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

Afghanistan, Pakistan Leaders to Hold Icebreaking Talks in Paris

Two sides are expected to discuss ways to ease bilateral tensions and jointly work for resumption of stalled peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban officials

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
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.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs