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

    Rolling Thunder Rolls Into Washington

    Half-million motorcycles are expected to rumble Sunday afternoon from Pentagon to Vietnam War Memorial for rally in event group calls Ride for Freedom

    The Struggle With Painkillers: Treating Pain Without Feeding Addiction

    'Wonder drug' pain medications have turned out to be major problem: not only do they run high risk of addicting the user, but they can actually make patients' chronic pain worse, US CDC says

    Video Canine Reading Buddies Help Students With Literacy

    Idea behind reading program is that sharing book with nonjudgmental companion boosts students' confidence and helps instill love of reading

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora