welcomed by everyone they met in Nigeria.
"They treated us like Hollywood film stars. It was quite incredible," he said. "It was totally opposite to what we had been lead to believe, what Nigeria would be - was like. And Kwara state really made us feel welcome, so we are excited about going there, and we are excited about being able to get commercial farming going there, and we help them develop their own people into commercial agriculture."
Mr. Hatty said the Zimbabwean farmers have borrowed money for their Nigerian venture. He said they asked that no local landholder should be displaced to make way for them, and that they should be treated like any other farmer in Nigeria.
Several hundred of about 4,000 white farmers who were evicted from their land by the government in Harare have left and settled in Zambia, Mozambique and a few in Uganda. Mr. Hatty's group is the first to go to West Africa.