Fast tracking land reform and rural livelihoods in mashonaland west province of Zimbabwe : opportunities and constraints, 2000-2013
The implementation of Zimbabwe’s Fast Track Land Reform Program (FTLRP) in 2000 generated polarised debates across academia and in the media. Some commentators dismissed the FTLRP as a politically motivated ‘land grab’, which ruined a vibrant agrarian structure and contributed to food shortages. Landless peasants, who were the major beneficiaries of the land reform, were dismissed as inefficient and lacking the skills to work the land productively. However, empirical data gathered across Zimbabwe indicate that the outcomes of Zimbabwe’s FTLRP are diverse and require a nuanced analysis. This thesis explores the outcomes of land reform in terms of its impact on the livelihoods of peasant households who were resettled under the FTLRP. The thesis utilises empirical data to argue that, despite its shortcomings, the FTLRP has allowed peasant households to access land and other natural resources which were previously enclosed under a dualistic land tenure structure which had persisted after Zimbabwe’s independence from colonial rule in 1980. Data gathered in Mhondoro Ngezi District indicate that in the aftermath of land reform, resettled farmers now have access to better quality land and opportunities for employment at mines and through gold panning which have generally enhanced livelihoods. The thesis also argues that the benefits of land reform are broad and go beyond the utility of land as a means of production. Fast track land reform allowed people to recover ancestral lands lost during colonial era forced removals; it also allowed people to be reunited with ancestral graves and other symbols of spiritual significance. Overall, this has helped to address the diverse aspects of land which had remained largely unresolved due to the failure of Zimbabwe’s market driven land reforms of the early 1980s. The thesis is based on a case study of 185 households who were allocated land under the A1 Scheme (villagised model) in the Mhondoro Ngezi District in Mashonaland West Province of Zimbabwe.