Thursday, April 06, 2006

Zim Army takes over food production

JOHANNESBURG, 5 April (IRIN) - The military has taken control of food production by small-scale farmers in parts of southern Zimbabwe, a rights NGO headed by church leaders claimed on Wednesday.The Solidarity Peace Trust alleged that under the guise of Operation Taguta/Sisuthi or 'Operation Eat Well', launched last year to help revive the agriculture sector, army units have "hijacked" plots and maize harvests in the southern province of Matabeleland, leaving the smallholder-farmers with no income or food."The fact that they have taken away the farmers' food, which is rightfully theirs - produced by their hard labour - is a hugely immoral issue," commented Bishop Rubin Phillip, the Anglican Bishop of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. Phillip chairs the trust, along with Pius Ncube, the Archbishop of Bulawayo in Zimbabwe....

"Plot-holders perceive that they are being treated as indentured labour, with no rights and no claim over the produce they have laboured all summer to produce," the report commented.The soldiers, insisting that only maize could be grown on the plots, have destroyed vegetable gardens and fruits trees that supplemented the incomes and diet of small-scale farmers during the lean season, alleged Dowling. "This destruction has turned plot-holders into paupers overnight."Soldiers with limited knowledge of agriculture had spent more than a month tilling the land for the farmers, which delayed maize planting, the church leaders alleged. In some cases, the farmers were unable to make use of the good rains this year - "the best in 20 years" - and had failed to plant at all, Dowling said....

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