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

As US Strikes Syria, China Sees Parallels at Home

Beijing is debating how much support to give international coalition against IS militants and trying to figure out how many Chinese nationals may have joined group overseas More

CDC: Ebola Could Infect 1.4 Million by January

US health officials say if efforts to curb the outbreak are not increased, cases will soar dramatically by early next year More

Video USAID Provides $231 Million for Girls Education in 5 Countries

US Agency for International Development partners with celebrities to call attention to importance of education for girls worldwide 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid