News / Africa

Eastern Zimbabwe Plantations Face Grim Future

A woman and her baby walk past bags of tobacco early in the selling season in Harare. Zimbabwe thrived on tobacco and other farm exports until the government-instigated seizures, often violent, of white-owned commercial farms starting in 2000, (File)
A woman and her baby walk past bags of tobacco early in the selling season in Harare. Zimbabwe thrived on tobacco and other farm exports until the government-instigated seizures, often violent, of white-owned commercial farms starting in 2000, (File)
Peta Thornycroft

Zimbabwe’s eastern Manicaland Province may have taken the hardest blows from President Robert Mugabe’s 11 years of seizures of land from white farmers.  .  

In eastern Zimbabwe, years of neglect have left many plantations that once produced avocados, macademia nuts, coffee and timber in a pitiful state.

These crops take up to 12 years from planting to harvest, and nearly all of farmers who ran these plantations have been evicted since land invasions began in 2000.  Very few short-term crops do well in the hillier parts of Manicaland where most of Zimbabwe’s plantations used to thrive.

Replanting long-term plantations is too difficult to finance, says Trevor Gifford, immediate past president of the Commercial Farmers Union.  Gifford's plantation was forcibly taken from him a year ago. “Manicaland, has fragile steep soils, it [is] primarily suited to plantations, and regrettably over the last 11 years the critical mass of plantations have been decimated through abuse, and it would be very difficult to get Manicaland back to where it was.  There is no confidence to invest in long-term development,” he explained.

Zimbabwe was once a major coffee producer, but production has slumped by more than 90 percent and there are now only five remaining commercial producers who existed before the land seizures.  

There are many black small-scale coffee growers who say they want to expand, and who could take advantage of assistance from the European Union, which has long assisted the coffee industry in Zimbabwe.  But small growers cannot take advantage of the current record-high coffee prices because the crop they produce is too small for export without the additional production of the larger growers.

“The small-scale coffee farmer who has been growing since 1984 ... he or she knows that without the critical mass from commercial producers they are nothing because they will never produce an 18-ton container of same-style coffee,” Gifford noted.

Gifford says the agriculture ministry, controlled by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, discourages him and the European Union from encouraging new small-scale farmers to begin growing coffee, because it would mean recognition that large-scale commercial growers, who were mainly white, were essential to the small grower.

Gifford, one of the younger evicted farmers, is penniless now, but might have had an income of more than $2-million a year if he was still on his farm.  He says Manicaland’s plantations are not being rebuilt, and are still being destroyed. “I have seen in my travels; citrus industry, zero rebuilding, just destruction; macademia zero rebuilding.  If you go and talk to the big timber guys, the losses that they have incurred from fires in the last four or five years ... we will be importing timber into Zimbabwe in the near future,’ he said.

Zimbabwe’s commercial plantation farmers had world class reputations for capital intensive, eco-friendly farming.  Gifford says he wants to remain in his country, and adds that he and several of his colleagues would like to help rebuild the plantations.

“We have such human capital ... Africa, could if they just embraced us we could turn around government estates to get that critical mass of food.  I do not want to own another bit of Africa, I do not want to put good money after bad, [but] I have skills and expertise,” said Gifford.

Gifford’s former farm, Wolverhampton, looks a mess from the road.  The coffee and avocado pear trees have been chopped down.  The timber is being harvested by the people who took over his farm.

Five minutes after he drove past the farm to show it to VOA, his mobile telephone rang and a man threatened him with death if he came near the property again.

Ten days later, Gifford says he was driving past the farm with friends and shots were fired at his vehicle.  These incidents were reported to the police.

In small and scruffy Chipinge town, tons of macademia nuts were being sorted in a warehouse.  Some of the nuts were being sold by people now living on Gifford’s farm for about $2 a kilogram.

One of the company directors, Jasset Faizel, said he and his Australian partner, Peter Fusarelli, had permission from the agriculture ministry to sell the nuts harvested from farms taken from white farmers around Chipinge.

There was no one available at the agriculture ministry to speak to the media.

You May Like

Hong Kong Democracy Calls Spread to Macau

Macau and Hong Kong are China’s two 'special administrative regions' which gives them a measure of autonomy More

After Nearly 2 Years, Pistorius Remains Elusive

Reporter Anita Powell reflects on her experience covering the Olympic athlete's murder trial More

Kenyan Coastal Town Struggles With Deadly June Attacks

Three months after al-Shabab militants allegedly attacked their town, some Mpeketoni residents are still bitter, question who was really behind the assaults More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africai
X
Luis Ramirez
September 15, 2014 11:01 PM
President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Obama to Ramp Up Anti-Ebola Efforts in Africa

President Barack Obama on Tuesday will unveil his plan to ramp up efforts against the spread of the Ebola virus in Africa. VOA White House Correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Americans' Reaction Mixed on Obama Strategy for Islamic State Militants

President Barack Obama’s televised speech on how the United States plans to “degrade and destroy” the group known as the Islamic State reached a prime-time audience of millions. And it came as Americans appear more willing to embrace a bolder, tougher approach to foreign policy. VOA producer Katherine Gypson and reporter Jeff Seldin have this report from Washington.
Video

Video Authorities Allege LA Fashion Industry-Cartel Ties

U.S. officials say they have broken up crime rings that funneled tens of millions of dollars from Mexican drug cartels through fashion businesses in Los Angeles. Mike O'Sullivan reports that authorities announced nine arrests, as 1,000 law enforcement agents fanned out through the city on Wednesday.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid